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Cycling in Lyndhurst with horses
Brown Horse In The New Forest

Wild Ponies In The New Forest


If there’s one image that’s synonymous with the New Forest, it’s surely the ponies. For centuries, they’ve been a fundamental part of the scenery (and life) in the New Forest, and are a massive draw for tourists. It’s quite a thing when you spot your first wild ponies in the New Forest – they may be technically ‘wild’, but they’re quite accustomed to humans, so they often just go about their business when walkers and cyclists pass by.

If you are visiting the area, however, do treat them with respect – especially if you’re walking dogs or riding a bike. Stay with us at New Forest Collection, and at the likes of Beaulieu Inn you often don’t have to stray far from your bedroom window to see them wandering by. It’s quite magical.

Now while we all know ‘about’ the New Forest wild ponies, how much do you actually know about them? Well, we’ve done the homework for you… there won’t be a test, don’t worry.

Horse In The New Forest

What are the New Forest ponies?

The New Forest pony is one of the most recognised breeds of native mountain and moorland pony in the British Isles.There are around 3,000 that roam the heathland and woods of the New Forest, and are a major attraction for the thousands of people who visit the area every year. They’re a workmanlike horse, valued for their strength, hardiness and sure-footedness.

Pony in a wild flowers field

What do New Forest ponies look like?

The most common colours of New Forest ponies are brown, bay and chestnut, but according to the New Forest Pony Breeding Society, they may be any colour “except piebald, skewbald, spotted or blue-eyed cream”. They can also have white markings on their head and/or limbs, and have eyes of any colour – except blue. There is also a maximum height (but no minimum) for New Forest ponies: 14.2 hands (144cm) from the ground to the top of their shoulder blades.

Horse at Ashurst in the New Forest

Where can you see New Forest ponies?

We could just say ‘The New Forest’ but that wouldn’t be very helpful, would it?

Basically, you can’t miss them, but there are a few ideal spots, such as Beachern Wood near Brockenhurst (only about 10 minutes away if you’re staying at Beaulieu Inn or Forest Lodge). Beaulieu village itself is one of the best places to see wild ponies in the New Forest; their favourite meeting places tend to be around Hatchets Pond and Culverley Green – and if you’re staying at Beaulieu Inn you’ll often see them wandering past.

If you’re staying with us at Forest Lodge, then there’s a great walk to spot the New Forest ponies; the Lyndhurst Hill and Swan Green Circular Walk us a 10km loop which takes you through lush forest, heaths and moorland – plenty of ponies (and pubs) along the way! Stay with us at Burley Manor or Burley Huts, and you’ll often see wild New Forest ponies wandering around the village.

Last but not least, head for Tanners Lane Beach near Lymington – yes, you’ll often see the New Forest wild horses enjoying a paddle or a roll in the sand!

Family at Rockbourne

History of New Forest ponies

Incredibly, there have been ponies in the New Forest since the end of the Ice Age – 11,500 years ago. Some of the earliest records include bones found at Rockbourne Roman Villa near Fordingbridge.

Although they’ve been around for centuries, what we see today is different from the original New Forest pony, as they’ve been mixed with a host of other breeds over the years, including Welsh, Arab, Thoroughbred, Hackney, Highlands and Exmoor.

Trusty Servant Inn pub with horses

Are New Forest ponies wild?

The New Forest ponies are not completely wild, they’re ‘semi-feral’ but still don’t like to be handled. However, as a breed, ‘New Foresters’ have gentle temperaments and make excellent family riding ponies.

Horses in the field

Who owns and looks after the New Forest ponies?

All ponies grazing on the New Forest are owned by New Forest commoners – people who have ‘rights of common pasture’ over the New Forest land, and who pay an annual marking fee for each animal turned out to graze.

New Forest cycle route

Who looks after the New Forest ponies?

While the New Forest ponies are owned by commoners, whose responsibility it is to ensure that their ponies are in good health, five ‘Agisters’ are employed by the Verderers (forest officials) to watch over the forest stock and ensure that their owners meet the requirements in terms of animal welfare. They attend road accidents and other incidents involving commoners’ animals.

Agisters also organise the construction and maintenance of stock pounds within their area, they arrange and manage the rounding up of ponies. When they’ve collected marking fees, usually in the New Year; they clip the pony’s tail to a set pattern to show proof of payment and identify in which area the owner lives.



Discover More In The New Forest

New Forest Beaches, New Forest Bus Tours, New Forest Cycle Hire, New Forest Cycle Routes, New Forest Festivals, New Forest Fishing, New Forest Gardens, New Forest Golf, New Forest Horse Riding, New Forest Shopping, New Forest Things To Do, New Forest Family Things To Do, New Forest Walks, New Forest Dog Walks, New Forest Pub Walks, New Forest Water Sports, New Forest Wildlife

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