Dartmoor Horse

Origin: England – Devon.

Height: Up to 12.2hh.

Color: Bay, black and brown are preferred. Odd colors such as piebald and skewbald exist, but they are not recognized by the breed society. Excessive white is discouraged.

Character: Kind and sensible. Ideal first ponies.

Physique: Small, aristocratic head with very small, pricked ears. Strong, sloping shoulders; strong, well-muscled back, loins, and quarters. Slim, hard legs and tough, well-shaped feet. Tail high-set and plentiful; abundant mane. Good action, low and free as befits a riding pony. Surefooted and given to longevity.

The Dartmoor is a near relation to the Exmoor, being bred on the neighboring Devon moor and subject to the same exposed climatic conditions. William Youatt also had his opinions on this breed:

There is on Dartmoor a breed of ponies much in request in that vicinity, being sure-footed and hardy, and admirably calculated to scramble over the rough roads and dreary wilds of that mountainous district. The Dartmoor pony is larger than the Exmoor [maybe it was], and, if possible, uglier. He exists there almost in a state of nature.

The late Captain Colgrave, governor of the prison, had a great desire to possess one of them of the somewhat superior figure to its fellows, and having several men assist him, they separated it from the herd. They drove it on some rocks by the side of a tor. A man followed on horseback, while the captain stood below watching the chase. The little animal, being driven into a corner, leaped completely over man and horse and escaped.

From long beyond the memory of man ponies of a small, hardy riding type have lived on Dartmoor, but until the end of the last century they were not registered and they varied much in type. The standard Dartmoor horse has remained without much alteration ever since. The breed was hard-hit in World War II because Dartmoor was used as a training center for the army, and when the war was finished only ponies passed by inspection or was placed at chosen shows. In 1961 a stringent up-grading register was begun.SR1, the first grade, was closed in 1966 with 280 entries; but SR2, the second grade, is open indefinitely. SR1 ponies are branded with the Dart-moor Pony Society’s triangle on the neck.

If all this may sound over-particular, it is the result of a particular problem that has confronted breeders of the Dartmoor pony in its natural habitat. Less than a hundred years ago, when the demand for very small ponies to work in coalmines was at its peak, Shetland stallions were introduced to Dartmoor to run wild and breed with the native ponies, and the resulting degeneration of the breed was widespread. It is a credit to the DartmoorPony Society and the few individual breeders outside Dartmoor that this perfect child’s first pony survives in its purebred form.

See more: Darashouri Horse

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