Hundreds flocked to the first ever Exmoor Pony Festival held at Exmoor National Park which was established by local breeders and volunteers and supported by Heritage Lottery Funding from the Heart of Exmoor scheme.
"With safaris, country rides and world class horse agility, everyone had a great time, enchanted by Exmoor ponies in the moorland landscape," said Jason Ball, Heart of Exmoor scheme manager.
"Events showed the Exmoor pony to be very intelligent, a popular breed for riding and responsive to trust-based horsemanship. On the moorland safaris, local farmers explained that these ponies are perfectly suited to life roaming free on the moors and how it is essential to conserve these original herds."
Over 100 visitors spent an afternoon with a herd of Exmoor ponies owned by Victoria and Chris Eveleigh (author and illustrator of the Katy's Ponies Trilogy) at their traditional moorland farm near Lynton. The family fun day included meeting mares and foals, pony stories, games, farm tours and a presentation by Exmoor Pony expert Dr Sue Baker.
Over 60 came to watch horse agility world champion Exmoor Pony stallion, Bear, who gave a captivating demonstration of his skills with his owner Dawn Westcott, of Holt Ball Farm, near Minehead. The workshop was all about understanding equine instincts and working with them to develop a cooperative partnership with a pony. Gold medal winning Bear – whose full name is Hawkwell Versuvius – was a huge hit with the crowd.
"The positive energy from such an interested and enthusiastic crowd was really picked up on by Bear, who was genuinely interested in them and went along the front row, stretching out to greet people, one by one, until he reached the end," enthused Dawn.
"He's becoming a true partner to work with in situations like this and understands that he's got an important job to do in showing people how we train for Horse Agility."
There were three Exmoor Pony Photo Safaris with Experience Exmoor, run by Neil and Christel Osmond and a pleasure ride with the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) to round off the festival. "The EPS was delighted to be involved in organising and promoting the festival and look forward to next year's event," said secretary Sue McGeever.
For details of the 2013 festival see the blog at exmoorponyfestival.word press.com