The Exmoor is one of Britain’s native mountain and moorland pony breeds. The largest group is a semi-feral herd which roams freely on Exmoor, in Devon and Somerset. Fossil remains have been found on Exmoor dating back to around 50,000 BC, and the ponies certainly bear a strong resemblance to primitive wild horses. The Domesday Book records ponies on Exmoor in 1086, and most Exmoors today are descended from ponies removed from the moor in 1818.
After the Second World War the breed very nearly became extinct; used for target practice by soldiers and regularly slaughtered for their meat. Estimates vary, but it is thought that there may be fewer than 800 Exmoors worldwide.
In the past Exmoors were used as pit ponies, and their hardiness makes them highly suited to conservation grazing. The ponies graze coarse grasses and gorse on a site, increasing biodiversity by allowing wildflowers and other plants to flourish.
At North Berwick Law the conservation grazing project was devised by East Lothian Council, working in partnership with the Moorland Mousie Trust, a charity which provides the ponies. A similar successful project has been underway at Traprain Law for a few years, with a small herd of 13 ponies there.