The Dartmoor is an original pony that is probably easier to hold than any other pony and even lighter than any horse. The “tiny”, no more than 1.28 m high, is anything but a pure children’s pony.
A Dartmoor can be ridden by light adults and driven by all adults. It’s hard to believe that the great Dartmoor is now threatened with extinction.
In this article, you will learn everything about this horse breed and how you can help save it.
The Dartmoor is a small, physically, and essentially healthy pony. His breeding is based on a broad and varied genetic basis and therefore produces all-around healthy horses.
The historical use of the Dartmoor as riding and packing animals on farms and transport helpers in the mine have turned the former wild ponies into clever, mostly very smart ponies.
A Dartmoor is so sturdy that it can withstand heavy work in a reasonably good mood, and it can even be downright charming.
It’s also pretty good-natured – a great companion for children, on which z. B. learn to ride the English royal children. But also a real companion for adults who ride or hike the Dartmoor carriage, use it for pasture and biotope maintenance, or simply let it run around the farm for relaxation and entertainment.
Like many of the good, original farm animals that don’t need to be “reinvented” in order to make a profit, the Dartmoor pony breed has seen major declines in the recent past.
Dartmoor ponies are therefore still one of the horse breeds threatened with extinction, the population of which is estimated at around 3000 animals worldwide.
Origin and breed history
The Dartmoor ponies were originally wild ponies that roamed the Dartmoor, a raised bog in southwest England near the city of Plymouth.
The people there used these ponies and crossed them with many other breeds in the course of their breeding history, which has been documented since the 11th century. Dartmoor ponies carry the genes of Welsh ponies and Shetland ponies, fur ponies and hackneys, and several other breeds, even those of fiery Arabs.
As a result of these numerous crossings, the tough and robust ponies were given increasingly positive riding and driving characteristics. This is how the Dartmoor small horse came about, which can be used in a more versatile way than almost any other horse.
With its extremely practical size, it also got along well where large horses are difficult to keep. With its good-naturedness, adaptability, and willingness to perform, it also gladly took on tasks that a horse had never been given before.
In 1899 the studbook of the breed was founded in order to consolidate these great breed-typical characteristics and to maintain them through uniform breeding standards.
In 1957 the English Dartmoor Pony Society was founded on the basis of this studbook, and in 1965 the first two Dartmoor horses were exported to Germany.
Since then, some Dartmoor breeders have been taking care of the breeding and distribution of the “ponies for all cases”, which are part of the community of interests of Dartmoor breeders and friends in Germany. V. are united.
In addition to the large range of eye-catching, but not necessarily easy to handle, “consumer horses” with too little success – but there are signs that this could change in the near future.
In addition to the main breeding area of England, Dartmoor is now also bred in the USA, Australia, and many European countries.
The appearance of the Dartmoor
Dartmoor ponies are good-looking, sturdy riding ponies that are very similar to the well-known New Forest pony. The Dartmoor is only a good bit smaller but easily compensates for this with its strength and robustness.
The head is noble and small with a straight nose line, the eyes are expressive, the ears are small and very flexible. The body is stocky, strong, and stable, the long, compact back usually forms a good saddle position.
The high erect, well set, and well-arched neck merges into rather small withers. The shoulders, thighs, and the slightly sloping, broad croup with a deeply set tail are strongly muscled.
The legs are dry and strong, with well-marked joints, short, sometimes steep pasterns, and healthy hooves. The Dartmoor Pony is also limited to a down-to-earth, sensible frame in terms of color variants.
Browns from light to black-brown and blacks are normal and common, all without special, large-scale markings.
Temperament and essence
Dartmoor ponies are very friendly and show a calm, benign temperament in almost every situation. Dartmoor ponies are also intelligent and strong-willed, learn quickly and show a high degree of sensitivity towards empathetic people.
Dartmoor ponies are calm enough to master the responsible life of youth riding ponies with great reliability and always in a good mood. In fact, Dartmoor makes a pretty ideal pony for young children.
Hardworking and good-natured on his own, friendly and of a balanced nature, also extremely sure-footed, sensible, and reliable. A Dartmoor is still happy to take on tasks that a horse had never been given before.
That is why it has now conquered new tasks in the adult world around horses. As a driving horse in front of small carriages that are only used occasionally and otherwise easily stowed away, as a relaxing therapy horse, or simply as a companion when going for a walk.
Above all, this original pony is now used very sensibly in the field of landscape maintenance: Dartmoor ponies do not cause any damage, even in sensitive nature reserves, due to their low weight of a little more than 200 kg.
They graze the areas assigned to them almost completely and fertilize them almost completely. Dartmoor is therefore used today for the maintenance of particularly valuable, but very close to the groundwater, particularly steep or otherwise inaccessible nature protection areas.
They keep traditional cultural landscapes open, maintain and utilize the vegetation of extensive ecological grassland management, and can be used in any large-scale grazing project from grasslands to heaths and wetlands.
Husbandry and nutrition
Today ponies are often referred to as small horses, although comparatively tiny ponies such as the Dartmoor are usually corrected quickly.
Ponies are actually small horses, smaller breeding forms of the domestic horse with the scientific species name “Equus ferus caballus” and not a completely different species.
The small horses have long since proven that they really do not need to hide behind a large horse in any respect.
The fact that it was different for a while was not due to the ponies, which were always valued as fully-fledged workhorses in their respective homeland, but rather to incorrect keeping.
For example, the “children’s toy pony” is usually much easier to hold than the average large horse, and this is especially true of the Dartmoor pony.
A Dartmoor pony is not used to particularly luxurious surroundings and is also considered to be well tolerant of damp weather and cold.
