Holtball Herd 11 Exmoor ponies is owned by Nick and Dawn Westcott. Herd 11 was re-established in 2009 after Nick and Dawn Westcott married and their multi-champion moorbred Exmoor pony stallion, Hawkwell Versuvius ' Bear' sired his first foal out of Holtball's foundation mare, Hawkwell Smarty Pants
'Maisie' - Holtball Kick 'em Jenny.
Herd 11 was originally established along with Herds 10 and 21 by Nick Westcott's great grandfather, A G Westcott, and his two brothers. The Westcott family (the 'Porlock Westcotts') had maintained moorland ponies since at least the 1870's. A G Westcott was a founding committee member of the Exmoor Pony Society in 1921. The Westcott family ran semi-feral moorland ponies, including Exmoors, across the vast open (and then unfenced) moorland area which stretched from Porlock Hill to Dunkery. By the 1950's, these pony herds were dispersed. Nick's cousin, Malcolm Westcott, later established Herd 4 and his ponies run out on the Dunkery Commons today. We were delighted to be bequeathed 'Herd 11' in 2009 to enable this long-standing tradition of running Exmoor pony herds to continue in the Westcott family with the original family herd number.
Our founding stallion, Bear, has sired some beautiful, quality Exmoor ponies and is able to put his impressive stamp of strong bone, excellent conformation and movement and stunning good looks on his progeny. He has excelled in the show ring, standing Overall Supreme Champion of the Exmoor Pony Society Breed Show in 2006 and Overall Supreme In Hand Champion in 2010. He stood Overall Reserve Supreme Champion of the NPS/Kilmannan Stud M&M In Hand Silver Medal Championship Final in 2011, winning a gold medal rosette. Bear has many other championships to his name including standing Champion Exmoor at Royal Bath & West, Devon County and Royal Cornwall shows. In 2011 and 2012, Bear twice stood International Horse Agility World Champion, after competing in the year-long worldwide leagues. His compelling story is told in Wild Stallion Whispering
His son, the lovely Cheritonridge Mont de Brouilly, sired three beautiful fillies before he was gelded in 2014. Two of them remain in Holtball Herd 11 - Holtball Princess Khaleesiand Holtball Princess Cristal.
In 2015, Bear sired a stunning filly, Holtball Black Bess, out of the Herd 23 mare, Anstey Princess, who is one of the very few remaining daughters of the legendary Herd 23 moorland stallion, The Highwayman. He tragically remained unregistered after early DNA testing failed to identify his parents, although he passed his stallion inspection with flying colours. In 2015, Bear ran with a small number of carefully selected herd of semi-feral Farleywater H67 mares at Farleywater Farm. In 2016 his first moorbred foals were born on Buscombe - Farleywater Tanana, Kenai, Cherokee and Yogi Bear. Colt foal Farleywater Yogi Bearhas joined Holtball Herd 11. In 2016 Bear also sired two lovely colt foals, Holtball Pierre Parfait, out of Penelope Pitstop (by Ebony) and Holtball Kilimanjaro out of Maisie.
Holtball Kick 'em Jenny, Cheritonridge Mont de Brouilly, Holtball Baluran, Holtball Karisimbi and Holtball Prince Kailash also run in the herd.
From time to time, Holtball Herd 11 youngstock and ponies may be available for sale or loan to the right homes. Please contact us to discuss and email in the first instance to DawnWestcott@hotmail.com or telephone 00 44 (0)1643 862466.
Challenges facing Holtball Herd 11
Due to the appalling way we have been treated by the Exmoor Pony Society, since standing up to stop unnecessary multiple hot branding of non-moorland Exmoor pony foals (from 2009), and to try to reduce the hot branding of free-living foals, the Holtball breeding programme has been severely compromised. Since 2014, we have been obstructed from being members of the society and showing our Exmoor ponies at EPS shows. This has meant that the Holtball Exmoor ponies have not been out and about as we would have liked and some peculiar efforts have been made to try to negatively change people's perceptions of us.
Nevertheless, this year we took a homebred Holtball Exmoor pony out to a few local shows, for the first time. Three year old Holtball Princess Khaleesi won her MEPBG class at Holnicote Show, stood Champion Exmoor at Porlock Show, won the M&M Nora Harding Trophy at Exford Show, and stood MEPBG Overall Supreme Champion and then Reserve Champion of Show at Brendon Show. She was shown bitless on all outings and was accompanied by her father Monty, who stood Overall Reserve Supreme Champion at the MEPBG Exmoor Pony Show at Brendon Show.
The hostile group of fellow showing competitors and EPS trustees & members may have succeeded in preventing us from being members of the breed society and exhibiting the Holtball Exmoor ponies at EPS shows - which of course also prevents us from exhibiting at the EPS breed show at Exford - but the quality of our lovely ponies is evident and it's been nice to see that recognised by all judges this year.
Having seen the disastrous and, in our opinion, completely unacceptable long-term negative effects of multiple hot branding on Exmoor ponies - along with other issues such as obstructions to registration and unnecessarily high slaughter levels - we have felt obligated to speak out and endeavour to see improvements made in Exmoor pony welfare and practices. Although it has been unpleasant and, in our opinion, resulted in unfair and unreasonable treatment, we could not turn the other cheek with regard to what has been happening within the Exmoor pony breed. Encouragingly, other farmers, land owners and breeders stand with us and, particularly through the work of the Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, we are seeing progressive and positive improvement for the Exmoor pony breed. In 2014, all hot branding of non-moorbred foals, and foals coming off the moors, was stopped by the DEFRA Code of Practice for the Identification of Semi-Feral Ponies, and branding has been reduced to the rump only. Unfortunately, up to four large branded marks are still permitted for free-living foals, and it appears that the Exmoor pony is still the most heavily hot branded animal on the planet. So there is more work to be done.
