Dartmoor Hill Pony Promotions
Dartmoor is world famous for it’s wild ponies, but a question we often get asked is what happens to the foals when the drifts take place in the autumn, and they are taken away from their mothers and weaned.
There are many answers to that question, but here we are going to focus on a wonderful organisation called Hill Pony Promotions, based at a superb, world class stud just on the very edge of Dartmoor called Roslin Stud.
This is where around 25-30 pony foals each year are bought in batches direct from the Dartmoor Farmer who breeds them, to begin a period of expert gentling and handling to get them used to people, as part of their education which will eventually see them go to new homes as riding ponies for children, show ponies, companion ponies to other horses or quite simply as much adored family pets.
These are not rescue ponies, these are wonderful, talented, beautiful individuals, with a high value in their own right.
Blog entry 13rd January
We first saw Selina back in May at a couple of weeks old, she was elusive again until October, when she was picked to follow in a blog for.
Not just because she was beautiful but because she was of a simple colour and she wasn't suitable for a new home due to her legs not being quite straight. She arrived here a couple of days later and, after being stabled with an older filly for 24 hours who was not happy to be here, Selina activated what we call her flight mode, something which has taken a long time to get over.
Simple things like turnout, even taking her feed into her stable, resulted in heart in your mouth moments where she would literally try and hurt herself to get away. We just left her to it and let her find her own way through our routine, shutting our eyes a lot of the time!!! She has buttons which don’t take a lot to push, I don't think she even thought about much, it was always react before thinking, but this again has slowly gone of her making.
My nephew Taylor was the first person for Selina to pick to be close to, eating her tea while he held her bowl, this really was a defining moment with her and she really hasn't looked back. Over Christmas it came to a point where I needed to let her head collar out and worm her, in an afternoon with treats she let me catch her and loosen the head collar.
I'm not one for hand feeding but this has proved to be the way for her to override her react button, giving you long enough to do what you want to do and her realise we are actually quite nice. This progressed last week to where she will now be caught in the field, lead out on her own, her head collar is no longer on all the time, only for coming in and out, and she is rugged up for preparation for the show season, one of the toughest fillies we have ever had but I think her time to shine is coming!
Her legs, now she is gaining weight are slowly coming right on there own. As soon as she allows she will see the farrier and off we go!
Here’s the story of just two of them……….
South Moor Selina is a Dartmoor Hill pony filly born in the spring; despite travelling miles and walking for hours all over Dartmoor, we didn't see her before she came in on one of the drifts, but we couldn't miss her when we did see her!!
Not only was she beautiful, she wasn't quite straight in front, meaning she comes in at the knees slightly which pushes out her lower leg, generally this is called knock-kneed, we have decided to keep her on ourselves. We want to take the opportunity to show you a bit more about conformation and what it means (our farrier will soon have her legs straight) and we want to show you the type she is compared to (South Moor Pocket Rocket) These two are showing the diverse types of pony on the moor, she is also a little sharper than most of them, quite a reactive filly in the sense she will be a good one to watch from "wild" to the show ring!
South Moor Pocket Rocket is a Dartmoor Hill pony colt foal born in the middle of May, an adorable little speed fiend who's whole life purpose was to hassle his herd friends to play, but they tend to prefer the rough and tumble the bigger ones give. Even though he couldn't keep up when they really got going, you have to almost give him a round of applause for trying!!
Most of his herd mates are obviously by the same stallion because they uniformly coloured and stamped, but where his dad is we have no idea. His mum, being a chestnut coloured, means his dad must have been black, this just makes him even more unique. You can't help but fall for him and we cannot wait to start working with him, I think this temperament will make him a very determined little child's pony!
It's because of hill ponies like these that we created Dartmoor Hill Pony Promotions, home of South Moor Hill Ponies. They come directly to us from the drifts throughout the autumn and winter, ready to be microchipped and halter broken, with no crushes or rough handling involved. They are wormed and de-crittered then given a few days to get over being weaned and coming here, this gives them the chance to see what this new life is all about and us the chance to assess them before they are handled.
We look to see where they naturally fall in the herd, how reactive they are and how interested in us they are. We then start halter breaking them and teaching them to lead. The South Moor ponies have proved very quick learners and respond incredibly well to direct quiet handling, they enjoy being asked questions and kept busy, most of the ponies leave for their new homes at this point.
Our main focus here is to expose them to everything we can, no matter how big or small, they might never meet a jcb or have a dumpy bag dragged about or have a dog bark around there legs but they do here. It's things like this that tell us what sort of home they need, reactive ponies are not children's ponies, the hill ponies are very honest with their feelings so much easier to work out. I always think we are so lucky they have all been so good but it's the whole process that works, these little guys never get to learn fear so they don’t fear. Those ponies that stay with us longer get the "my little pony treatment” as we call it, they get plaited up, groomed, trimmed, clipped and even get used to wearing to a onesie!
We have found they relish all the attention and in their new homes have really flourished into wonderful little ponies capable of many things. The ponies we have had so far have done extremely well in the show ring, working with children with special needs, travelling companions, or just being a family pony, the list is huge. We decided to set up South Moor Hill Pony Promotions out of frustration at the lack of proper promotion that the hill ponies deserve, they are unique in their own right and when placed with the right person they really come into their own.
As with all horses and ponies, they need to have one on one attention and it is this that has been so important in their education, it has prepared them for the homes they do so very much deserve. There are a lot of grown up ladies being taken back to their childhood, which is just lovely to see and hear about. Although I think the fact that the pony now “needs" everything new and colour co-ordinated certainly means there are quite a few tack shops out there doing very well out of this project, and the children might have to wait their turn!