Dartmoor Commoners Council

PONY DRIFTS

Pony herds, which are owned by individual commoners, have been grazing the commons of Dartmoor for many centuries. The hardy little ponies seen today are of mixed breeding and are suitably adapted to survive the harsh conditions of the moor: they are known as Dartmoor Hill Ponies but there is a pure bred Dartmoor Pony that can still be seen grazing on the common.

   

Traditionally the ponies are ‘drifted’ or rounded up from the commons in the autumn and gathered into a nearby pound from which each owner removes his or her own ponies to the farmstead.

Foals born in the previous spring are separated from the mares for weaning and later sold at the local markets in Tavistock and Chagford. Some of the foals are kept as replacement stock, branded and turned back on the commons to breed in future years, others will be used as children’s riding ponies or for driving small traps.

The foal “crop” is the major income from the wild ponies and the sustainability and continued presence of the wild herds on the moor is dependent upon a good price at the market. The drift remains an important social event in the farming calendar year.

   

 

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Last updated 24th August 2018