Friday 28 August 2015

Dales ponies were bred to have great strength and endurance, so that they could be used as pack ponies.  The lead mining industry flourished in the Dales area from Roman times until the mid-nineteenth century.  An ‘ingot’ of lead known as a ‘pig’ weighed a hundredweight (112lb/8 stones/51kilos).  One of these ingots was slung from each side of wooden pack saddles in ‘pokes’ which were sacks made from strong sacking.  Wow, that's nearly two of me they used to carry!

You can see how strong and powerful they are from this photo...look at that big butt!

 Blue roan Dales pony

The pack ponies worked in gangs of up to 25 ponies, they were well trained and knew their names. They didn't wear a bridle, but they did wear muzzles to prevent them eating the grass at the edge of the lead roads.  This grass was contaminated by the fine powder which fell from the sacks of the lead ore.  If eaten it caused the ponies to become ‘bellond’ an incurable form of lead poisoning.  The ponies sometimes covered up to 200 miles a week.  

Dales ponies grooming

The pack pony men rode the pony at the back, and the front pony often wore a bell which could be heard for miles around when weather conditions were calm.  They had to sleep rough on route and carried onions, oatmeal and cheese to see them through until they reached the next Inn.  Sometimes the ponies were connected to each other by plaiting a loop into the tail for the halter of the pony behind to be tied.  The coming of the turnpike roads and the railways diminished the widespread use of pack ponies. Inn’s reverted to farms and the sound of the packhorse bell was to be heard no more.

 Bay roan Dales pony

This breeding has remained to this day though and they are well known for their strength and endurance.  This is what the Dales pony society says about the breed:

"Dales Ponies are renowned for the quality of their hard, well-shaped feet and legs, which should display beautiful dense, flat bone. Their action is straight, high and true. They are good movers, really using their knees and hocks for powerful drive. They have tremendous stamina, an iron constitution, high courage and great intelligence, combined with a calm temperament." 

Bay Dales pony

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Sunday 2 August 2015

A beautiful baby boy

 Dales mare and foal

As I mentioned before, the Dales pony is sadly on the Rare breeds watch list as 'critical' (less than 300 registered breeding females in the UK) and are one of the two breeds of native pony most at risk of extinction - the other one is the Eriskay pony.

Thankfully their numbers are on the rise, and there are many breeders determined to bring back the numbers of foals born.

Roandale Dales pony stud are expecting quite a few foals this year, and their first one had just been born two weeks before I was there, so I was lucky enough to photograph him.

Dales pony foal

The foal is a beautiful bay roan colt.

He certainly wasn't shy to come and say hello, especially once his mum came up to see me...he even came right up and sniffed my hand.  Look at those amazing eyelashes!

Bay roan Dales colt

Please click on the images to see them larger.

Sunday 19 July 2015

So I keep finding out things about the British native pony breeds that I didn't know before.  I thought that the Dales ponies were always black or dark brown. 

Black Dales pony

 But I was wrong - this is what the Dales pony society says about the Dales' colours - "colours are predominantly black, with some brown, bay, grey and rarely roan".

 Grey Dales pony

In fact it turns out that the blue roan and bay roan colouring in Dales is very, very rare!  It seems it was undesirable for a while and they were discouraged and nearly lost in the breed forever.  Thankfully they are gaining favour again, and the owners of the Roandale stud where I took these photos are actively breeding the roan colours.  They have a very handsome blue roan stallion (which I unfortunately didn't get a photo of as he was indoors at the time).  The Dales ponies come in bay roan and a blue roan, both very beautiful.

 Blue roan and bay roan Dales

Horse colours and how they are bred is a very interesting science - some genes are more dominant / recessive so many colours are harder to get.  Here is a very interesting chart on horse colours and how different genes effect the final colour colour chart

Bay Dales pony

I'm really enjoying this project, and all the fascinating things I am finding out about our lovely British native breeds.

**Please click on the images to see them larger.

Friday 26 June 2015

A trip to the Dales (Teesdale)

So, after a bit of a break from photographing the British native ponies, I finally arranged a trip to the north of England to photograph some native Dales ponies. The Dales ponies are on the Rare breeds survival trust watch list as 'critical' which is at the very top of the endangered breeds.  This means there are very few breeding Dales ponies around, and they are in danger of going extinct, which is very sad as they are wonderful ponies. 

 Dales pony mare with her young foal

I had always thought that the Dales ponies were from the Yorkshire Dales, but they are actually from a much larger area.  The Dales Pony is a native of the upper dales of the eastern slopes of the Pennine range, from the High Peak in Derbyshire all the way to the Cheviot Hills near the Scottish Border, so that covers North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland areas.  The favoured breeding areas have always been the upper dales of the rivers Tyne, Wear, Allen, Tees and Swale.

A Dales pony with a view of Teesdale behind

They were bred in this area, where the lead mining industry flourished from Roman times until the mid-nineteenth century, because they were excellent pack ponies.

Unfortunately, there are no wild or completely free roaming Dales ponies on the Dales anymore, so I found a Dales pony breeder that breeds ponies true to type, and has them out grazing on the Teesdale hills over looking the beautiful Dales area.

This is the website of the very kind people who let me photograph their lovely ponies:

 Roandale stud Dales ponies

As usual I found the ponies and hung out with them for quite a few hours (which went far too quick) to get some natural shots of the ponies doing their thing.

Dales pony

Please click on the photos to see them larger, and remember I have many of my pony images for sale in my Etsy shop 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

First off, I'm sorry I have been away for so long, but I'm back now and will try and be more regular with the posts...I have a lot of photos to post !

