Charity's plea after 'worrying decline' in Dartmoor ponies

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A charity in Devon says there has been a worrying decline in the number of ponies being bred on Dartmoor.

The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is stepping in with a financial support package for farmers and breeders to help fund their herds, fearing that if they can’t sustain numbers this year, they could lose ponies on the moor.

Native Dartmoor pony numbers have been dwindling for years and are now on the Rare Breeds Priority List.

The charity says having ponies on the moor isn’t just a showcase, but that the breed helps to maintain the biodiversity and wildlife in the national park, through conservation grazing.

Dartmoor farmer Margaret Rodgers has kept and bred the ponies all her life.

Now struggling with the cost of food and supplies for her herd, she said: “The price of a hay bale is anywhere between £5.60 and £7.20.

“Climate change, the pandemic, the issues on Dartmoor, everything has been met with a perfect storm and the cost of living is enormous.

“The vet’s fees, the farrier fees. The cattle and the sheep have to come first. Unfortunately to a farming community, they will always come first.”

In response, Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust said: “We have just got to try and step in and say to the public if you can help us to help fund our breeders and keepers through what could be the next year to two years.

“That funding is going directly to farmers to help pay for the subsidy of these ponies and help us maintain the native Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor, which is Dartmoor national park’s emblem and important to the moor.”