New Forest pony
The New Forest pony is one of the best-known images of the National Park; it is an icon of the area, featuring in countless photographs and in the New Forest National Park logo.
Nearly 5,000 ponies roam free in the National Park. It is rarely possible to travel more than a few miles without coming across these famous Forest residents.
The ponies are sometimes described as ‘the architects of the Forest’ because it is their grazing that creates much of what people know and love as the New Forest – the close-cropped ‘lawns’ between the wooded areas and the distinctive ‘browse line’ on the trees marking the highest point ponies can reach.
Each pony is owned by a ‘commoner’ – someone whose property has common rights allowing them to turn out ponies to graze on the Forest.
The New Forest pony has long been a distinct, registered breed, but its early ancestry includes other strains such as Welsh and Dartmoor stock.
Today many New Forest foals become children’s riding ponies. They are generally good-tempered, hardy, strong and fast for their size. Many New Forest ponies are part of pony club teams.
The ponies are rounded up once a year in the autumn ‘drifts’ for health checks and branding. Once in the spring and several times in the autumn there are pony sales held at Beaulieu Road.
Visitors are asked not to feed the ponies. There is plenty of lush grass for ponies to eat in the spring and summer and in the winter months they are well-adapted to eating prickly fare such as gorse, brambles and holly.
If you feed the ponies it attracts them to car parks and roads, where they are at serious risk of accidents. Sadly dozens of ponies are killed or injured on the roads of the New Forest each year.
Grass-cuttings, ragwort and green acorns are also bad for ponies. People are asked not to leave out grass for ponies to eat, there are concerted efforts to remove ragwort each year and, in the autumn, pigs are released into the Forest to eat the green acorns that are tasty for them but poisonous for the ponies.