Annual pony drift sales 'vital' to getting young stock to new homes
Dartmoor ponies drifted off the moor this week for the forthcoming annual sales are reported to be looking "very healthy and well".
Pony keepers have been out in force rounding up their respective herds which come in annually for a health check, weaning and sorting for either the sales or to be returned to the moor.
One of the largest drifts – Merrivale, which covers a vast terrain of 10,000 acres – took place on Monday with almost 100 ponies gathered.
"The drifts take some organising but it's the amazing teamwork between the pony keepers and the ponies themselves that actually gets the ponies drifted off the moor," said Charlotte Faulkner, pony keeper and founder of the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association. "To be a part of it is very special indeed. To see the knowledge imparted as the ponies make their annual ritual home is magical."
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This year's drift sales take place at Tavistock Livestock Centre today and Chagford Market next Thursday.
"The foals have come in looking very healthy and well," said pony keeper Mary Alford who was one of the riders on the Merrivale drift and has 20 foals entered at Tavistock today.
"We're hoping buyers take them on and turn them into riding ponies as they are perfect for the job – they have been bred for temperament and conformation."
Mrs Faulkner said: "These sale days are vital to getting the young stock to new homes and giving them a future.
"Those that return to the moor roam wild in the rugged Dartmoor landscape and are essential to the sustainability of the vegetation as well as an important part of Dartmoor's heritage."
At this year's sales The Horse Agility Club is happy to support new owners of ponies from the sales by designing a special Agility course – which can be built by anyone in their own paddock – and judging the video entries to give them a chance to win £100.
"Horse Agility is ideal for these ponies because they are athletic, clever and very trainable," says Horse Agility Club founder, Vanessa Bee.
"With the way the competitive levels of Horse Agility Club are designed, people and ponies can have fun, compete internationally and give purpose and structure to their training."
The usual sale format takes place with all ponies to be sold in Guineas (gns) and sold subject to a minimum price of 10gns.
As an example if a purchaser buys one pony for 10 gns only at the sale, that pony will actually cost the purchaser £10.50 + £1.26 (buyer's commission plus VAT) plus the transfer of passport and microchip costs (£22).