Name of breed: Dales Pony
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Breed origin: A native mountain and moorland pony breed from the UK, the history of this breed is linked to the history of lead mining in the Dales area of England, with iron ore, fuel for smelting, and finished lead all being carried on pack ponies. The modern Dales pony is descended from a number of breeds, with the original ponies being bred by crossing the Scottish Galloway pony with the native Pennine pony mares in the Dales area in the late 1600s. Add to that some Norfolk Cobb bloodlines which were brought into the breed a century later, along with Clydesdale, Norfolk Trotter and Yorkshire Roadster, and you have yourself a Dales pony with an incredible trotting gait.
Used extensively by the British Army in both world wars, the Dales pony almost became extinct during the WWII. The population declined during the war to such an extent that only four new fillies were registered in 1955. However, post-war conservation efforts have had some success in rebuilding the population, the breed now having moved to ‘critical’ status with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Distinguishing features: The majority of Dales ponies are black, and the only white markings on the head permitted in the stud book are a star and/or a snip. Standing between 13 and 14 hands, they have very muscular legs with silky feathers and a great deal of energy and power. They are known for being calm and kind horses, with good strength and stamina.
The Dales pony happens to be a carrier of the fatal genetic disease FIS (Foal Immuniodeficiency Syndrome), which is a recessive disease that affects foals when they inherit the gene from both parents. Foals with FIS appear normal when born, but have a compromised immune system and anemia, which unfortunately leads to untreatable infections and death within three months of their birth. However, the recent use of genetic testing has allowed breeders to avoid mating two carrier animals, so that the disease is avoided in foals.
Modern day Dales Pony: These ponies are fantastic all-rounders and can be seen competing in show jumping, dressage, driving and eventing. Their calm temperament combined with their ability to carry heavy weights for long distances, has made them an ideal pony for endurance riding and trekking holidays. Some small herds still roam free in the eastern Pennines.
Image credit: The Horse Rider’s Journal