Pony Care & Management

Creating the Right Environment for Exmoor Ponies

Our Care & Management System

At Holt Ball, the Exmoor ponies live in herds. The stallion lives with at least one mare and where possible, he also gets to spend time with youngstock. There are times when we may run mares and foals as separate small herd, or separate a group for training. Which leaves a substantial herd of Exmoor ponies running together - from foals to veterans. 

Each herd - big or small - has access to comfortable shelter, with clean and dry bedding, corral areas and free access to the pasture. 

Originating from living 'wild and free' in large moorland areas, Exmoor ponies value their space and freedom to move about at will. They especially enjoy interesting areas to explore and play in. 

This enchanting short video shows them enjoying the Mud Wallow they've created adjacent to the stream in one of their fields. This is also thoroughly enjoyed by the wild Red Deer!

Providing Different Surfaces

Providing a range of different surfaces helps to keep the ponies healthy and happy for a number of reasons. 

So for example, using fine, alkaline, top quality seasand (ie, from Padstow) in the barns helps to keep the ponies feet in great shape with it's gentle cleansing action and saltiness. Sand also helps to remove mud and is easy to skip out, cultivate and clean. 

Other surfaces include areas of aggregate, bark chips, concrete, chalk, cobbles - along with grass and paths. 

Movement and Loafing areas

British native ponies ideally need plenty of exercise, as well as access to ad lib forage and grazing. Out on the moors, they move around a lot and graze for up to 16 hours a day. So putting them in restricted paddocks/stables with sparse food is not good for their metabolism or stomaches. Exmoor ponies are used to digesting large amounts of course vegetation and moving around for hours looking for it. 

So at Holt Ball, we enable the ponies to move around freely, while offering them comfortable loafing areas inside and out, which encourages the to spend time off the grass. As you can see above, we feed the herds forage from large tractor tyres. This helps with both social behaviour and to minimise wastage.  Giving them space to play helps to keep them fit.

Rugless where possible

Wherever possible, the ponies here live naturally, without rugs or clipping. Exmoor ponies have evolved to cope with harsh and challenging weather conditions and are extremely savvy about finding suitable shelter, from both cold and wet conditions, or flies and midges in the summer. 

They grow an incredible double-layered winter coat that somehow manages to keep them mostly warm and dry underneath. Allowing their coats to grow and shed, as nature intended, is an important part of their care and management. 

There are times when some ponies appreciate a rug - particularly those that suffer from a degree of skin sensitivity to midges in the summer. Requiring the ponies to live off the moors, means that they are no longer able to migrate as necessary to more breezy upland areas in the summer - and therefore have to deal with the midges and flies in lowland paddocks. While some ponies cope brilliantly, others can drive themselves - and their owners - mad with itching. Recognising skin sensitive ponies and providing a fly rug in the spring and summer months can give them great comfort. 
Most Exmoor ponies will deal effectively with midges and flies by rolling in dust, mud and taking shelter where necessary. 

Other times a rug may be necessary is if showing/performance ponies are getting their manes and tails chewed by over-zealous grooming partners, or they are required to be in tip-top condition at all times. It is not uncommon, though, for us to take an unrugged pony out of the field early in the morning and drive to a show to win a championship that day. There is nothing quite like the genuine shine on a healthy, happy pony allowed to live naturally - after a good groom!

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