Trial scheme to help the moor’s hill pony owners

Wednesday 14th February 2001 12:00 am

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DARTMOOR'S hill pony owners are to get direct financial support from Dartmoor National Park Authority under a trial scheme.

The trials are being held at Holne and if successful could be extended to other parts of the moor to help the owners maintain small traditional herds.

The DNPA is also carrying out research into the prospects for marketing the ponies and hopes to have the results by early summer.

Hill pony owners are independently forming a new body to try to revive the reputation of the breed.

They claim that the qualities of hill ponies should be more widely recognised. 'They have inherent traits of good temperament and hardiness and suitability for children,' said the organiser of the new group, Charlotte Faulkner.

She said that around 30 farmers have agreed to join the group, to be known as 'Friends of Dartmoor Hill Ponies'. At a spring sale at Corndon Ford Farm, Poundsgate, on May 29, the group will try to 'relaunch the brand' of the Dartmoor hill pony.

'I think there still is a market for the hill ponies,' said Charlotte Faulkner. 'Farmers do not want to give them up, even though they are not profitable at the moment.'

The DNPA and the Dartmoor Commoners' Council, which have had a joint working party on the issue for the past 15 months, have both welcomed the initiative.

Meanwhile, the commoners' council is to write to the Ombudsman complaining that it has not had a response to its inquiry about grazing rights. It requested a meeting with Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin because commoners are worried about restrictions on grazing, but it is still waiting for a response.

Mary Tavy Commoners' Association has been told it can appeal to the Ministry against lower grazing levels imposed on them. Joyce Quin has written to MEP Caroline Jackson saying that an appeal is in order. The commoners believe they have a viable grazing plan without such cuts.

The pony population on the moor is threatened by the farming crisis and falling market prices. The DNPA was recently asked if it could organise a scheme for the temporary removal of stallions. There has also been a proposal to try to get a humane slaughterhouse set up in the area.

However, the present policy is to continue the registration of stallions on the moor, which was introduced at the beginning of last year, to get unregistered stallions removed, and to try to regulate numbers and improve the quality gradually.

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