The Dales pony is similar to the Fell, but bigger, in fact it wasn't until the end of the 19th century that it was recognised as a separate breed.
Evidence of horses on the Dales (stretching from the peaks of Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders) has been found as far back as Roman times. However, their history is really linked to lead mining. The ponies were used in groups or 'packs' of up to 20 ponies which were loose but supervised by one mounted leader. They carried up to 110 kg at a time!
The Dales ponies we know now are the result of the original working ponies being crossed with a number of other breeds. Many ponies now have blood from a Norfolk cob introduced in the 1700's. This cob could be traced back to the Darley Arabian who was one of the foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. Other blood was introduced from the Clydesdale, Norfolk Trotter and Yorkshire Roadster - which improved the trot!
During the 1900's a Welsh Cob stallion called Comet was used to increase the size of the Dales ponies. The stud book was opened in 1916 at the same time as the Dales Pony Improvement Society was formed. Dales ponies were then used in the British army during WWI. Then during WWII the breed almost disappeared because they were taken to work in towns and cities and again used as pack and artillery ponies by the army. Many of the ponies were left in Europe - and used for food.
A small group of breeders worked to save the breed and to identify and breed only ponies with the original Dales characteristics. In the 1990's some ponies were exported to Canada and the US. The breed is still critical according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Height: Average 14.2hh
Colour: Mostly black. Also, bay, brown and occasionally grey.
Conformation: Small, straight head with bright eyes and an alert expression. Their ears curve inwards at the top and they have a fine muzzle. The neck is strong and well muscled and they have deep shoulders and a short, strong back with a deep rib cage. They have a deep girth and powerful loins with strong quarters, legs and good hard bone. The feet are round and they have a silky mane, tail and leg feathers.
Temperament: Another breed with a great temperament. They are docile and sensible but also active and bright.
Dales ponies are good working animals as they are able to pull extremely heavy weights. They are also great in harness. The Dales temperament means they are ideal family ponies as they are sensible enough for children to handle but strong and stocky so able to carry a heavy adult. They are not fast but are natural jumpers. They are ideal for endurance and trekking as they are able to carry heavy weights over long distances and difficult terrain.
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