UPDATE: I’ve added a second post here with a historical perspective on ponies on the moor.
Over 700 Dartmoor hill ponies have been killed in the last 12 months as breeders attempt to reduce their herds.
In 1980, the population was estimated at around 30,000, but this figure has steadily dwindled to around 1,500 this year.
My little pony: But the problem for ponies on Dartmoor is that not enough people want, or can afford them. Around 700 of the ponies have been shot in the last 12 months – 100 of which were healthy foals that had not been sold at market due to the recession
Around 700 of the ponies have been shot in the last 12 months – 100 of which were healthy foals that had not been sold at market due to the recession.
The others were older ponies rounded up for slaughter by breeders who were ordered to reduce the numbers in their herds to help the market recover.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s really about the recession, as this report suggests. The Daily Mail itself ran a similar report in 2001, which prompted Georgina Andrews to write a piece for them about rescuing five foals. At the time there was no global recession, and yet the Dartmoor Hill Ponies were selling for 50p a time.
The breeders of the ponies who end up in these sales can’t get good meat money for them any more as the market is flooded – by other breeders like themselves. If they don’t immediately go for slaughter, the ponies have to be chipped and passported, which of course costs far more money than a slipshod pony breeder is prepared to spend, and much more than the market value of a worm-ridden, unbroke and feral pony foal or its carcass.
This new cull is grim news but perhaps will save a section of a few future generations of Darties from being bred indiscriminately by owners who aren’t prepared to put the time, money and effort into keeping them healthy and making them an attractive proposition to buyers who want riding ponies, rather than handbags (as suggested by Equine Rescue France, who noticed tiny spotted British ponies being sold for unfeasibly large sums in France, very possibly for the fashion trade in Italy). However, how long will it last?
I’m sure there are responsible breeders of Dartmoor Hill Ponies out there, but they’re being let down by others who appear to think that it’s more important to have a lot of uncared-for, shonky foals on the hills than to step up and manage the herds properly. I’m pretty certain that deer on the moors are better managed than some of these ponies. Perhaps their breeders could take a leaf out of the gamekeeper’s book, or, above all, stop passing the buck to the general public and the kill buyer (as at this Brecon semi-feral hill pony sale), and just refrain from breeding foals that they can’t care for. You don’t have to cull foals that don’t exist.
Edited to add: and here’s a 1998 Independent story about “the bottom dropping out of the Dartmoor pony market”. It’s not like they haven’t had notice…