The New Forest pony has been classified as a rare breed following a decline in the number breeding mares. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has been closely monitoring New Forest Pony numbers and has given the classification after a sharp drop in numbers. Ponies play an important role in the forest eco system and New Forest residents and visitors will be used to seeing the animals grazing.
Due to regulations concerning the number of stallions permitted to breed following a decline in market interest, the number of foals born in the forest has decreased from 1,463 to 423 within five years. Due to economic changes, keeping horses has become an expensive luxury, resulting in large numbers of New Forest ponies being bought by abattoirs rather than private owners. Regulations have been imposed on horse breeding to combat this surplus.
Following last year’s
horse meat scandal, a drop in the number of New Forest Ponies is arguably a positive sign that they will be more likely to be sold as riding ponies and less likely to end up in burgers. The decline in breeding females is also an effort to improve the quality of New Forest ponies.