Technology helps moorland ponies on Exmoor

800_Exmoor Pony grant microchip scanner (8)

Pictured: Linzi Green (Exmoor Pony Officer, also funded by the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership) Richard Webber (Shearwell), Tom the pony (Moorland Mousie Trust) Carol Bigge (farmer, moorland herd owner) and Sue McGeever (EPS).

The Exmoor Pony Society collected 10 new microchip scanners from Shearwell headquarters last week, thanks to a grant of £5,000 towards their cost from the lottery-funded Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership to equip the farmers, rangers and inspectors who manage the famous free-living herds running on the Exmoor National Park.

Shearwell, based at Cutcombe near Minehead, is one of the leading firms in microchip technology and livestock tags which are utilised all over the world.

Jason Ball, scheme manager for the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership said: “We are delighted that the scanners will be available for farmers and rangers to help them monitor the free-living moorland herds. These herds are a special and unique part of the national park’s landscape and cultural heritage.”

EPS Secretary, Sue McGeever said: “The preservation of the gene pool is key to the long term future of the breed and it is important the moor bred ponies are identified at inspection to ensure that valuable bloodlines are not lost and we are very grateful to the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership for facilitating the micro-chipping of all moorland foals through the provision of these microchip readers which proved to be the most efficient during the testing process we carried out last year.”

“Each year the ponies are gathered and visual identification is used to match mare to foal following the inspection process to assist in the DNA parentage testing process that establishes the correct parentage for each moorland foal especially needed when up to three herds are running on one common. This visual identification has a proven accuracy rate of 70% greatly speeding up the parentage testing process. Not all moorland foals return to the moor so micro-chipping provides the breeder with a choice not to opt for visual identification. Talking to the experts the ability to read a microchip from a distance is still a long way off although the Society continues to monitor the situation and is always willing to embrace new methods and technology.”

Background info

Read more about the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership at

The Exmoor Pony Society was formed in 1921 with the specific aim of ensuring that this rare native breed continues to run free on Exmoor and continues to exhibit all the traits and characteristics of its ancestors. More can be read about history of the Exmoor Pony, which is currently on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s Watchlist in Category 2 of the Endangered Species List, in the book ‘Survival of the Fittest’ by Dr Sue Baker. For more information visit or call Sue McGeever on 0845 607 5350.

Since 2009 the micro-chipping of equines being issued with a passport for the first time became mandatory and the Society waived its Defra derogation to ensure that all moorland foals are micro-chipped by qualified veterinary surgeons as part of the inspection process which takes place every autumn when the herds are gathered. The Society endeavours to handle the moorland ponies with minimal direct human contact over the 30 or so years that they will spend on the moor so that they retain their native instincts.

Exmoor Pony Festival

The 2013 Exmoor Pony Festival will take place Saturday 24 Aug – Sunday 1 Sept at Exmoor National Park, the home of the famous Exmoor Pony. Special events and activities on each day will celebrate and rediscover the unique pony breed, and the dedicated people who take care of the free-roaming moorland herds. Read more…


About Programme Manager

Helping people to enjoy and appreciate Exmoor National Park's moorland, and supporting those who take care of it.
This entry was posted in Moorland the Heart of Exmoor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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