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Working pack ponies return to the New Forest

The sight of packhorses on the New Forest is set to return after an absence of nearly 100 years.  Gale Gould has started The New Forest Packhorse Company to reintroduce this ancient form of transport into the 21st century and promote the New Forest pony as a modern working breed.

She and Josh, the New Forest pony, regularly take guests on walking trips in the National Park but instead of being laden with goods, which would have been the case in former times, Josh carries guest’s belongings or refreshments. The pair are taking part in the New Forest Walking Festival and will be retracing part of the trail, across the Hampton Ridge, in the northern part of the Forest, that would have been used by smugglers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Gale said: 'Being in the company of a New Forest pony is one of the most memorable ways of experiencing the National Park. It is amazing just what you can see through their eyes. The packhorse walks represent a low-impact and leisurely way of taking in the stunning scenery of the New Forest and encountering the wildlife and commoner’s free-roaming livestock. Josh was born and bred on the Open Forest and roamed ‘wild’ with the other ponies. He is now a fabulous ambassador for the New Forest pony breed and exhibits all the good qualities that make the Foresters so special. We are thrilled to be taking part in the Walking Festival and hope to give guests a glimpse into a bygone era that would have existed on the New Forest.'

Historically the New Forest pony has been used for riding, pulling carts, working in the mines as pit ponies, and would have been employed extensively as pack animals, before the introduction of motorised forms of transport made their use redundant. In the smuggling era the ponies were used to carry contraband from the coast across the Forest to places like Fordingbridge where the booty would have been then transferred to cities such as Salisbury and from there to London. 

Gale believes that the packhorse walks will appeal to people who want a glimpse into a historical and rural way of life that harks back to the distant horse-powered era.  She is hoping to eventually add more New Forest ponies to her string and introduce the breed, which is listed as ‘rare’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get close to them.

She said: 'The trails are designed for people who want to get close to a working Forest pony but perhaps haven’t got any horsey-knowledge. There’s no riding involved and all the tacking up is done for you. Generally speaking, if you can walk a dog you can enjoy a packhorse walk.'

Book your place on a guided packhorse walk on the following dates during the New Forest Walking Festival

10am on Saturday, 24 October

1pm on Saturday, 24 Octobe

10am on Sunday, 25 October

1pm on Sunday, 25 October

10am on Saturday, 31 October

1pm on Saturday, 31 October

10am on Sunday, 1 November

1pm on Sunday, 1 November

This entry was posted by Communications on Friday 09/10/2015

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