TWO local women, who stepped in and saved more than 100 Dartmoor hill ponies from slaughter, have said they have found a formula to keep ponies on the moors and off the menu.
They said they always admired Dartmoor hill ponies and only became aware of the fate of so many a few years ago, hence why they set up Hill Pony Resources — the not-for-profit organisation that aims to protect ponies.
Mary Houghton said: ‘Consensus is that there is no place for pony meat in this country. A poll showed over 70% of people opposed that ponies were used for meat. Most wanted to see a reduction in breeding for example by the removal of stallions.
‘Another option is to castrate stallions and run them on the moor as geldings. To date Hill Pony Resources ran two successful castration clinics where the ponies have now returned to the moor to roam free while not adding to the overbreeding. Another option that is running with success is vasectomizing stallions which continue to run with a herd of mares.
‘Sadly many efforts are thwarted because a few keepers refuse to take simple steps to reduce pony numbers.
‘What has surprised us the most is how versatile is the Dartmoor Hill Pony. With quiet first handling these ponies make wonderful riding ponies for children and small adults, driving ponies and therapy ponies. Our formula for success and continuation or herds roaming Dartmoor would be to run fewer ponies which would sell.
‘We offer a service where ponies can be handled before they go to their new homes, — people are willing to pay slightly more for ponies who have had basic training.
‘Pony keepers with their years of experience could handle the ponies themselves and in turn benefit from the higher price.
‘We are a not for profit organisation run by volunteers and kind donations. We would like to expand our services and are currently fundraising to purchase our own yard where we can continue to grow and offer work experience/enabling opportunities for more people which will give the ponies a purpose when they leave the moor.
‘We would also like to welcome visitors and local people to interact with the ponies but we can only do this by improving our facilities.
‘We believe there is a place for all Dartmoor types on the moor be it hill ponies, pedegree and heritage.
‘Our aim is to offer a service to pony keepers so that ponies can be kept on the moor for generations to come and we feel this can be done by limited breeding and a small market for the ponies when they leave the moor as ridden, therapy, companion and conservation ponies.’