British Isles Breeds: Dartmoor Pony

Meet Great Britain's native Dartmoor Pony.

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Dartmoor is an area of moorland in the county of Devon in southwest England. Its many solid granite hilltops (known as tors) are often barren, with sparse forage for wildlife and little protection from the elements. This beautiful yet desolate area is home to the wild roaming Dartmoor Pony.

Dartmoor Pony

Despite its small size, the Dartmoor’s strength and surefootedness made it popular for many jobs. Because the area was rich in tin, hardy Dartmoors were used to carry heavy loads across the moors to neighboring villages during the Middle Ages. However, in the 18th century, breeders wanted to make the Dartmoor more suitable as a pit pony and introduced Shetland Pony blood into the population. When area mines eventually closed, some Dartmoors were kept to work on farms, but most of them were turned loose to fend for themselves on the moors.

In 1951, Dartmoor was officially made a national park. In 1988, The Dartmoor Pony Moorland Scheme was founded to help the purebred pony rebound. In Dartmoor National Park, some ponies are owned and protected by farmers, and are usually identified with unique brands.

The Dartmoor Pony stands between 11.1 and 12.2 hands. Most are brown, bay, black, gray, chestnut or roan, but any “colored” horses (pinto) represent a partbred and are therefore ineligible for registration. The Dartmoor is prized as a children’s mount and a driving pony.

Dartmoors have excelled at the highest level of combined driving competition as well. “Dartmoor Ponies have successfully competed at the FEI level in combined driving in the pair division,” says Susan Deutermann, president of the Dartmoor Pony Registry of America. “Tracey Morgan competed her team of Dartmoors at four world championships in Europe as part of the U.S. team.”

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