Dartmoor Pony: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Brown Dartmoor Pony standing on green field against gray sky.

Andrew Pym / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Meet the Dartmoor Pony, a breed that is native to Dartmoor, located in the county of Devon in southwest England.

Dartmoor Ponies have spent centuries in the vast moorland of Dartmoor, roaming the inhospitable land since at least the Middle Ages. In modern times, you’re more likely to find them being selectively bred on horse farms than running wild through the moors, but hundreds of years of roughing it have gone a long way toward turning the Dartmoor Pony into the resilient and adaptable breed that it is today.

The Dartmoor Pony is as elegant as it is athletic, and it’s also considered an excellent breed for children due to a warm temperament not always seen in ponies with such a wild background.

Breed Overview

Weight: About 440 pounds

Height: 11.1 hands (45 inches) to 12.2 hands (50 inches)

Body Type: Medium length and build, with a muscular frame, strong, sloping shoulders, and a relatively small head.

Best For: Riding, jumping, showing, driving, and dressage

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years

Dartmoor Pony History and Origins

The Dartmoor Pony is one of nine native English horse breeds, with a wild past that is a far cry from the pedigree status they currently maintain. Early written records of the breed can be traced back to 1012 AD, though they weren’t domesticated until about 1500 BC.

Like many other European breeds, Dartmoor Ponies faced near extinction in the aftermath of World War I and World War II, during which time the Dartmoor moorlands were put to use for military training purposes. Their ongoing survival is thanks to a select number of dedicated breeders, who revived the Dartmoor Pony line after it had shrunk to just two registered males and twelve registered females.

These days, you’ll find Dartmoor Ponies outside of southwest England, including in the United States. And if you travel to Dartmoor itself, you can still find Dartmoor Ponies roaming the moorland—all of which are owned and protected by the local Dartmoor Commoners Council.

Dartmoor Pony Size

Dartmoor Ponies range in size from 11.1 hands (45 inches) to 12.2 hands (50 inches) and weigh around 440 pounds. What they lack in breadth they make up for in muscle, with a strong frame that helps the breed excel in sport and riding.

Breeding and Uses

Dartmoor Ponies have served many jobs over the years, from hauling heavy loads in English mines to helping guards escort prisoners at Dartmoor Prison during the early to mid-20th centuries.

Over the years, they’ve become more popular as competition horses than working horses, and excel in riding, jumping, dressage, and showing. Breeding wise, the Dartmoor Pony is an important part of the lineage of the British Riding Pony, and is often bred with Thoroughbreds for the purpose of creating larger ponies.

Color and Markings

The coat of the Dartmoor Pony can be found in a range of colors, including brown, black, gray, roan, chestnut, and bay. For showing purposes, excessive white markings, as well as skewbald and piebald colorings, are discouraged.

Brown and white Dartmoor Pony grazing in a field.
Roger Mechan / Getty Images
Dark brown Dartmoor Pony eating grass in a field.
Daniel Dolan / Getty Images
Gray Dartmoor Pony grazing in a field.
ASC Photography / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Dartmoor Pony

Long known for their good jumping and riding qualities, the breed is amenable to sport and generally quite happy to be around people. Domesticated Dartmoor Ponies are a gentle breed with a kind temperament, making them excellent for children and lightweight beginner riders.

As for their still-wild counterparts, roaming Dartmoor Ponies may not be quite as kind, and it is encouraged to view them from a distance instead of getting up close.

Diet and Nutrition

Dartmoor Ponies spent centuries living off of the land, and their current diet reflects a resistance to processed or high-sugar foods. Like most ponies, Dartmoor Ponies do well on a balanced diet of hay and other digestible fibers, and their weight should be monitored and managed to ensure they stay at their healthiest.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Dartmoor Ponies are a generally healthy breed with no well-known genetic illnesses. Following proper care protocols is still required, however, including regular checkups with an equine veterinarian.

Grooming

The Dartmoor Pony tends to enjoy grooming sessions, which include regular brushing to keep their coat shiny and clean. Make sure to maintain the condition of the hooves as well to prevent injury or infection from occurring.

Pros
  • Friendly

  • Even-tempered

  • Hardy and healthy

Cons
  • Not suited for heavier riders

  • Rare in the United States

Is the Dartmoor Pony Right for You?

The Dartmoor Pony is a friendly breed that does well with children. As with any horse or pony breed, the right owner is one who provides lots of exercise and individual care, and who works to build on the horse’s innate skills and strengths.

How to Adopt or Buy a Dartmoor Pony

Dartmoor Ponies are a relatively rare breed, especially in the United States. If you’re looking for one to add to your stables, we recommend reaching out to general horse rescue groups, since there are no Dartmoor Pony specific rescues outside of the UK.

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Otherwise, you can check out all of our other horse breed profiles.