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The Exmoor Ponies of Haddon Hill

Exmoor Pony foals Photo Caroline Cook
Exmoor Pony foals Photo Caroline Cook

Your monthly update from our very special National Park

The Haddon Hill Herd

For many people seeing Exmoor Ponies on the open moors is one of the highlights of a trip to Exmoor and, at this time of year, they look particularly adorable sporting a thick, two-layered protective coat. Haddon Hill is home of one of Exmoor National Park’s two herds of Exmoor Ponies and their foals and is a good spot to see them sporting their coats this winter. Later in Spring they shed their woolly protection and start to display their fine and glossy summer selves. Foals are born in the spring and early summer and spend the summer running with their mothers, known as dams. Throughout the year they build up a store of fat to take them through the hard winter ahead. The ponies are inspected and micro-chipped on various Exmoor farms in the Autumn, foals are weaned and either sold or returned to the moor for the winter. Some eventually become riding or even therapy ponies.

Conservation Watch

The Exmoor Pony is considered one of the best native ponies for conservation grazing. The ponies’ teeth are adapted to allow them to graze coarse vegetation like gorse, bramble and thistles that could otherwise overwhelm the landscape. Exmoor ponies are in fact one of the breeds being deployed by Wildlife Trusts nationally to help improve biodiversity as part of a £6 million rewilding project. The fund aims to stem both the decline in UK wildlife and help battle climate change.

More than 40 per cent of UK species are in decline while 15 per cent are threatened with extinction, according to the latest State of Nature report. Obviously, on Haddon Hill it’s best to leave the wild herd well alone, but for a chance to get up close to the ponies, you can visit the Exmoor Pony Centre at Ashwick near Dulverton or join one of the many Exmoor Pony events organised locally throughout the year.

All Exmoor National Park ponies are named after flora, (Latin or common name) and follow the alphabet year after year. The Moorland Maise Trust’ sometimes aid the Rangers in their diligent pony care and they stable name ponies with other fun titles too! One year all the foals were named after muppets leading to one foal, originally christened ‘Haddon Elm’, landing the lasting moniker of ‘Elmo’!

A Wintry Walk

Situated near the southern tip of Exmoor, Haddon Hill sweeps above Wimbleball lake with stunning views and a range of trails to suit all comers. In Winter, a circular wander will afford you spectacular sunsets from the trig point at the summit and a chance to look out over taking in iconic landscapes that seem to transcend across the eras. The route down from Haddon Hill to the village of Bury is also particularly dramatic. The starkly impressive Wimbleball Dam at one end of the walk contrasts with Bury’s ancient bridge at the other end. It nestles alongside a bubbling ford, where you have the choice of wading through to wash off your wellies or keep your walking boots dry by tramping over the stones. Find more route inspiration and info at exmoorwalks.org/explorers

There are plenty of opportunities to learn more about our Exmoor Ponies:

The Exmoor Pony Centre exmoorponycentre.org.uk

Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group mepbg.co.uk

The Exmoor Pony Festival exmoorponyfestival.com

The Exmoor Pony Society exmoorponysociety.org.uk



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