Because of its origin, a Dartmoor feels more comfortable in a simple stable in a rough mountain climate than in a dry, well-warmly heated stable.
But even with that, after a bit of getting used to it, you will get along well: If a Dartmoor is well kept in a beautiful, light, and airy stable, it usually just feels right at home without any further inconvenience.
A Dartmoor is originally used to a rather meager diet from its home. There was just enough to eat in the raised bog, and even as a workhorse, the Dartmoor was not spoiled but had to make do with what was at hand.
That is why the Dartmoor is still considered to be particularly frugal when it comes to feeding. Therefore you will have few problems with feeding your Dartmoor properly, but you should of course still pay attention to the good quality of the feed.
When feeding your Dartmoor, you should consider the following principles:
- Horses want to be fed according to their species and nature, with good, organically grown hay, wholesome grains, and a colorful variety of grasses, herbs, fruit, and (root) vegetables.
- A horse has no fixed meals but sees eating as an activity that takes up a good part of the day.
- Horses also develop individual likes and dislikes, which you can feel and give in to healthy ponies.
- The roughage is particularly important in the diet of a Dartmoor: It should be naturally grown because a Dartmoor usually does not tolerate feed from chemically fertilized pastures very well.
And it should always be available in abundant quantities, although it does not have to be a particularly fine feed.
Because a Dartmoor has strong teeth, pronounced chewing surfaces on the molars and digestive organs that are well adapted to poor, voluminous, and particularly hard-stemmed food.
The Dartmoor also likes to eat in the pasture, where it goes very slowly and very thoroughly with little movement. The incisors on Dartmoor are set in such a way that it gently pinches off plants and does not pluck them out.
A Dartmoor is not picky either but likes many plant species in all vegetation stages. The whole pasture is grazed evenly and flat and fertilized with horse manure evenly distributed.
A Dartmoor on the pasture is often the best pasture maintenance. A Dartmoor can utilize both the forage in the pasture and, above all, the roughage.
A Dartmoor does not need any concentrated feed at all for rearing and when the performance is rather low. What can become a problem with the trusting and terribly cute Dartmoor is overfeeding with treats.
Always remember: treats are no substitute for activity and exercise.
Education and care
Raising little Dartmoor is relatively simple: you have to connect with your horse. Then there should be no problems with the upbringing.
If you are still a beginner, however, you must first learn how to show your horse what you want. It is in this area that there is probably the most misunderstanding in horse keeping.
So don’t hesitate to ask an experienced horse connoisseur for advice – and in good time before something goes in the wrong direction.
In equestrian training, you can achieve a lot with a Dartmoor: The movement sequence of the Dartmoor is typically flat, expansive, and elastic, with its high tact, the Dartmoor usually has good facilities for dressage riding.
But his jumping ability is usually very impressive, and in the field, you can mostly only be amazed at his fearlessness.
A Dartmoor makes it easy for its rider: Because the movements are supported and controlled by a lot of thrust from the hindquarters, the rider sits wonderfully soft and comfortable in the saddle.
The short coat of the Dartmoor pony is actually really easy to care for, but on many Dartmoor ponies, it quickly looks shaggy because of the dense coat structure.
That’s why you should groom your Dartmoor every day. It is also a pleasant time for your pony: you occupy yourself with him, tell him what gives him a nice little massage.
Horse care also includes the correct care of the mane, which is typically very lush in Dartmoor, hoof and tail care, and the regular inspection of all mucous membranes from the inner ear to the genitals.
Where dirt has collected, it is removed carefully and without the use of shampoo etc., where exposed skin looks cracked and dry, a little unscented cream is applied.
And don’t forget to check your teeth regularly. A horse has a lot more areas that the owner has to take care of than most beginners realize.
Health and Typical Diseases
Ponies are sturdier than large horses and are therefore not endangered to the same extent as these, in terms of muscle tension and bone diseases or sensitivity.
The Dartmoor is a very healthy pony, whose digestion is usually much better than that of most large horses.
With such a robust, correct animal, there are at most temporary ailments, which are then also often due to poor keeping or neglect.
The average life expectancy of a Dartmoor is quite remarkable, first of all, because ponies have the longest life expectancy of any horse breed, up to around 50 years.
With its strong, healthy body, sturdy legs, and healthy, strong teeth, the Dartmoor certainly has the longest life expectancy among ponies.
It may play a part in the fact that a Dartmoor never loses its curiosity and good mood, even in a very robust posture or when living under unfavorable circumstances.
So that your pony grows as old as possible, you can do the following: keep it appropriate to its species, feed it well, but not too much, and above all move and occupy it as much as possible.
Buy Dartmoor horse breed
Access to breeders and sellers of Dartmoor ponies is through the interest group of Dartmoor breeders and friends in Europe.
Sales addresses for trained Dartmoor sport ponies are sometimes also passed on by the German Equestrian Association.
Since the Dartmoor ponies have now been in Europe for over 50 years, you can also look for a Dartmoor in animal shelters and at associations to help troubled horses.
The pony with the sunny disposition lives so long that it certainly doesn’t have to be a foal, and it will certainly appreciate you a little more when you free it from a difficult situation.
First of all, it is important that you have given yourself enough thought about what it means to keep a horse as a pet.
When you are ready to share your life with a horse, you should still consider whether a pony is really the right one. Ponies are great, but they are only really useful for an ambitious riding career at the beginning, after which you want to switch to a bigger horse.
Only when you have got that far can you deal with the special differences between the different pony breeds.
Hardly any other horse or pony is so frugal in keeping, hardly any other horse or pony is so healthy and so cute. And you also help to preserve an endangered, but very valuable horse breed because of its physical and mental health.