Carneddau ponies- wildlife warriors from Snowdonia National Park

Carneddau Pony Snowdonia PONT Cymru Originally featured on the Campaign for National Parks Blog 

The Carneddau Mountain range in the Snowdonia National Park is home to a small population of around 300 semi-feral Carneddau ponies whose history is thought to date back to the Bronze Age. Though they not designated as a rare breed, they are genetically distinct from the Welsh Mountain pony. They carry genes specifically related to hardiness and waterproofing.

Carneddau’s are slightly smaller than the Section A Welsh Mountain, standing at around 10 to 11 hands high. They are recognisable by a sturdy body, small ears shaped like sage leaves and big personalities!

Carneddau Pony Snowdonia PONT CymruThe Carneddau herd ranges over nearly 13,500 acres or 20 square miles of common between Bethesda, Llanfairfechan, Capel Curig and Conwy, which includes mountains over 3,000 feet high, bogs, cliffs, rocky slopes and lakes. The scenery is spectacular and the ponies know every inch of it. They are owned and managed by the Carneddau Pony Society – a group of farmers from Bethesda and Llanfairfechan who are supported through a management agreement with Natural Resources Wales that helps them to maintain the herd, grazing to benefit wildlife on the mountains, from Chough to Dung beetles.

The ponies graze differently from sheep and have a wider, diet than domestic ponies. They will eat soft rush, Molinia, gorse and mountain grasses. Their grazing and trampling help to keep bracken and gorse under control and create pathways. They are essential in maintaining the landscape of the mountains.

Under the agreement the herd numbers must be kept steady to avoid overgrazing. To achieve this, draft mares, colt foals and surplus fillies are sold off each year. In the past they were sold as pit ponies but current economics now mean they have little value, so the graziers needed to find new buyers.

This is where Pori, Natur a Threftadaeth (PONT), Wales’s grazing organisation, came in.

PONT and the Carneddau Pony

Hilary Kehoe works for PONT in North Wales, working with farmers and landowners to manage land to promote wildlife through grazing. I have a farm and run sheep on the Carneddau so I have always enjoyed seeing the ponies on the common. I am very keen to preserve the breed and its unique genetics. It is easy to see how they work for conservation and how vital their role is in the cultural heritage of the area and preserving the uplands.

Carneddau Pony Gather Snowdonia PONT Cymru

Carneddau Pony Gather

Working with organisations such as the North Wales Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Local Councils, RSPB and private individuals and farmers, we have found 200 of these ponies jobs and homes across Wales and England over the last 10 years. They are great for helping to manage a range of habitats, from fens to dunes to heathlands and grassland. This is because they are able to eat coarse grass, produce dung to benefit birds and insects, are extremely hardy and, being semi-feral, don’t bother the public.

I liaise with the Carneddau Society and help with the annual gather in November. This takes place over 3 weekends and involves all the farmers and their families, local pony enthusiast volunteers, quad bikes, Landrovers and lots of walking. Once they are down on their farms the surplus animals are sorted for sale. The rest of the herd has a health check, a tail trim to show they have been gathered and is returned to the mountains.

During the year PONT staff collect sites across Wales that are in need of conservation grazing management and are not suitable for cattle- maybe they are in a high TB area or local people are not keen on cows. We match suitable ponies with organisations and sites. Sometimes we handle them lightly in a round pen to train them to be head collared and loaded into trailers but we don’t tame them like a domestic pony as they need to behave naturally and not interact with walkers.

It is great for PONT to be part of the Carneddau pony management and to help the herd to continue and an added bonus to see them having a positive effect on land from their home in Snowdonia to the Llŷn peninsula, Gower, Wrexham, Anglesey and beyond.

By Hilary Kehoe

Pori, Natur a Threftadaeth (PONT),

For more information visit this site or the facebook page.

6 thoughts on “Carneddau ponies- wildlife warriors from Snowdonia National Park”

  1. Mrs Jenny Rogers

    Hi, I have just read about th e horse rescue centre on the Wirral who take in the Carneddau ponies that do not pass their health test. While it is excellent that this centre takes these ponies, it would be much better if we could look after our own ponies on Welsh soil? It would be great if the Welsh Government would pay to see our own indigenous species cared for in North Wales. In this age of “rewilding” surely this breed and in particularly the ones unable to be returned to the Carneddau range should be appropriately cared for. Thank you for listening,

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  3. Andrea Cross

    Last Sunday I came across an abandoned foal on a footpath near to Lake Colwyd. The foal was in very poor condition, lay in hot sun, covered in flies. As a visitor walking the hills on my own, it was very difficult to know what to do. I of course as most visitors, have no awareness of PONT, the Carneddau Pony Society (seems to be a facebook page only on which you request membership) etc. Information on what to do/who to contact is required for circumstances like this. It would be helpful if every organisation who has an interest in these ponies (whether its because they own/manage/care for the land) promote tourism in the area etc. should get their act together and not have ‘teflon’ shoulders on this issue. As a minimum each stakeholder should have contact info where people could report a pony in distress. Their staff should know what to do to if they receive a call, I rang Snowdonia National Park visitor centre. Unfortunately they weren’t able to ‘signpost’ me to information or find any warden to assist. In the end by sheer chance I found details of a local animal sanctuary who did assist. Regrettably too late for this foal which died at the vets later on that evening. This is really poor. Ideally at key points where ponies roam, there should be information posts – there’s plenty of signs telling us to shut gates, keep dogs on leads etc, so why not have important info about these ponies. I feel so sad about this foal, but being sad doesn’t achieve anything so I’m doing my best to see if I can improve this

    1. Rose Post Author

      Hi Andrea, that’s really sad to hear. We are doing some digging for you to see if it is possible to do as you suggest. All the ponies are owned by members of the Carneddau Society and all owners are all members of Cymdeithas Merlod y Carneddau. We are trying to find a contact for you as they are responsible for the ponies and I think would appreciate your ideas to help manage their herds.

    2. Rose Post Author

      Hi Andrea,

      I have now found the relevant emergency contacts for ponies in distress in the Carneddau range.
      Jackie 07885417937
      Bryng Gaseg 07955525069
      Amy 07799005666
      Please provide them with detailed information and photos of the pony and surrounding location, to enable the guardians to get to the pony as quickly as possible.

    3. Angela Beere

      Well done, and thank you! The level of care could be improved to at least quarterly inspection. Maybe the British Horse Society could assist ?

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