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Dartmoor Hill Pony Has Rare Survival Gene

Aberystwyth University has discovered that the Dartmoor Hill Pony has a distinct genetic signature designed for survival.

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) study has discovered that the Dartmoor Hill Pony has distinct genetics not seen in any other breed before and may give clues to how they have evolved to survive and thrive in a harsh climate.

Dr Matt Hegarty of IBERS, Aberystwyth University said: ‘We’ve analysed the DNA from Dartmoor Hill Ponies and found that even though they may differ in height or colour, the Hillies are one distinct type of pony. They are different to any other native pony in the UK. They have rare genetic signatures not seen in the Dartmoor Pony (the other pony breed linked to the region) and are genetically quite distinct from them, which may be linked to their ability to thrive in the harsh upland environment where they live all year round. This means that the Dartmoor Hill Pony has a reservoir of unique genetic diversity for adaptive upland living that is worthy of protection.’

The news comes as the Dartmoor community is busy rebranding the Dartmoor Hill Ponies as ‘Dartmoor Hillies’ in a bid to raise awareness of their vital place in the region’s battle for conservation.

The semi-wild Hillies are all owned by local farmers but live in natural herds, with a stallion and his harem of mares free to roam on the high moor of Dartmoor. They have grazed Dartmoor for 4000 years, creating the landscape and homes for rare flora and fauna . But farmers face an economic challenge to keep them on the high moor, prompting the rebranding campaign.

Charlotte Faulkner, Vice-Chair Dartmoor Hill Pony Association said: ‘Because these ponies are different heights and colours, they have been labelled ‘mongrels’ or ‘the rubbish on the moor’ in the past. This study shows that they are, in fact, one unique type of pony. They are exactly the right ponies to be here because, over millennia of living on Dartmoor, they have evolved the physical adaptations and inherent herd knowledge to thrive in this harsh landscape.’

The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association and Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony have encouraged the community of farmers to look for new ways of increasing value to the ponies to avoid the culling of the ponies at under a year old. Selling their meat and training them to become riding and driving ponies are just two ways in which farmers can justify keeping them.

Now the campaigners have launched a new livery of lime and navy for proud owners of domesticated Hillies to wear to show off that their pony is a Dartmoor Hill Pony. Visitors to country shows across the South West may have seen the ponies and young riders of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Display team proudly sporting lime and navy costumes as they perform a complex musical ride.

For more information and interviews, please contact:
Charlotte Faulkner: charlotte@dartmoorhillpony.com 07734 785644
Joss Hibbs: josshibbs@gmail.com 01822 880263
Twitter and Instagram @dartmoorhilly
Facebook: Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony (Dartmoor Hillies)

 

For thousands of years Man has grazed Dartmoor with a mixture
of cattle, sheep and ponies. Each does its job to shape the Moor as we see it today. Now Natural England wish to see stocking levels reduced on the Moor and the pony, as the least obvious economically valuable animal, is in the firing line.
This unfortunate Natural England policy, though probably
unintended, has come at the same time as a down turn in the
market nationally for pony sales – a double whammy.
All of us want to see our Hill Ponies surviving on Dartmoor but the numbers will have to shrink. To achieve this we need to reduce the number of unwanted foals, hence the “Pony Pill” project.
Having looked at many schemes we believe the contraception
scheme (Pony Pill) will work best. Other methods such as stallion removal or vasectomising stallions risk loss of valuable blood lines and is a threat to natural herd behaviour. In addition removing stallions has been proved to fail - stallions are very determined!
With the support of Dartmoor’s remaining Pony Herders,
we now have a scheme that:

Should be at least 90% effective and is affordable.

Safe for already pregnant mares and has very few side effects.

Maintains the herd structures and does not interfere with social behaviour
.


Is reversible and has no impact on other species.
None of this work would have been possible without financial support and incredible help from our partners the Pony Herders, Dartmoor National Park Sustainability Fund, Dart Vale Vets, Pet Plan, Lord Clinton Charitable Trust, World Horse Welfare and the generous private donations from individuals, which has helped us to ensure over 100 mares will not have foals this year and give us the tools to roll out this ground breaking project across the whole Moor.

 

The Reason for Introducing the plan for Pony Meat for Human Consumption for Future of Ponies and Dartmoor

To stop foals being shot in the year they are born.
-Natural England recommend and ensure the correct number of ponies are kept on the moor.

