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Warning over Dartmoor pony “bargains”

A new agreement sees ponies bred on Dartmoor carry a minimum price of £5 at this week’s autumn sales in an attempt to prevent “impulse buys”

All Dartmoor ponies being sold at this year’s autumn sales will carry a reserve price of eight guineas (£5) for the first time. Last year prices dipped to as low as £1 per pony.

Auctioneers have agreed the move, in association with the Dartmoor Commoners Council (DCC), to deter impulse buyers from “saving” unwanted animals and to improve the market for native ponies.

“Negative publicity in previous years has lead to people buying ponies at the sale, in the belief they are ‘saving’ them, only for the ponies to be later abandoned or neglected through a lack of knowledge,” explains DDC animal welfare officer Paddy Newton.

The first sale takes place tomorrow (Friday 4 October) at Tavistock, with a second sale at Chagford on Thursday10 October. Ponies that fail reach their reserve will be returned to their owners.

We have a good entry of around 200 ponies for this year’s sale with around 150 foals, most of which are fillies,” says Duncan Clarke of Rendells, the auctioneers responsible for the Chagford sale. “The eight guineas reserve will be in place on all the lots and we are hoping for a very successful sale.”

Annual drifts

The ponies sold via the sales have been rounded up from the moor in the annual drifts, which take place every autumn. Around 2,500 ponies have been collected during this year’s round-up.

“This year’s unusual weather means no ponies have gone short of forage, and the vast majority are looking healthy and ready for the winter,” says Paddy Newton, who attended many of the drifts.

“After being wormed and checked, the mares and approved stallions will return to the moor for the winter. Spring foalswill be kept back either for the sales or to winter with their owners. Late foals will return to the moor with their dams and will be weaned by the end of the year.

No foals are allowed on the moor between 1 January and the 1 April. This rule was introduced a couple of years ago to give mares time to recover before giving birth to their next foal.”

The DCC are hopeful that after many years of falling prices and poor quality animals, a turning point has been reached for the future of the ponies on Dartmoor.

“New measures, such as only allowing approved stallions to run on the moor, should result in a better type of pony at the sales, which in turn will increase the animals worth,” says Paddy.

To find out more about Dartmoor ponies visit www.dartmoorhillpony.com

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