18 March 2013
New Forest ponies
I had a close encounter with a herd of New Forest Ponies as they grazed open heathland within the New Forest National Park. The "New" Forest is in fact one of the UK's oldest, dating back to the ice age, and was claimed as a Royal Forest by William the Conquerer around 1079.
The New Forest ponies run wild here, as they did even in the Bronze Age, and are a native species to the British Isles. They form an important part of the New Forest National Park's delicate ecosystem, as their grazing keeps the heathland from becoming overgrown. But the ponies are not completely feral: each one is owned by a "commoner" and is branded with their initials.
Sadly many ponies are killed each year as they wander into roads. Some are also thought to have found their way onto dinner plates in the recent Europe-wide scandal over horse meat being passed as beef. A sad end to such beautiful animals.