A NORTH Yorkshire couple hope to secure a future for endangered Exmoor ponies through conservation grazing.
Ian and Jo Colley say the ponies are ideal for grazing moorland and unimproved hill land which can otherwise be difficult to manage or find a use for.
The ponies are selective grazers and will eat coarse moorland plants, gorse, purple moor grass, brambles and thistles that other animals won’t touch – while also trampling bracken and opening up the sward.
Mr and Mrs Colley own two Exmoors and are currently seeking some moorland grazing for them in the Sutton Bank/North York Moors area, near where they live.
One of the couple’s ponies, Poppy, is currently stabled at Queen Mary’s School at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, where Mrs Colley works, and they have just purchased another from Emma Wallace, who owns the breed’s main herd on Exmoor.
“We want to find some land they can graze which is more like their natural habitat, but which is within travelling distance for us to look after them,” said Mr Colley.
“We have future hopes of introducing more of these beautiful creatures into the Sutton Bank and North York Moors areas in a bid to help maintain the breed and its ancient heritage within the UK.”
The Exmoor is a small, hardy breed which can survive harsh weather but which also make good ridden ponies for children and small adults.
They date back to the Ice Age when they are believed to have travelled to the British Isles and settled in the Exmoor area.
The breed was almost wiped out in the Second World War when numbers fell to 48, with only two stallions. Passionate breeders have helped to increase numbers but the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust still estimates there are fewer than 500 in Britain – in 2010 there were estimated to be only about 800 worldwide.
Any farmers with land available for grazing, or interested in the breed, can contact Mr and Mrs Colley on 01845 527124 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.