The delightful Exmoor pony is still officially ‘endangered’ according to the new watchlist published by The Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST).

An Exmoor pony grazing on Porlock common.An Exmoor pony grazing on Porlock common.

The watchlist, which shows the rarity of the UK’s native mammal breeds, says there are between 300 and 500 breeding mares left.

But Nigel Hill, an Exmoor Pony Society trustee, said: “To put this in perspective, after the second world war just 50 Exmoor ponies were left on the Moor.

“Today the breed is in a better position, with more than 500 registered ponies running on Exmoor and more than 3,500 elsewhere across the UK and overseas.”

Some 78 per cent of the mares are aged between four and 15, giving a solid broodmare stock.

Mr Hill added: “Having the ‘endangered’ classification does create profile and helps people focus on the needs of the breed, but in reality a breed’s success is down to market forces.

“While we have Exmoors involved in some exciting conservation and rewilding schemes in the UK and Europe and they are growing in popularity as all-round family ponies, the market for native breeds is not huge. The society has maintained a policy, in line with many welfare organisations, of breeding responsibly and for the market we have.”

While Exmoor pony registrations are expected to hold for 2020, the society said there could be a decline in ponies bred off the moor due to the current pandemic making it difficult to take mares to stallions and, of course, breeders being conscious that the market is likely to dip next year as we enter a potential recession.

Former Exmoor Pony Society trustee Michael Dewhurst MRCVS, who owns the Darshill Stud, wrote in his annual report for members that: “The current breeding population of Exmoor ponies is healthy and although still endangered it appears the breed’s future is secure.

“The onus is on all breeders not to breed foals that they are unable to find suitable homes for and to make sure all our bloodlines are represented going forwards.”

The Exmoor Pony Society is a registered charity and has been the guardian of the breed for almost 100 years.

More information on supporting the Exmoor pony can be found at www.exmoorponysociety.org .