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New blood to improve breeding stock

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

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THE Exmoor Pony Society is about to import ponies from Scotland to help the survival of the rare breed.

The move, taking place over the next few weeks, will improve the genetic diversity of Exmoor ponies.

It follows analysis by a North Devon vet of the ponies running free on Exmoor.

The research by Peter Green, of Kentisbury, led to his report for the Exmoor National Park Authority, called The Free-Living Ponies Within The Exmoor National Park: Their Status, Welfare And Future.

It highlighted the importance of maintaining the genetic diversity in Exmoor ponies on the moor and the society now said it is seeking to bring bloodlines back to the moor. The first three ponies, two mares and a stallion, will be brought down from Scotland over the coming weeks and re-introduced on the moor in carefully controlled and monitored situations with the assistance of moorland breeders.

There are around 500 ponies running in the free-living herds on Exmoor and over 3,500 ponies worldwide, all registered into the Exmoor Pony Society studbook.

The Exmoor pony is currently in Category 2 (Endangered) of the Rare Breed Survival Trust's Watchlist and was until recently in Category 1 (Critical).

Chairman of the society David Brewer said: "One of the tasks of the society has been to ensure that the long-term survival of the Exmoor pony was assured.

"Members both on and off the moor have undertaken breeding programmes that have ensured that as many bloodlines as possible have been preserved both on and off the moor.

"Nowadays, there are more bloodlines represented away from Exmoor than there are currently on the moor.

"The geographical diversity of the breeding population does ensure that should Exmoor herds or those in any other area of the UK be devastated by an equine disease, there is the ability to replenish stock – even from as far afield as German, Sweden and the USA."

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