EPICENTRE - the newsletter for Exmoor Ponies in Conservation

Exmoor Ponies in Conservation Newsletter

Issue 1 Article 11

AQUALATE MERE EXMOORS

We acquired two sixteen year old Anchor mares, an Anchor filly foal and a two and a half year old filly from the Warren herd in December 1996. Both mares were in foal and produced filly foals in April and May.

Our six ponies are based a Aqualate Mere, National Nature Reserve in Staffordshire, a multi-habitat reserve where we have over a hundred acres of lowland wet grassland, mainly on peat, which is of importance for its botanical and ornithological interest.

Although the grassland is grazed by cattle, we have not been able to graze some of the fields to the level that we would have wished, partly because of the unsuitability of the sward for modern breeds of cattle. We have therefore turned to Exmoors to 'eat the parts other animals won't touch'.

So far the results have been very encouraging. As graziers the ponies are excellent and have achieved more in a month than cattle have achieved in five years, particularly in areas dominated by rush and tufted hair grass.

We have experienced one or two problems. Handling has proved to be difficult when we have to move them from one end of the reserve to another - we have had to build handling pens on each grazing unit. We have also had one pony stuck in a stream and think we will have to trim feet once or twice a year.

I am sure that in some situations Exmoors have a future as conservationists. However I think that there is a danger of over promoting Exmoors as the answer to all conservation grazing problems, which of course they are not. I also think that the pony's welfare is an important consideration and would not like to see ponies which have spent much of their lives free-living on the moor suddenly finding themselves confined to a small meadow on a reserve. Having said that there are obviously many situations where Exmoor ponies provide and ideal solution to grazing problems and I agree that the future potential for Exmoors in these situations is enormous.

I do believe that a list or register of owners using Exmoors for conservation grazing would be a good idea, both for the interchange of information between owners and as a list of advice contacts for people considering purchasing Exmoors for this purpose.

by Tim Coleshaw Site Manager