Adam’s Farm Animals: Exmoor ponies

After being given an Exmoor pony as a boy, Countryfile presenter Adam Henson grew
fond of this hardy, ancient and now rare breed


Average height of pony: 117cm (3ft 10in)
Some believe the Exmoor pony is indigenous to Britain, while others claim they are descended from ponies that migrated from Europe 130,000 years ago.
How rare is it?
Listed as endangered, there are approximately 500 ponies left in UK.
When we were young, my father gave all four of us kids a different breed of animal. His plan was to pass on his life-long passion for rare breed conservation. As always, Dad proved himself to be a wise man. His plan worked, as we all developed a real attachment to the beasts we called our own. Even better, when we sold them, half the money went into our own individual savings, while the rest was reinvested into the flock or herd.
For me, Dad chose a wonderful Exmoor pony. Descended from ancient Celtic stock, these Neanderthals of the horse world can survive even the harshest of conditions. On their native home of Exmoor they live off moor grasses, rushes, heather and gorse. Their heavy brow shields the driving West Country rain from their eyes while their coat of downy under layer and longer surface hair offers the kind of protection that a mountaineering jacket designer can only dream of.
When the wind blows these thrifty ponies, standing 12 hands tall, turn their backs on the elements, their tales fanning out like a protective shield. Thousands of years of evolution have done their job, giving us an intelligent, strong and hardy creature. Exmoors have also served humans well. They are believed to have pulled the Iceni chariot of Queen Boudica and today serve as riding ponies for adults and children alike.
But whatever their history, I’m proud to still have six breeding mares and a handsome stallion on the farm. The love that my father encouraged all those years ago has stood the test of time.

More Adam’s Farm Animals:

This feature was taken from issue 29 of Countryfile Magazine. To make sure you never miss an issue subscribe today.