Welsh hill pony farmers will receive an exemption or “derogation” from changes to EU horse passport legislation that require every foal and horse applying for a new passport to be microchipped.

Rural affairs minister Elin Jones announced on Friday, 17 July, that she will exercise a derogation in the EC regulation that came in on 1 July, to “allow defined groups of semi-feral ponies in specific geographic areas of Wales to remain in designated areas without either a passport or a microchip”.

She said: “Welsh hill ponies are a vital part of the Welsh countryside. The management procedures in place are necessary to meet the conditions of the derogation and provide assurances in respect of welfare and traceability.”

The exemption applies to two organisations — the Hill Pony Improvement Societies of Wales (HPISW), covering 26 individual pony improvement societies responsible for semi-feral Welsh mountain ponies on 23 hills and commons across mid and south Wales, and Cymdeithas Merlod y Carneddau, responsible for the semi-feral ponies that graze on the Carneddau Range in north Wales.

HPISW secretary Colin Thomas said: “The granting of this derogation from microchipping is a huge boost to the hill breeders and will safeguard the survival of the semi-feral native breed of Wales.

“Without the exemption, I am sure semi-feral hill ponies would have been in serious jeopardy.”

Derogations were obtained by Defra for ponies on Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest (news, 25 June), and in Scotland for semi-feral ponies.

All other horses in the UK must have a passport and linked microchip.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (23 July, ’09)