We got them roaming right here in the national park at forestpalms.com. This first photo was taken early one morning in 2019, just around the corner from us.
The national park ponies have been hanging around for about 2,000 years and what they don't know about the forest is not worth knowing. All of the ponies found in the forest are wild in the sense they can roam freely but in fact they are owned by New Forest Commoners.
The commoners have the right to graze their ponies and cattle on the open forest throughout the year. It is the animals’ grazing which helps to keep the New Forest’s landscape and rare species which you can enjoy today. The ancient tradition of commoning dates back from before the days when William the Conqueror made this area his private hunting reserve and imposed strict laws on the locals. In return for this, the locals were given the rights to graze their animals on the ‘common’ (this being the land which is now known as the New Forest). Think of the New Forest as one large farm!
The grass is so neat and tidy here in the New Forest thanks to our ponies and cows! In fact, their grazing and browsing supports rare plant species including wild gladiolus and chamomile. This in turn helps the wider ecosystem and encourages other species to thrive.
Each year, the ponies are rounded up in what are called drifts. Over thirty of these drifts take place during the summer and autumn each year giving the commoners a chance to check the health of their animals and wean and handle the foals.
The gestation period for New Forest mares is approximately 11 months. Stallions are presently turned out for 6 weeks in May and June and, as a result, New Forest foals are born in the spring and summer months and truly bring the Forest to life.
For their safety and your own please leave the animals alone - although owned and cared for they are unpredictable and best treated as wild. Please don’t feed or pet them; there is plenty of natural food and it’s best that they don’t come to rely on people’s attention. They may look friendly but they can bite and kick, especially ponies with foals.
Keep your distance! Remember, too, that these animals are not tame - the gentlest looking pony can also kick and bite and children are particularly vulnerable to them.
There is a maximum speed limit of 40mph on unfenced Forest roads. The use of reflective collars on ponies is a measure to attempt to reduce the number of accidents involving ponies so drive with extreme care at night time.
Book direct at forestpalms.com