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The Dartmoor Pony was noted in an 1870 magazine, for jumping ability and the breed still jumps well today but is also one of the more elegant of riding ponies today, with much success too in driving competitions. Even so, The Dartmoor is on the rare-breed, endangered list.
The Dartmoor Pony breed has its origin on the moorland of England’s Dartmoor Forest, intersected by the rivers Dart, Taw and Tavy, but of course few ponies are bred these days on the Moor.
The Dartmoor has been influenced by several different breeds. There was an early connection with the Old Devon Pack horse, drawn from both Exmoor and Dartmoor blood, and the Cornish Goonhilly Pony. Both are now extinct. Oriental or eastern horses may have been introduced as early as the12th century.
Mention was made of the Dartmoor Pony in 1820 by an equine authority, William Youatt, who wrote that there was a pony on the rough moorland of the Dartmoor Forest, larger than then Exmoor pony, that was much in request in the Darmoor vicinity and that was sure footed, hardy and capable of scrambling over the rough roads and dreary wild of that mountainous district, although its beauty was not great.
Fifty years later, The field Magazine wrote about the ability of the Dartmoor Pony to jump. Today, the Dartmoor still performs well over obstacles but has transformed into one of the more elegant of riding ponies as well as having exceptional skill, elegance and success in driving competitions.
The Dartmoor has been influenced by several different breeds. There was an early connection with the Old Devon Pack horse, drawn from both Exmoor and Dartmoor Pony blood, and the Cornish Goonhilly Pony. Both are now extinct. Oriental or eastern horses may have been introduces as early as the twelfth century.
The greatest factors in the development of the Dartmoor, were the stallion The Leat and his owner who was the honorary secretary of the Dartmoor Pony Society for 32 years. The Leat, a part-bred, was 12.2 hands and was described as a magnificent pony. His sire was an Arabian and his dam a black 13 hand mare who was sired by a stallion who was out of a Dartmoor Pony mare.
Among the many breeds used to improve the breed in the 19th century were trotting Roadsters, Welsh Ponies and cobs, Exmoor Ponies, Arabians and small Thoroughbreds. Shetland Ponies were also used in an attempt to produce ponies for coal mining.
Dartmoor Ponies came close to extinction during the second World War. Between 1941 and 1943 only two male and twelve females were registered. The breed was largely saved by the Pony and Riding Society, now the National Pony Society.
The Dartmoor pony, Like all of the British native breeds, is hardy and constitutionally sound. The head sets gracefully on the neck which is strong but with the length associated with a riding pony. The head is small, full of quality with characteristically small and very alert ears. The temperament is excellent.
Dartmoor Ponies are bay, black or brown. Skewbald or piebald are not accepted by the breed society, which also discourages any excessive white markings.
The Pony is notable for the excellence of the shoulder which is wonderfully sloped to give the best sort of riding action, and ensures that the Dartmoor Pony is a first class performer. The loin and hind leg are particularly correct. This pony’s conformation gives the breed a natural balance. Limbs and hooves are the best. The cannons are short and the bone measurement under the knee of the forelimbs is ample. Height does not exceed 12.2 hands.
The Dartmoor Pony action is notable among the pony breeds for the lack of knee lift. It is low, long and economical and with the excellent temperament this pony makes an ideal child’s pony, not least because of the easy smoothness of the distinctive action. Along with Welsh Ponies, the Dartmoor dominates the riding pony classes and has contributed greatly to the beautiful British riding pony. It is very popular in Europe and crosses well with Thoroughbreds or Arabians. The second cross with the thoroughbred produces class competition horses.
The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is a registered charity which is dedicated to the preservation of the Dartmoor , now on the rare breed, endangered list.