Dartmoor ponies have been seen roaming the hills and dales of this part of Devon since the Middle Ages and they have now become one of the biggest tourist draws of the countryside, with countless visitors flocking to the area each year to see these stout little beasts in the flesh.
Of course, some people are more clued up than others about how to wend their way through the countryside without leaving the indelible footprint of mankind behind, whether it’s picking up any rubbish, putting fires out thoroughly or keeping dogs under control and firmly on leads where necessary.
This latter point is particularly important when encountering the hardy ponies that roam both Dartmoor and Exmoor freely. Only last week a dog was seen near Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor attacking a mare and foal, which resulted in both dog and foal being put down.
Such incidents are easily avoidable, if just a little bit of care is taken. Alona Stratton, breeder of registered Dartmoor ponies and former council member with the Dartmoor Pony Society, has advised tourists coming to the area that it is best not to disturb the horses and avoid approaching them.
“Leave them be,” she says. “Don’t try to feed or stroke them. By doing so you encourage them to go nearer to the roads. Keeping dogs on leads and under control is also important. Respect the ponies’ space and they’ll respect yours.”
The Dartmoor National Park Authority is also working to tackle the problem of dogs on the moors, launching new campaign Paws on Dartmoor in response to the increasing numbers of incidents involving uncontrolled dogs and livestock.
Between June 8th and 10th, a range of activities for dog-owners is being put on at Roborough Common to promote responsible access to the area, with professional trainers on hand to provide obedience tips, National Park rangers leading free guided walks and the Dartmoor livestock protection officer also offering advice and assistance.
So if you’re going to any Two Moors Festival events this year, please make sure you keep your dog well under control and show the ponies on Exmoor and Dartmoor the respect they deserve.
Should dogs be kept on the lead at all times when out walking or can they ever be well-trained enough to be let off?