I wanted to share a few more photos of Dartmoor ponies, as I have a few nice ones of some pedigree registered Dartmoor ponies.

Dartmoor pony 

As I explained in my last few posts there are different types of ponies running on Dartmoor national park.  Whereas the Dartmoor hill ponies are all different shapes, sizes, and colours the ponies that are bred and registered as pedigree Dartmoor ponies by the Dartmoor pony society are all bred to a certain standard.
 Dartmoor pony
Their height should not be more than 12.2hh, their colours are bay, brown, black, grey, chestnut and roan.  Piebalds and Skewbalds are not allowed.  Excessive white markings are discouraged.  They should be sturdily built, but with quality.
Full breed standard here

Dartmoor pony foal

The pedigree pure bred Dartmoor is not so often seen on the commons beacuse they are too valuable to be left out, and also to prevent uncontrolled breeding with non-registered animals, but there are some especially if you know where to look.  I got some insider knowledge of where to find some from Lowertown Farm because they breed pedigree and heritage Dartmoor ponies, and keep a few out on the moors.

They told me where I might find some of their ponies, so I went in search of them.  After struggling through lots of gorse and bracken I found them !

Mare and foal

These wonderful little ponies are still on the endangered breeds list at the moment, but let's hope that with some successful breeding they will be able to come off that list.

Please click on the photos to see them larger.  
And don't forget you can check out my Etsy shop to buy prints and canvas of my horse and pony photos.


Thursday 20 March 2014

Dartmoor hill ponies

 Dartmoor hill pony and foal

Apparently, over two thousand years ago, Phoenician traders introduced ponies to the West Country. These original ponies evolved into two distinct breeds, the Exmoor and the Dartmoor.

The ponies now native to Dartmoor have adapted to suit whichever part of the Moor they live on. The colours are mainly bay, grey, chestnut and black, with some coloured ponies and even some spotted ponies.

Just over one hundred years ago, the pony breeders showed a split into two categories. One group began to concentrate on selectively breeding for the show ring with strict breed standards.  The other group bred more for usefulness and suitability for various kinds of work.

 Dartmoor hill pony

The mining industry found the native Dartmoors very useful, and crossed them with Shetland ponies for working underground. The farming industry required a sturdy weight-carrying pony, so ponies who were strong and had good depth of bone were chosen as breeding stock.  And when they were needed to be more sporty, for example as polo ponies, they were bred with arabs and thoroughbreds.  They have been used as riding ponies and driving ponies.

Dartmoor hill pony

So with all these different bloodlines that have been introduced it means there is a great variety of ponies on the moors today.  The common characteristics hardiness and good temperament. have remained the same though.

Dartmoor hill pony

Only a pony that has been bred on the commons of Dartmoor, by a registered Commoner, and whose sire and dam run on the Commons, is a Dartmoor Hill Pony.

Dartmoor hill pony

These are all photos I took on Dartmoor, showing the variety of different types and colours of Dartmoor hill pony.  Please click on the photos to see them larger.

More info on Dartmoor hill ponies here:

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Different types of ponies on Dartmoor

I have had a lot to learn about the ponies living on Dartmoor - I thought, probably like many people that there was just one type living feral there, but there are actually several different types.  Here is an overview:

 A coloured Dartmoor hill pony

Dartmoor was designated a National Park in 1951, but there have been ponies there a lot longer.   Ponies help to give Dartmoor its unique character and are one of the attractions for visitors to the area. They are an integral part of the moorland landscape and are a part of the area’s cultural heritage. Ponies are also important for conservation grazing particularly on certain habitats such as wet permanent pasture.

There are many ponies living feral on the moors, but there are several different types - it's quite confusing !

Firstly, there is the pedigree Dartmoor pony - this is the true to type Dartmoor Pony with known breeding and is recognised as a vulnerable breed by the Rare breeds society .  These are the Dartmoor pony breed that you will see being shown at pony shows.  They are represented by the Dartmoor pony society, have a strict breed standard, and are bred selectively, so that they have become more refined !  You will not see many of these running free on the moors.

Dartmoor hill ponies

Secondly, are the ones you will see most often - these are known as Dartmoor hill ponies.  Only a pony that has been bred on the commons of Dartmoor, by a registered Commoner, and whose sire and dam run on the Commons, is a Dartmoor Hill Pony.

There are many variations of colour and type of Dartmoor hill pony, but they are all hardy and can survive on the moors all year round.  There are some that are Small and round like Shetland types, there is the coloured type, spotty type and the classic Dartmoor type.
Classic Dartmoor type hill pony

Third, there is the Heritage Dartmoor pony.  This is where certain unregistered, but true to type Hill Ponies are given Heritage Trust List (HTL) status.  HTL status was granted several years ago to The Dartmoor Heritage Trust, a charity not connected with the Dartmoor Pony Society, to allow farmers on Dartmoor to obtain payments to assist them to retain their unregistered but true to type herds on the Moor.

They remain unregistered, but can if approved and they meet certain criteria enter the Dartmoor Pony Society/Duchy of Cornwall Upgrading Scheme.  This is where several generations of Heritage pony are bred with a pure bred stallion, and if they pass inspection they can become registered as a pedigree Dartmoor !

After scrabbling through lots of gorse and bracken I found these two young ponies, along with a mare and foal - they belong to Lowertown farm.  The one on the right is a pedigree Dartmoor, and the one on the left is a pedigree X heritage pony.

More to come about the lovely Dartmoor and Hill ponies in the next few blogs, so be sure to check back.

Please click on the photos to see them larger.