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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How the mountain and moorland saved the native pony

I’ve talked a bit about ponies as I’ve gone along. So by now you know that they are under 52 inches tall, or at least they are normally under that size. I’ve also talked about how some breeds are never ponies no matter how small they are.
I’ve posted about the Icelandic horse and how it influenced so many pony breeds particularly in Britain. I don’t know if I talked about my Grandfather spending time in Iceland during WW2

He took this photo that we found recently. It’s kind of cool, right?

Ponies evolved on the margins of the habitable areas for horses, where the environment wasn’t good enough to produce enough food for many full sized horses. There isn’t any genetic difference between ponies and horses although at one time people thought that they were descended from different species.

Ponies are phenotype defined. So basically if it looks like a pony it probably is. That isn’t to say that each breed isn’t genetically defined, but ponies look like ponies the same way draft horses look like draft horses. Ponies are shorter, with thick but short legs thicker mains and tails. They often have smaller ears and a thicker heavier coat.

Ok here is a story that I have been hearing all of my life. I had to look up the dates and the wording but here it goes.

In 1535 King Henry IIIV of England enacted the Breeds of Horses Act. This act called for the culling of all stallions under 15 hands and mares under 13 hands. The act was repealed in 1566 by Elizabeth I because poor lands couldn’t support larger horses. The good thing for the British Native Ponies was that many breeds lived on the edges of things. They lived in the moors and mountains, therefor they didn't get caught up in the culls.  Many of the British breeds still have populations in the moors or mountains. Feral and semi-feral stock can be used in conservation grazing programs.

For the next few weeks I will be talking about ponies of the mountains, moors and the islands.

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