Following a really good meeting with many of our pony keepers last week, it seemed a good idea to update everyone on some of our recent news – so here we go:
We are delighted with all the support we have received for taking a lead on investigating a Conservation Grazing Research project that is intended to further evidence the benefit of ponies to the management of Dartmoor and their role in maintaining and improving biodiversity across the UK. We have investigated several alternative ways of taking this forward, alongside our partners Natural England, Dartmoor Zoo and Plymouth University and even looked at a huge project with Devon Wildlife Trust but that was not a practical or viable option in the end.
However, as many people know, we were advised in June by Natural England (NE), that we should ‘sit tight’ on committing to any project or any spend due to the impact of BREXIT on DEFRA. NE advised that there are still many ‘unknowns’ about policy planning, personnel and priorities for the future of farm support initiatives.
What we do not want to find happening is that the opportunity to input to DEFRA criteria is lost, so we are awaiting confirmation of details for a project with Plymouth Uni at our site at Bellever, beginning this Autumn now that students are in place for the new academic year.
In addition, we have established closer contact with DEFRA staff who deal with various other aspects of semi feral pony management such as passporting and transport, as well with the Food Standards Agency regarding the rules for equines going into the meat chain. Our aim is to ensure that we have the facts so that we have the knowledge when we are attending Pony Action Group meetings and to keep our pony keepers informed. We aim to input to knowledge gathering and policy making, along with ensuring that our farmers are represented in consultation periods, as well as longer term implementation.
One positive impact of all the work going on to preserve the Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor is that demand for quality, traditional ponies – Pedigree and Supplementary Register in particular – is up.