In 1996 a census was carried out by the Exmoor Pony Society. Breeders and owners were contacted and asked what animals they had alive in their possession and information on deaths of animals that they had previously owned.
The methodology was that animals reported alive were recorded LIVE, animals reported dead recorded DEAD, if no report was received about an animal and it was over 25 years of age it was recorded as DEAD. This allows any mistakes to be always in the same direction that is any census error would report too many DEATHS in unaccounted for ponies.
This data was transferred from the database and used in a computer programme, which showed all animals in each birth year and those that were recorded DEAD in 1996.
By looking at all registrations from 1970 to 1996, and recording the dead for that year by 1996, information was gained which established: -
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The most remarkable conclusion is the longevity of the ponies with the figures at 27 years of age showing roughly that one half of the ponies registered are still alive but with very significant differences in the life expectancy for males and females. Remember any error in the census will show an excess of deaths.
One cannot extrapolate the graph; this would be nonsense and give an estimated result of 25% of ponies still alive at 34 years old. In fact deaths would occur increasingly rapidly after 27 years of age.
However I still have a 34 year old mare, fit and still wanting to be ridden, and also another 31 year old mare which, after running barren with a stallion for eight years, decided to have her first foal at the age of 25 and her second at 26. It is claimed that the oldest Exmoor mare to have a foal was 34 years old.