For the first time this autumn, the Exmoor pony charity The Moorland Mousie Trust will be giving a basic training to some of the unwanted colts it purchases before finding them homes.
The scheme was started in 2000 after it became apparent that while the fillies tend to get sold for breeding purposes during the autumn, the colts are often unwanted.
Valerie Sherwin of The Moorland Mousie Trust says: It seemed ridiculous that foals from a rare breed, which is an endangered species, cant be sold. Of course taking on a colt off the moor is quite a different proposition to taking on a domesticated weaned foal and they do need experienced handling.
A year after the scheme was set up we got in touch with Kelly Marks of Intelligent Horsemanship and developed a kind of puppy-walking scheme where the ponies were fostered out until they were at the same level of training as a normal weaned foal.
This year were taking it even further. We will purchase about 20 colts, and some will be fostered out again. People practising Monty Roberts Intelligent Horsemanship methods are particularly interested in the colts as it is the nearest they will get to a wild horse in this county.
However, for the first time some of the colts will be kept at the charitys centre on Exmoor and where they have employed Sasha Holden to train them. She will halter break the ponies, teach them to have their feet picked out and to load onto a trailer.
In a couple of months the colts should be at the stage you would expect at weaning for a foal who has been domestically bred, although these colts have already been through the stress of leaving their mothers. How long the training takes varies as the ponies are so individual. They are really intelligent, says Valerie.
Once the foals are manageable they will be re-homed and the new owners are asked to make a donation to the trust, normally about £120-£150.
The trust attained charitable status in 2000, and has the aim of increasing the sales of the Exmoor ponies and improving their exposure, which will hopefully increase the breed’s popularity.
To help fund the cost of the training, the trust wants to encourage people to sponsor the ponies while they are in training.
There are different levels of sponsorship available. Bronze sponsorship at £75 will pay for a pony and headcollar, silver at £100 also covers worming and delousing while gold at £250 completely covers the colts initial handling and education. Benefits include newsletters, a sponsorship certificate, quarterly updates on the foals acquired that autumn and invitations to Sponsor Days.
There are also some adoption packages available for older ridden ponies, from £10-£20 a year, with benefits including an adoption certificate, pin badge, newsletters, photograph, opportunities to visit the centre and a quarterly update on your pony.
If you would like more details contact The Moorland Mousie Trust (tel: 01782 752247) or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.