The other weekend I met up with an eclectic group of people who had one thing in common – Exmoor ponies.
Given the chance many of them would have spent the whole day sitting there chatting about Exmoor ponies, telling their personal stories about this fascinating breed.
The Exmoor Pony Chronicles launched on Exmoor
We were there because a woman who shares this Exmoor pony passion in spades has spent the past few years collecting some of these stories together and has just published them in a book – The Exmoor Pony Chronicles. Sue Baker has been deeply involved with Exmoor ponies for much of her life. She caught the bug when she researched the ecology of free-living Exmoor ponies for her PhD in the late 1970s. Eventually she moved to Exmoor in the 1990s. Now she lives there with her husband and, at the last count, four Exmoor ponies, living free.
Sharing a passion for Exmoor ponies
I was there to celebrate the publication of this book because my daughter Megan shared Sue’s Exmoor passion. She bought her first Exmoor in the 1990s when she was a veterinary medicine student at Edinburgh University. He was called Mac and he went with her as she moved around the country, rather like having a large and unruly dog, finally ending his days in Kent.
Megan died from cancer a few years before Mac. She was 32.
Wordsmith poetry published
Megan was a poet as well as a vet and after she died I published some of her poetry in a book called Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul, weaving Megan’s life story around her writings. Sue has now published one of Megan’s poems in The Exmoor Chronicles and recounted a little of Megan’s Exmoor story.
Linked by a foal
Through the publication of this book, Sue and I discovered we were linked together through a horsey bloodline. Every pure bred Exmoor has its own passport detailing its breeding history. It turned out that Megan’s stallion Mac and one of Sue’s mares were the parents of an Exmoor called Saffy – a pony that came to live with Megan in Kent. It turned out we were almost family!
Exmoor ponies are special – a breed apart in fact. They are Britain’s oldest native pony, a part of our natural heritage, with a history that goes back many thousands of years. They are recorded in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Exmoors are strong and stocky, noted for their hardiness and endurance.
They are classified as an endangered species by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. There are estimated to be about 800 Exmoor ponies in Britain, most of them in England.