Over 3,000 people joined the 2014 Exmoor Pony Festival to celebrate the famous free-living pony herds on Exmoor National Park, with 9 days of safaris, country shows, herd open days, walks, rides and family fun – supported by volunteers, herd owners, tourism providers and the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Heart of Exmoor scheme.
The Exmoor Pony Festival showcased the rare breed at its best, celebrating the versatility as well as the heritage of these beautiful ponies. Artwork by 10-year-old Minehead pupil Millie Salway launched the festival with a beautiful colour poster. Visitors watched the herds on the open moors, cheered on equestrian champions at the shows, met ponies at family fun events and heard first-hand from Exmoor breeders.
Linzi Green, Heart of Exmoor’s Pony Officer, said: “As always there was something for everyone whether you are new to Exmoors or a keen fan of the breed… from the thrill of watching the moorland herds on the moors Exmoor National Park, to witnessing the amazing achievements of ponies bred on the moor who have achieved champion status in a variety of disciplines.”
Open days attracted 90 enthusiasts to learn more about herds behind the scenes – a day with the Anchor Herd hosted by Emma Wallace and a visit to the Tawbitts Herd hosted by Mesdames Ablett and Langdon. (Thanks BBC Radio Devon for the interview live from Exmoor.)
Mrs & Mrs Bryant’s pony Moonpenny Aquarius made history at the Dunster Show, as the first Exmoor Pony in over 160 years to win ‘Supreme in Show’! No mean feat with more than 500 equines entered.
Que Sera Sera, a pony orphaned at 2 weeks age when its mother was knocked down, won Supreme In Hand Champion at the inaugural Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group Show, run at Brendon Country Show hosted by Tippbarlake Herd owners Nigel and Maria Floyd where even Hurricane Bertha’s efforts did not deter the event.
At the Exford Show, celebrity wildlife film maker Johnny Kingdom interviewed moorland farmer Rex Milton (Withypoole Herd) recording for his new TV programme ‘the Exmoor year’. The Exmoor Pony Society’s annual breed show had a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifier won by Eddra Chillies ridden by Miss Phillips and bred by Mrs Debbie Davy who also went on to take the Supreme title.
Children’s author and Ilkerton Herd pony herd owner Victoria Eveleigh told stories at the Exmoor Pony Centre’s family fun day with crafts and cream teas.
Off-road landrover adventures were provided by Barle Valley Safaris and Experience Exmoor viewing the best of Exmoor National Park’s wonderful landscapes.
Exmoor ponies on North Hill greeted walkers on North Hill led by Exmoor National Park Authority Ranger Richard Eales and Kestra French from the Moorland Mousie Trust. To round off the festival week, a fun-ride attracted ponies of all kinds to tour Winsford Hill, and an Exmoor Pony met visitors at the Bogtastic event in Simonsbath.
Clare O’ Connor, Exmoor National Park Authority. Direct Line: 01398 322244. Mobile: 07772 092128. Pictures available from Clare or the festival blog.
The purpose of the Exmoor Pony Festival is to promote the registered free-living moorland herds of the Exmoor Pony as part of the Exmoor National Park’s landscape and heritage, to educate the public on the welfare and management of the herds and to foster an appreciation of the Exmoor Pony breed.
Exmoor Ponies are excellent for riding, driving and agility, often winning prizes, their high intelligence apparently linked to life in the wild as free-roaming herds. Exmoor National Park is the home of the Exmoor Pony, an ancient and hardy breed perfectly adapted to the moorland landscape.
Everyone loves the famous Exmoor Pony herds and they are truly part of the moorland landscape, yet we should remember behind the picturesque scenes is a dedicated army of farmers, volunteers, inspectors and rangers who all work to secure the future of the free-roaming Exmoor Pony.
The Exmoor Pony Festival relies on many hard-working volunteers, charities and organisations to make it happen. All have one thing in common – they recognise the importance of conserving and promoting the amazing Exmoor Pony! The Festival is jointly coordinated by Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership, Exmoor Pony Society and The Moorland Mousie Trust / Exmoor Pony Centre.
Heart of Exmoor “Helping people to enjoy and appreciate Exmoor’s moorland and supporting those who take care of it.” The Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership runs a lottery-funded scheme to promote the Exmoor’s moorland heritage, investing a million pounds to benefit the landscape and local communities. The partnership projects have generated over 9,000 visitors, 3,000 volunteer days, trips for 6,000 schoolchildren, and 500 skills trainees. Visit heartofexmoor.org.uk for details.
The Exmoor Pony Centre (Moorland Mousie Trust). Open Sunday to Friday (closed Saturdays) the centre offers everyone a chance to meet Exmoor ponies at close quarters, provides education, training in pony handling, conservation grazing advice, riding and more. Run by the Moorland Mousie Trust, a charity with HRH the Duchess of Cornwall as their royal patron. For details please visit exmoorponycentre.org.uk or call 01398 323093.
The Exmoor Pony Society. A Registered Charity, the Exmoor Pony Society was set up in 1921 for the registration of pure-bred Exmoor ponies, the conservation of the breed and the preservation of the breed standard as well as promoting the ponies to the general public. Friends of Exmoor Ponies is the fundraising part of the Society and volunteers travel to shows up and down the country to educate the public about this rare native breed. For more information, please visit exmoorponysociety.org.uk or call Sue McGeever on 0845 607 5350.