In Wales we can be proud that we can see a visual representation of our heritage in the herds of wild ponies that still roam our mountains and hills.
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.
They are now perhaps better described as semi-feral, because in most herds some element of management is required. In our developed landscape, fences, roads and towns restrict the natural ranges of ponies and disrupt the natural balance. This can lead to issues such as over-population and welfare issues such as disease. Additionally, over-population is a threat to some of the important wildlife habitats over which these ponies range. For this reason, herds often need to be managed in some way.
In many wild pony herds, interested parties get together to conduct an annual gather of the ponies off the area where they are ranging. This allows a check up on the welfare and may also involve administering medical treatment such as worming. Sometimes, draft mares, colt foals and surplus fillies need to be removed from the herd. Redwings provide assistance with castrating colts, which helps to tackle the over-population and allows the colts to live a more peaceful life!
In the past these ponies were sold as pit ponies but these days they have another purpose. PONT Cymru works with herd managers across Wales to distribute ponies from over-populated areas to locations that need conservation grazing. These include our previous Grazers´ of the Week, White Walker, Bera and Jean.
Do you have a wild pony management project or conservation grazing project that needs pony grazing? Get in touch!