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Mountain and Moorland Horse Breed Guide

Mountain and Moorland is a generic term that is normally used to refer to the indigenous and native breeds of pony which can be found throughout the United Kingdom. The title is used because many of these breeds are indeed found in their natural homes, on mountains and moorland.


The UK is blessed to have nine of these native breeds that are the envy of the world over.  A popular question in equestrian quizzes, the best way to remember the identity of all of the nine native breeds is to start at the top of the British Isles and work downwards. The northern breeds seem to fall naturally into pairs. The two furthest north are the Shetland pony and the Highland pony from Scotland and then in the north of England, you can find the Dales and the Fell. At that point, if you move west into Wales you will find the Welsh breed which is subdivided into four sections; the Section A the smallest pony which is described as the Welsh Mountain pony, the Section B which is called the Welsh pony, the Section C which is the Welsh pony of Cob type and finally, the Section D which is also known as the Welsh Cob, the largest of the four Welsh breeds. These four come under the banner of the Welsh breed and all fall within the remit of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society.  Each section has its own studbook.



Continue a little further west and cross the sea and you will find the Connemara pony, named after the area in the south of Ireland from which it derives. Back onto the mainland and in the south of England, there is the New Forest pony called after the area in Hampshire which is its native home.  And then last but by no means least, in the west country, you can find the Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies both called after the moorland areas from which they originate.


These nine native breeds of pony are hugely popular both in the UK and around the world as ponies for riding and driving. Each pony has a dedicated breed society designed to promote the breed and register and protect bloodlines. There is a thriving native pony in the UK with classes to be found at any local show and a prestigious nationwide showing series which culminates in a ridden final at the London International Horse Show which is held just before Christmas at Olympia in London. This is the jewel in the crown for native ponies and there will be representatives of all nine of the native breeds of pony forward for this. The ponies are judged in groups with awards for best of breed and an overall championship title which is one of the most hotly contested national titles in the UK. As a showcase for Britain’s nine native breeds of pony, you will find none better.



Mountain and Moorland classes at shows are always for the native ponies and they can be grouped in a number of ways. At smaller shows, there are usually classes for the small breeds and the large breeds. Sometimes you will also find a split into classes for registered ponies – ponies who have known breeding and who are registered with their respective breed societies – and unregistered ponies who are sometimes described as ponies of native type. These classes are for ponies are clearly closely allied to one particular breed based on their appearance but they are not formally registered with a breed society usually because their pedigree is unknown.  There are ridden classes, in hand classes and native working hunter classes which involve jumping, all for native ponies. Most breed societies will also run their  own breeds shows and many have performance leagues run on an annual basis where ponies gather points based on the type of competitions they enter and their results.


As a first cross usually with the Thoroughbred, a Mountain and Moorland pony can provide an excellent mix to produce a small, modern sports horse. The native ponies offer the pony guile, surefootedness and hardy constitution which when combined with the speed and athleticism of the Thoroughbred produces a winning combination. For this reason, some of the native pony breed societies do hold part-bred registers as well, recognising both the importance and influence that cross breeding of these fabulous ponies can have for the modern riding horse.