In August 2014 I visited Dartmoor for the first time, and loved it. During a week-long holiday with my friend Viv, we twice went walking on the moors and, of course, saw many of the beautiful Dartmoor ponies. These days the ponies are not really wild animals – their owners are allowed to graze them on the moorlands as they help to maintain the pastureland habitat. Neither are they the original pure-bred Dartmoor ponies as, over the centuries, there has been much interbreeding between the native pony, mixed breeds and even Shetland ponies.
Domesticated ponies have been living on Dartmoor a very long time. The first historical record dates to AD 1012 but hoof prints discovered in the 1970s proved that ponies had been on the moors since at least 1500 BC. In medieval times they were used to transport all many of goods from place to place and in the 1800s they hauled trucks laden with granite up and down the tramways that can still be seen on the moors. Ponies were also the workhorses of the mining industry, hauling coal wagons to and fro underground. These days, they enjoy a much easier life, free to roam and munch their way through the abundant pasture, with the flies and midges the only annoyance in their otherwise peaceful days.