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Breed Organization Information

Dartmoor Pony Society
Mrs. Lisa Setter, Honorary Secretary
57 Pykes Down
Devon PL21 O87 ENGLAND
Tel: 01752 897053

About the Breed

The earliest reference to the Dartmoor Pony appeared in 1012 in the Will of a Saxon Bishop, Aelfwold of Crediton. Much later during the heyday of tin mines on Dartmoor, the ponies were used extensively for carrying the tin to the Stannary towns. When this finished they were left to roam free apart from those required for work around the farms.

In 1898, the Polo Pony Society (now the National Pony Society) set up Local Committees to produce descriptions of each of England's native breeds. Apart from the height, the original description of the Dartmoor was almost identical to the present breed standard. Five stallions and 72 mares were inspected and entered into the first Stud Book by the local committee. The height limits then were 14 hands for stallions and 13.2 for mares but very few ponies came near to them. The biggest stallion was Brentor Confidence at 13.1 hands. Two mares reached the maximum height. The Director of Convict Prisons, Dartmoor, registered both which were probably ridden by the warders as they escorted convicts to and from their work outside the prison. In fact, the warders continued to ride ponies when escorting prisoners until the early 1960s. Less than twenty years after this good start the breed was hit very hard by the First World War.

The 1920s were an important time for Dartmoors. A breed society was formed in 1924 with a councild and a paid secretary. The height limit was finally fixed at 12.2 hands. Several of the breeders known to exhibitors today started their interest in breeding and showing Dartmoors around this time, and some of the most influential bloodlines of today first attracted attention in the 20s and 30s. Unfortunately the breed society failed about five years later but was reformed with Miss Calmady-Hamlyn as Honorary Secretary, a spot she continued to hold until 1960 when, through ill-health she reluctantly retired. During her fifty years with the breed she saw the Dartmoor become a pony to be reckoned with at the major shows, thanks in no small part to her hard work and great flair for breeding.

Ponies of this era whose influence is still felt today include, Judy V, a champion mare bred by Mr. E. P. Northey, who produced the first Breed Standard and got the first Dartmoor Stud Book off the ground. The Leat, another champion, this time bred by the Prince of Wales at his Ducy Stud at Tor Royal near Princetown. Juliet IV, yet another champion and the offspring of the above two ponies, was bred by Miss Calmady-Hamlyn in 1923 and from her, in 1941 came the outstanding show and stud success, Jude.

The 1930s were a period of consolidation of the breed. The breed then came out of the Second World War with very few registered ponies. Registration by inspection was introduced, and prize winners at various selected shows were automatically eligible for registration. Despite the difficult times there were some bright moments for the breed during the war years with the arrivals of Jude (1941), Quennie XX (1943), John and Linnet (1944) and Jenny VII, Betty XXI, Chymes and Honeybags (1945), all destined to play their part in putting the breed back on its feet again. Shortly after came the noted sires Pipit, Janus and Jon, all by Jude, and the great outcross brood mares and winners Quennie XXIII, Cherrybrook, Hele Judith and Halloween II.

The membership and registrations gradually increased and by the end of the 1950s the breed was in much better shape. So much so that registrations on wins or by inspection finished in 1957, with all registrations in the Stud Book in future coming solely for ponies whose parents were already registered.

Today, the breed has spread over Great Britain with the main strongholds outside the south west being in the south east, the midlands and the north east of England. There were also a few breeders in Scotland, and some ponies had been exported to the United States. The Dartmoor is globally rare, with an estimated global population of 5-7,000 and fewer than 150 purebreds in the United States.

Breed Characteristics

Dartmoor ponies stand an average of twelve hands (48") at the withers. They are dark in color, mostly bay, brown or black with an occasional gray or chestnut. White markings, if any, are very small. As a hearty moorland breed, the Dartmoor is sturdy in conformation, more similar to a warm blood type than to the elegant Welsh. This distinctiveness and consistency of appearance makes it easy to pick the Dartmoor out of a crowd, as well as match ponies for a driving team.

Standard of the Dartmoor Pony
Height: Not exceeding 12.2 hh.

Color: Bay, brown, gray, chestnut, roan. Piebald and skewbalds are not allowed. Excessive white markings should be discouraged.

Head: Should be small, well set on and bloodlike, with the nostrils large and expanding and the eyes bright, mild intelligent and prominent. The ears should be small, well-formed, alert and neatly set. The throat and jaws should be fine and showing no signs of coarseness or throatiness.

Neck: Strong, but not too heavy and of medium length. Stallions have a moderate crest.

Shoulders: Good shoulders are most important. They should be well laid back and sloping, but not too fine at the withers.

Body: Of medium length and strong, well-ribbed up and with a good depth of girth giving plenty of heart room.

Loin and Hindquarters: Strong and well covered with muscle. The hindquarters should be of medium length and neither level or steeply sloping. The tail is well set up.

Hind legs: The hocks should be well let down with plenty of length from hip to hock, clean cut and with plenty of bone below the joint. They should not be "sickled" or "cow-hocked."

Fore legs: Should not be tied in, in any way, at the elbows. The forearm should be muscular and the knee fairly large and flat on the front. The cannon should be short from knee to fetlock with ample, good, flat, flinty bone. The pasterns should be sloping but not too long. The feet should be sound, tough and well shaped.

Movement: Low straight and free flowing, yet without exaggeration.

General: The mane and tail should be full and flowing. The Dartmoor is a very good-looking riding pony, sturdily built yet with quality.

Dartmoor Pony Moorland Scheme

In 1987, the Duchy of Cornwall and the National Park Authority in England joined with the Dartmoor Pony Society to formulate a Scheme to improve the standard for the ponies running on the moor.

The aim was to stimulate an interest among the moor farmers to breed a true to type Dartmoor Pony with the inherent metabolism necessary to stand up to the rigors of their environment. In the meantime, a Committee had been formed and the Supplementary Register was reopened to include the inspected mares as foundation stock.

In May, 1988, some fifteen approved mares all belonging to moorland farmers were turned out with a registered Dartmoor stallion for the summer in the Brownberry Newtake, near Dartmeet. This was the first of the Newtakes, a local name for a fenced area of moor. A great deal of work had to be done to restore the stone walls and make good the fences, prior to the ponies entering the enclosures.

During the early autumn the mares were gathered and returned to their owners, the foals were weaned, and taken off the moor to be wintered on land provided by the National Trust in order to give them a better start.

The following year another group was formed to run in the adjoining Huccaby Newtake, where seventeen mares and a stallion were accommodated. Such was the interest among the moorland farmers in the Scheme, it was necessary to extend it to a third enclosure, the Dunnabridge Newtake which joins Brownberry on the western boundary.

Many of the mares return each year sometimes to run with a different stallion, it has been a noticeable improvement of their foals over the last few years. It is hoped the majority of the filly foals, when up-graded after inspection, on reaching maturity will return to the Scheme, eventually replacing the original mares. Thus giving the breed a new 'gene pool' which is so important to future breeding.