The announcement that the New Forest is to become Britain’s first new National Park for 50 years has been welcomed by the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society (NFBCS), albeit with some reservations.
New Forest ponies have lived in a semi-feral state throughout the region, which is currently classed as a heritage area, for hundreds of years, with the first recorded existence of horses living wild in the forest in 1016.
Sam Dovey, vice chairman of the NFBCS, says: “The new National Park status will provide extra protection to the region and improve recognition of the area’s special qualities. It will also open up new funding opportunities, which will help safeguard the future of the New Forest pony.”
The society’s concerns about the National Park include the location of the boundary, which excludes some land on which Forest-bred ponies currently roam, and increased red tape.
“We are disappointed that the National Park is smaller than we had hoped for,” continues Dovey. “The heritage area, as it currently stands, will be replaced by the smaller boundary of the National Park.
“There are a lot of Verderers’ pony areas that were inside the heritage area but will be outside the National Park. These areas will not be protected by planning laws and the like, which may be a concern in the future.”
The New Forest pony is one of Britain’s native breed success stories. Imposition of strict controls on which stallions are allowed to run on the forest have seen a marked improvement in the quality of stock, which has been reflected in the prices of the ponies in the sale ring.
“The New Forest breed is currently extremely healthy,” says Dovey. “We have a fantastic breed base both on and off the forest, with good knowledge of our best stud lines and a new purpose-built sales yard in the centre of the forest. With National Park status to help support our work, the future of the true New Forest pony looks good.”
Visit www.newforestpony.com for more information about the New Forest breed.