Heritage Exmoor Pony Festival 2016 - a Resounding Success!
The Heritage Exmoor Pony Festival, which celebrates and promotes the pedigree and purebred Exmoor ponies of Exmoor National Park, has once again been hailed a resounding success by its organisers, the Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, Exmoor Pony Club and Moorland Exmoor Foal Project - drawing visitors from across the country and overseas to the area.
Throughout August, people have enjoyed a host of Exmoor pony events and activities and learned about the charismatic ancient breed that graces the moors of Exmoor. Starting with a fully-booked Wild Pony Whispering ‘Discover Exmoor Ponies’ Workshop early in August, visitors then experienced the gathering of the magnificent Tippbarlake herd from Brendon Common - the largest herd of free-living Exmoor ponies in the world. Glorious weather provided great photo opportunities as the ponies cascaded through Lancombe Crossing, with Exmoor Photography and wildlife photographer Jamie Waters on hand with tips to get the best shots. Jamie also ran two Photographing Exmoor Ponies in the Wild workshops during the festival.
Later that week, visitors to Brendon Barton enjoyed a guided tour of the Tippbarlake herd ponies at home on the farm with the Floyd family, followed by a delicious homemade cream tea.
On 12 August, Dr Sarah Blott from Nottingham University gave a talk on the pioneering new Exmoor Pony DNA Whole Genome Project at Exmoor National Park Authority’s Exmoor House. Project stakeholders include Exmoor National Park, Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, Exmoor Pony Society, vet Peter Green, the Molland Estate and Badgworthy Land Company, and it is chaired by DEFRA Chief Vet Tim Morris.
The MEPBG Exmoor Pony show at Brendon Show saw pedigree and purebred Exmoor ponies compete for the supreme championship and the MEPBG/AH Saddles Exmoor Pony Championship Final - both won this year by Cheritonridge Mont de Brouilly, owned by Mr N & Mrs D Westcott. Champion Foal was Mr J Bryant’s as yet unnamed moorbred filly foal and Que Sera Sera owned by Ms B Rawle stood Moorbred Champion and Overall Reserve Supreme Champion. Non-Pedigree champion was Monsieur Chapeau, owned by Mr & Mrs Westcott, who also stood Reserve Moorbred Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion in the MEPBG/AH Final. Farleywater Siren, owned by Ms K Hollick-Blee stood Pedigree Youngstock Champion. Apple Blossom and Ms M Maddocks standing ridden champions.
Moorland events included a well-attended walk on Molland Moor, hosted by the Dart family who provided a homemade cream tea at their farm afterwards. Visitors were treated to the magical sight of the moor in its August glory with the herd of free-living ponies appearing from over the hill and allowing the group to walk amongst them. There were more stud visits and moorland walks including to Anstey and Withypool Commons, Countisbury and Buscombe. Later in the month, Exmoor National Park Conservation Manager Rob Wilson-North led a guided Archaeological Packhorse Walk from Crawtor Hill, accompanied by Exmoor ponies from the Moorland Exmoor Foal Project, which proved very popular with locals and visitors alike.
On Sun 21 Aug the MEPBG held a busy Open Afternoon at Holt Ball with visitors keen to meet the Exmoor ponies and farmers and see the agility demos and impressive displays from local photographers and artists Jamie Waters, Maureen Harvey, Helen South and Helen Disberry. There was also the opportunity to meet Monsieur Chapeau and Bear, stars of Dawn Westcott’s real-life books, Wild Pony Whispering and Wild Stallion Whispering.
Towards the end of the month, Wild Pony Whispering workshop participants learned how Exmoor stallion Bear prepares for liberty and agility work with the Core Connection Warm Up exercises featured in Wild Stallion Whispering, followed by a demonstration of his skills on the agility course.
The 2016 Heritage Exmoor Pony Festival concluded with a compelling illustrated talk on Exmoor Ponies & Their Future and book signing by MEPBG co-founder and author Dawn Westcott, at Exmoor National Park Authority’s library in Dulverton. Well attended by land owners, locals and visitors, the talk highlighted the Exmoor ponies as a national treasure, together with the challenges facing them and steps being taken to safeguard their future, including the new Exmoor Pony DNA Whole Genome Project.
MEPBG Chairman Nick Westcott said, “I’m very pleased to see the Heritage Exmoor Pony Festival go from strength to strength. It’s proving invaluable in helping people to understand the qualities of our indigenous native ponies and also the challenges we face in conserving and preserving them. It promotes awareness that good homes need to be found for some of the wild-born foals in the autumn and that with kind and patient socialisation, new owners are rewarded with the most wonderful ponies that can turn their hoof to almost anything - including endurance, riding, driving, jumping and agility - along with their skills as conservation grazers. The ponies are an iconic part of Exmoor and we’re keen to see more people get involved with the breed.”
There will be Exmoor pony foals and youngstock available for sale this autumn from the Bryant family’s Herd 423, the Coldicutt family’s Herd 100, the Dart family’s Herd 99, the Floyd family’s Herd 387, the Milton family’s Herd 23, the South family’s Herd H67 and the Westcott family’s Herd 11.
Please email: MoorlandExmoorGroup@hotmail.co.uk.