They are exceptionally alert, with big bright eyes, large nostrils and neat little ears. The body is deep and well muscled with strong legs and hard hooves.
They have silky straight hair, known as feathers, around the fetlock and a long flowing mane and tail. Fells are black, brown, bay and gray, with a little white on the forehead acceptable.
Also known for its courage and intelligence, the Dales pony was a reliable ally for the British Army during both World Wars. The Risky pony is a Scottish breed with a dense, gray waterproof coat.
Originating from the Western Isles of Scotland, the breed had to adapt to harsh living conditions involving limited food supply and rainy weather. The Risky pony was often a domesticated breed used as a children’s mount and for light work.
Capable of withstanding rough weather conditions, it is a hardy breed with excellent stamina. A friendly and faithful companion, the breed’s recognized colors are brown, black, gray, chestnut, roan and bay.
The Ex moor almost became extinct during the Second World War as many were used as target practice by trigger-happy troops. It is very reliable for jumping, trekking and all-round activities due to its stamina and ability to carry weight.
Known for its prodigious speed, the New Forest pony has been a regular racing breed for decades. According to breed standards, New Forest ponies may be of any color except for piebald, skewbald, or blue-eyed cream.
It is a very strong and sturdy pony used as a workhouse during the Industrial Revolution, mainly to pull carts, carry coal and plow farms. It can be seen in almost any color but is mainly black, chestnut, bay, gray, palomino, dun, roan, cello, and silver dapple.
The breed was exported to the US in the 1880s and the arguably more refined US counterpart is now commonly referred to as the American Shetland pony. The Welsh pony is a breed that traces its origin back to the Middle Ages.
They are popular as show ponies, and renowned for their calm disposition, athleticism and general suitability for riding. Connemara ponies range in height from 12.2 to 14.2 hands high, and the most commonly found colors are bay, black, gray, brown and dun.
Connemara's ponies are strong, sturdy and muscular, with powerful hindquarters which make them a popular choice for show jumping. These days the usage of the Dales pony is rather different, as it's greatly reduced population has given it 'endangered' status with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
The Dales pony stands between 14 and 14.2 hands high, with a short back, deep rib cage and well muscled quarters and neck. The Dartmoor pony is native to south-western England, and is a particularly hardy breed prized for its stamina.
To conform to the breed standard, Dartmoor ponies should be colored bay, brown, black, gray, chestnut or roan. The Ex moor pony is currently considered as 'endangered' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and it is thought that only between 100 and 300 adult brood mares remain in the wild.
The Ex moor's jaw structure shows the development of a seventh molar, making it distinctly different from any other breed. The Fell pony is used for both riding and driving in harness, and is noted for its surefooted agility and general hardiness.
The Fell pony's agility and reliability make them popular all-rounders for cross-country and hunting. Fell ponies can vary a good deal in height, with the maximum breed standard being 14 hands high.
Due to the breed's origins in the windswept far North of England, they are very adaptable to harsh climates and maintain condition well in cold winters. The Highland pony, a native Scottish breed, was once a popular workhorse but today is generally kept for pleasure riding, trekking and driving in harness.
New Forest ponies come in all color variations, except piebald and skewbald, or cream if accompanied by blue eyes. The maximum official height for a breed standard Shetland pony is no higher than 10.2 hands high.
They are greatly sought after as riding ponies for both children and adults, with their sturdy compact build, versatility, hardiness and good nature. Traditionally, the modern mountain and moorland ponies have been regarded as including nine breeds (the four Welsh types being counted as one).
However, in recent decades, at least two further types have been recognized: the Risky and the Kerry Bog Pony. Larger native British Isles horses (such as the various large draft breeds) are not regarded as belonging to the mountain and moorland group.
Mountain and moorland ponies are generally stocky in build, with flowing manes and tails. They are prone to obesity and if allowed to graze freely on lush forage, may develop related health problems, including laminates.
Several types of mountain and moorland ponies still live in a semi feral state on UN enclosed moorland or heath land. These areas are usually fenced common land, on which local people have rights to graze livestock, including their ponies.
Small numbers of stallions are allowed to join the mares for a few weeks in spring or early summer. Each stallion then gathers a harem of mares and their foals to form a larger group of up to 20 or so.
The foals and mares are rounded up in autumn, when the colts and some fillies are removed for sale. In reality, a little light trimming is commonplace, for example to show off the fine head of the Connemara, and Welsh Ponies often have their manes pulled to a length of about six inches.
Riders wear tweed jackets, canary or buff breeches, shirt and tie, plain gloves, and a navy hat. Adult riders on large breed ponies wear long boots with garter straps.
This makes them suitable for use in conservation grazing, the use of livestock to manage land of high ecological value naturally. Kate Green celebrates the wonderful local diversity of our native breeds.
For a small, island nation, we have a remarkable diversity of domestic animals and our lives, and the equine gene pool, are the richer for it. From Shires to Shetlands, Highlands to Hackneys, here are 16 native horse breeds of Britain.
Risky This extremely rare pony from the Western Isle owes its existence to a group of people, comprising a priest, a doctor, a vet, a scientist and crofters, on Risky who, in the early 1970s, made a concerted effort to save the original crofter’s pony, a smaller, lighter-boned, less well-known relation of the Highland, which had dwindled to some 20 animals due to mechanization and the migration of islanders to the mainland. Highland Theories abound about the Highland’s ancestry, but it’s thought that this kindly, chunky, sure-footed breed, often an attractive golden or mouse dun color with a black ‘eel’ stripe from withers to rump and ‘zebra’ legs, was the result of crossing the Risky pony with a heavy farm breed, such as the Clydesdale, to work the land, with a dose of Arab, Percheron and roadster bloodlines along the way.
The huge, powerful Shire, at about 17.2hh and 22cwt, came into its own, first, with the invention of Jethro Tull’s seed drill in 1701 and the switch from oxen to horses, then the Victorian expansion in transport and industry, and was used to pull barges along the developing network of canals, as well as the first omnibuses and trams, and for rubbish collection and brewery drays. The showy little Section A, with its pretty, dished, Disney face and big, dark eyes, is every small girl’s dream, yet the entire breed was nearly wiped out thanks to Henry VIII.
He decreed that, because the wild ponies were a nuisance to farmers, the ones too small for war should be culled. By the 18th century, however, Welsh farmers realized what a desirable commodity they had on their doorstep and began breeding them to sell at fairs.
Ex moor Local pride and effort have saved our oldest and arguably most consistently pure-bred native pony, uniform in its compact, weatherproof physiology, mealy nose and hooded toad eyes that keep out the rain, although this is becoming a challenge on open moorland. The breed was nearly destroyed when abandoned during the Second World War, but there are now 11 privately owned herds running wild on the moor, plus two owned by the Ex moor National Park Authority, and preservation work is continuing with a project to create a genetic database.