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Days out on Exmoor - Exmoor Ponies in the wild

Updated: Feb 22

One of the best days out on Exmoor when you stay at Woodlands Holidays is seeing Exmoor ponies in the wild on the moor. Both Woodleigh Cottage and Woodlands House are just a 10-minute drive away from these beautiful herds of native ponies living and roaming free in the splendour of Exmoor.

Exmoor ponies are one of the UK's most ancient native pony breeds and are wonderfully strong, intelligent and well-formed, with distinctive markings.

An Exmoor pony’s colouring can range from dun (a smokey-brown) to bay (red-brown) or brown (dark brown). Their mane, tail and points are dark brown or black. Unsurprisingly, in winter Exmoor ponies grow a thick, two-layered protective coat.

Bill on a quiet Sunday morning with the Exmoor ponies

Endangered Exmoor Ponies

The Exmoor pony has gained "endangered" status from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and "threatened" status by The Livestock Conservancy.

The Exmoor Pony Society was established in 1921 to conserve and promote the Exmoor pony as a recognised breed in the British Isles and to hold the official studbook. The numbers of Exmoor ponies reached a critical level after the Second World War with under 50 ponies believed to be in the UK. These 50 ponies have formed the foundations of today’s population worldwide.

There are now around 20 different Exmoor pony herds which all belong to different farmers or organisations such as the National Park. The ponies roam free and wild on Exmoor all year round.

Exmoor Foals

Exmoor foals are born in the spring and early summer and spend the summer running with their mothers. They need to build-up a store of fat to take them through the hard winter ahead. It really is a life-affirming sight to see the mares with their foals on the moor.

Photographing Exmoor Ponies

One of your most treasured memories from a holiday in Somerset and with Woodlands Holidays is likely to be your collection of photographs of Exmoor ponies and foals in the wild.

The ponies are normally easy to spot from the car and sometimes come surprisingly close to the road. Otherwise, just park up at one of the designated spots and take a look around, the ponies are often gathered around clumps of trees, or just walking calmly across the moor.

They are normally very calm and you can get relatively near, definitely close enough to take great photos. However, keep more distance when foals are around and keep a safe distance at all times to ensure you do not frighten the animals or get inadvertently injured!

Photo credits: 1& 2 - Sarah Hailstone; 3 - Shaun Davey; 4 - Exmoor National Park

Riding an Exmoor Pony

Exmoor is famous for its superb riding and everyone, whether an experienced rider or a beginner, can enjoy the experience of riding an Exmoor pony. The Exmoor Pony Centre runs Activity Afternoons and Activity Days as a great way to get up close to some of the ponies that were taken into their care and have a fun time at the Centre. These events are held in all weather with riding under cover if necessary. Booking is not required and entrance to the Centre is free. There are small charges for the individual activities.

Annual Exmoor Pony Gathering

Every autumn, the herds are gathered for inspection and registration. Some of the colts and filly foals must find new opportunities off the moor and are available for experienced riders to buy.

This wonderful short film shows Withypoole Herd 23, the oldest family-owned herd of Exmoor ponies in the world, being gathered in from Withypool Common in Exmoor National Park, in October 2020.

Exmoor Ponies in Czech Republic

You might be surprised to learn that Exmoor ponies are also proving a popular addition to wildlife in the Czech Republic!

The Podyji National Park welcomed the third consignment of this native rare breed at the conservation project run by Ceska-krajina, funded by European Wildlife.

The initiative started in 2015 and the ponies have proved extremely effective at grazing alongside the wild European bison, controlling the vegetation and adapting to the Czech climate.

Exmoor Pony Events and Organisations

The Exmoor Pony Centre is a small charity-run business, owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, working to promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor pony.

A collaboration of Exmoor farmers and landowners with Exmoor pony herds, working together to improve breeding practices, moorland management, welfare, promotion and opportunities for the Exmoor ponies of Exmoor National Park and safeguarding the genetic integrity of the species.

If you’d love to get the chance to see Exmoor ponies in the wild, then book with Woodlands Holidays.


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