Natural England chooses Dartmoor Ponies for conservation grazing

Six new Dartmoor Heritage ponies are helping to graze part of the East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths National Nature Reserve, thanks to help from the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT). The ponies will join four already owned by Natural England who manage the reserve.

Most of the ponies are just yearlings but have come well-prepared for their conservation grazing career through careful selection and a lengthy period of gentle handling and training, all organised by the DPHT working with Pony Keeper John French at Michelcombe Farm, Holne, near Ashburton.

Simon Lee, Senior Reserve Manager for Natural England said 'These ponies are a great addition to the reserve. Using ponies for conservation grazing is proving extremely successful in managing our natural woodland and heathland across England and Dartmoor ponies are particularly well suited as they have a calm, gentle temperament and are used to similar environments on the Moor. They will help us to restore the heath which has not been grazed for decades. We are extremely grateful for all the assistance the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust has given us in the past months to make this possible.'

The Trust works with the Pony Keepers and Breeders to provide ponies that have been handled and trained sufficiently, without removing any 'wild' instincts. This means that the ponies can be moved around more easily and have their worming programme and hooves taken care of, and so on, without stress to humans or animals.

Says Dru Butterfield for the DPHT: "Our relationship with Natural England has gone from strength to strength, with the success of the projects using Heritage Dartmoor Ponies for conservation grazing. The ponies are doing what they love doing most; Natural England is seeing a quick impact from the grazing scheme, so that the public ultimately benefit from the ongoing preservation of some of our most valuable, wild open spaces.

We have already placed some 54 other ponies in Devon and Norfolk and are delighted that there are further plans to extend the use of Dartmoor ponies by Natural England, in other parts of the country.

Providing this scheme is successful, there are plans to expand the herd to graze some of the wet meadows in the Bovey Valley and part of Yarner Wood itself.

Conservation Grazing


The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is a registered charity offering a fully comprehensive service to Land Managers.


  • We are able to advise on the most suitable stock for your situation.

  • We can source and arrange delivery of hardy native ponies to your site.

  • All ponies are handled to Conservation Grazing Level, enabling safe and easy day-to-day management of the herd.

  • We offer training courses for wardens, rangers and volunteers involved in the daily care and welfare of the herd.

  • All Dartmoor ponies sourced are eligible for the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme - Native Breeds at Risk Supplement.

  • Prices start at £275+vat

Dartmoors are small, hardy ponies with a quiet temperament, making them an ideal land management tool for conservation grazing.

Download our Conservation Grazing brochure




We have 160 hectares of wet and dry heath and valley mire that will benefit enormously from the structural diversity that the pony grazing will bring. The reserve is currently grazed with our own Flying Flock of sheep and intermittently by a grazier's cattle but having the ponies resident on the site will help secure the grazing management for the habitat and a range of heath and mire species.

DPHT has been extremely helpful in finding exactly what we were looking for in terms of the number, age range and gender of the ponies. It could've been quite a daunting prospect without her local knowledge. Having discussed the grazing with Dru, local keepers and seen the grazing that has been taking place firsthand in Dartmoor we are confident that our new employees will do a fantastic job on the reserve.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Testimonial

More about the ponies...

The wild ponies living on Dartmoor are a fundamental part of the landscape. In addition to their value for tourism, they play a vital role in maintaining the habitat and biodiversity of the moor through their grazing activities.

To find out more, call 01626 833234 or email

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The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (Registered Charity No. 1109196) was established in 2005 in response to widespread concern about the viability and long-term survival of the traditional Dartmoor pony.

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