In 2017, the rules changed so that the feet of foals will no longer be forced up during inspections and foals will no longer fail inspection for the colour of their undersoles. As well as being a massive Health & Safety and welfare improvement, many of us are hopeful that what we feel was a misinterpretation of the 'no white markings' rule has not eradicated the Exmoor dun,/dun-coloured ponies. They are thought to be predisposed to having paler undersoles, and as a result of failing foals for this reason (and the subsequent slaughter of many failed foals), they are proving extremely hard to find nowadays. This rule change has not come a moment too soon. There is still a problem with the retrospective upgrading of ponies previously failed for this reason - the society will inspect and upgrade ponies previously seen once, but not those seen twice. Although before the rules were changed, it was inevitable these ponies would fail on the second inspection. The campaign continues to put an end to this discrimination and what is now a 'double-standard'. Because a pony with a small pale patch on the undersole of, for example one foot, can be pedigree registered unless it has been seen twice before. Those ponies languish outside of pedigree registration while others don't - just because they were seen twice. We feel that is nonsense.
We are committed to, and stakeholders in, the Exmoor Pony DNA Whole Genome Project, which we hope - once completed - will result in the introduction of a vital supplement and upgrading system to the Exmoor Pony Stud Book, through being able to confirm the purity of purebred Exmoor ponies currently languishing outside of pedigree registration. These ponies and their progeny are currently lost from the breeding gene pool. There are examples of such ponies on Exmoor, across the UK and across the world. With an endangered breed and such a dangerously small gene pool - and the acknowledgement that genetic drift - and potential loss of 'true moorland type' - can start to occur after only two short generations of breeding off the moor - we feel that genetic wastage on this scale is unacceptable, particularly with purebred moorland Exmoor ponies and their progeny. Malagrugrous in fact.
We are also campaigning for registration of Exmoor ponies to be cost-effective, straightforward and swift - in order to safeguard as many lives as possible, particularly after the autumn moorland pony gatherings, when there is a fairly small window of opportunity for foals to find good homes and opportunities. Forcing breeders to wait months and sometimes over a year, for registration - or failing to register purebred stock altogether - is resulting in unnecessary slaughter of perfectly good, purebred Exmoor ponies and is demoralising and frustrating, as well as expensive, for the breeders.
Having been unfairly and unreasonably, in our opinion, chucked out of the EPS in 2014, in what can only be described as a 'witch hunt' where we were obstructed from both understanding the (non-existent) reasons or having a right of reply - we are now forced to pay substantially higher fees to have our ponies inspected and registered as pedigree Exmoor ponies. While some members have not been charged for inspections, or have been quoted £30 to have a pony re-inspected, we are routinely expected to pay £100 just for the inspection, plus the non-member scale of all other charges relating to registration and passporting. This discrimination and, in our opinion, persecution, is compromising Holtball Herd 11's breeding programme.
In 2012, we helped to establish the Exmoor Pony Festival and hosted successful workshops and demos, as well as helping to organise and promote the whole event. In 2014, we and the Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group were obstructed from taking part, when the festival was taken over by the Exmoor Pony Society and Moorland Mousie Trust. It was unfair, and unnecessarily unpleasant, and the Exmoor Pony Society wrote to the MEPBG saying that the group could not exhibit at the festival's 'Meet The Moorland Herds Day' to promote its members herds, as it was deemed 'commercial' - and the EPS could apparently not promote anything 'commercial'. (The MEPBG wanted to promote its members moorland herds...and inspire interest in foals coming off the moors...)The farmers and landowners of the MEPBG then decided to host their own festival and the Heritage Exmoor Pony Festival has run, unfunded, since 2014. It includes the MEPBG Exmoor Pony Show at Brendon Show, and has proved to be effective in both promoting the breed and encouraging new owners into the breed. In the meantime, the EPS has promoted various people, studs, authors, etc, along with their obvious commercial activities, apparently with no issues about the society's implied association and 'endorsement' of these people and their 'commercial' activities - and therefore any conflict with its 'charity objects'. Most notable example, the front cover of the society's Autumn newsletter, 2017.
The society has also continued to run an Exmoor Pony Festival pleasure ride on the same day as the MEPBG Exmoor Pony Show at Brendon Show, despite annual pleas from the show organisers to please not do this. As a result, it draws entries away from the show, making it pointless to offer Exmoor pony ridden classes - and indeed other ridden classes. The Brendon Show date is set in stone each year, being one of Exmoor's longest-standing shows. It would be great to see the EPS supporting this opportunity to showcase Exmoor ponies to the show's many visitors, instead of running competitive activities on the same day that draw entries away. We will leave that there.
We have been astonished at the behaviour of the Exmoor Pony Society and its trustees, officers, officials and members towards us and other moorland Exmoor farmers and herd owners - and to the breed itself.
Let's hope that the future sees positive, progressive, proactive change - and a shift in attitude from these quarters to better embrace the work being done to try and successfully safeguard the Exmoor pony breed, encourage existing herd owners and new owners, work for improvements in welfare, management, registrations, communication, knowledge transfer, promotion, support - and above all - for good opportunities for the Exmoor ponies. That is at the root of our motivation to be involved in this incredibly special breed.