This year
300 foals are homed with a hope they will become riding driving companions or for become part of conservation grazing herds.
50 foals go back onto the moor to join the grazing herds of approx. 900 ponies.
In excess of 400 foals are shot.
This is not acceptable.

The Solution
Breed Less/management to create age strata of the herd to add value to the ponies, giving confidence by ensuring an end use.
Use contraception on mares.
Reduce number of breeding mares, but keep the numbers the same by introducing young ponies.
By increasing the number of young female stock returned to the moor who will not breed until they are three and using contraception on the older mares.
3 year old ponies will have a value they are the correct age to train or go for meat.
- maintaining the correct number of ponies recommended by Natural England.

RESULT
So in Future Years, foal crop reduced,  pony numbers maintained.
100 foals are homed with a hope they will become riding driving companions or become part of conservation grazing herds.
200 filly foals go back onto the moor to join the herd of approx. into the herd of approx. 900 ponies.
100 Three year old ponies for training or meat.
The ponies do not enter the food chain until they reach three. This gives the foals currently shot before they are 1yr, 3 summers running free on the moor.

Conclusion
Those wanting to train a pony for riding and driving prefer to start training when the ponies are 3yrs old, demand created.
A farmer, knowing that there is a meat trade as a fall back, is more confident keeping that pony until that age, demand created.
It improves the chance of a foal growing and being trained for life.
Future created.

 

Pony on the menu

During the last few years many Dartmoor farmers have stopped keeping ponies as they are no longer viable and unless a way can be found to make them profitable the remaining farmers will have to do the same. Hill Farmers can’t afford to keep luxuries and this will mean that the Moor won’t be grazed properly, gorse will flourish making whole areas inaccessible and eventually the tourist trade will drop.
This project already has support from some of the hoteliers on the moor and we are confident that others will follow as pony meat, like venison, is low in fat, high in omega 3, organic and delicious. It is really versatile, and can be eaten as steak or roasted, both of which the French enjoy or made into sausages or savoury meats such as salami and pastrami .
A small abattoir has been chosen that deals compassionately with ponies.
As that well known Dartmoor auctioneer Tim Garratt has said for years “ eat horsemeat, it’s good for the ponies!”
Please click here if you wish to to make a purchase.

*Please support us by signing this petition in order to secure next stage of contraceptive project. Click here for the link.

Here you can learn all about the history, breeding, habitat and lives of the ponies found today on the commons of Dartmoor National Park. You will also find up-to-date information about the ponies on Dartmoor throughout the year.

Due to the economic problems being felt in this country and abroad, the sale of horses and ponies has dramatically decreased. For semi-feral herds across the UK this has become a huge problem. Dartmoor relies on its herds of ponies to keep the careful ecological balance. Without the ponies, the moorland would become vastly overgrown, not only preventing the vital income brought by tourists but also greatly damaging the habitats of a number of insects and birds and other animals.

We urgently need your help to prevent this.

 

 

 

The Reason for Introducing the plan for Pony Meat for Human Consumption for Future of Ponies and Dartmoor

To stop foals being shot in the year they are born.
-Natural England recommend and ensure the correct number of ponies are kept on the moor.
This year
300 foals are homed with a hope they will become riding driving companions or for become part of conservation grazing herds.
50 foals go back onto the moor to join the grazing herds of approx. 900 ponies.
In excess of 400 foals are shot.
This is not acceptable




The Solution
Breed Less/management to create age strata of the herd to add value to the ponies, giving confidence by ensuring an end use.
Use contraception on mares.
Reduce number of breeding mares, but keep the numbers the same by introducing young ponies.
By increasing the number of young female stock returned to the moor who will not breed until they are three and using contraception on the older mares.
3 year old ponies will have a value they are the correct age to train or go for meat.
- maintaining the correct number of ponies recommended by Natural England.
RESULT
So in Future Years
Foal crop reduced,  pony numbers maintained.
100 foals are homed with a hope they will become riding driving companions or become part of conservation grazing herds.
200 filly foals go back onto the moor to join the herd of approx. into the herd of approx. 900 ponies.
100 Three year old ponies for training or meat.
The ponies do not enter the food chain until they reach three. This gives the foals currently shot before they are 1yr, 3 summers running free on the moor.
Conclusion
Those wanting to train a pony for riding and driving prefer to start training when the ponies are 3yrs old, demand created.
A farmer, knowing that there is a meat trade as a fall back, is more confident keeping that pony until that age, demand created.
It improves the chance of a foal growing and being trained for life.
Future created.