M is For

and Exmoor Ponies
(and sneaking in Poldark!)
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'Moorland Mousie?' I hear you asking. 
'Explain please!'

THIS is Moorland Mousie....

yes it's a book. I've had a copy, and the second volume, 'Older Mousie' since I was about eleven. Because of these two books and the wonderful evocative illustrations...

... I have always been fascinated by Exmoor, even though I'd only ever been on holiday to the area twice - once when I was about five, then when my daughter was about nine. I grew to love it more when I started writing my Sea Witch Voyages - my editor lived in Devon. Then of course, Fate played a huge part and now  I live in Devon.

One other thing I had always wanted since being very young was an Exmoor Pony. Again, of course, purely because of this delightful book.

Moving to Devon I had to get...

My daughter riding our Exmoor Pony
Mr Mischief side saddle

and side saddle display:
Little Red Riding Hood

and then we added:

6 month old Exmoor Filly

 (and I bet your life I'll end up with more!)

The Farleywater Herd Oct/Nov 2014
Straight from the Moor
(our little Siren is in there somewhere)
photo by kind permission of Dawn Westacott
Both ponies were born in the Moor in the Farleywater Herd, both are pure Exmoor - the breed is thought to date back as wild ponies from the Moor for over 2,000 years. They are very much like the ponies our ancestors would have known. Their coats are incredibly thick - I can vouch for them being absolutely soaked from pouring rain... dig your fingers through that outer layer and inside it is bone dry and warm. The mane and thick forelock protect the face - and note the distinctive 'mealy' muzzle and markings round the eyes.
To be accepted, today, as a 'pure' Exmoor there must be no white markings anywhere.

Exmoors, even though they are only about 13.00 hands to 13.2 can easily carry an adult - the are very strong, very determined, with a mind of their own. If our pony wants to be in THAT field, not THIS field... he puts himself in THAT field. Regardless of what might be in his way. He goes over, under or through. The downside to that thick mane... he can't feel electric fencing through it.

Having survived for over 2,000 years, Exmoor Ponies have developed a high level of intelligence and a brain to match.
Mister Mischief lives up to his name... but I wouldn't part with him for the world.

Siren is not yet a year old. At the moment she's a good little girl. I'm expecting this to change when she reaches her 'teenage' years (about three in horse years)

So again, what is significant about Moorland Mousie?
Well, The Moorland Mousie Trust is a rescue centre for Exmoor Ponies:

From their WEBSITE 

The Moorland Mousie Trust is a small, local charity founded in 2000 by Val Sherwin and Sue Wingate. The trust was named after the Moorland Mousie books written by Golden Gorse, the pseudonym of Muriel Wace.

The book, written in 1929, is a story about the life of an Exmoor Pony called Mousie and was read by Val as a child. On a visit to Exmoor to purchase an Exmoor pony Val became aware that many of the foals, mostly colts, would go to the meat market for slaughter. Although she originally intended on buying one filly foal, when realising what might happen to it's brother she bought him too. They were named Abbi and Yorrick. It was from this experience that an idea was born.

When the charity was founded it's aim was to ensure that no more foals would leave their mothers on the moor to go to the meat market. Since those early days, the work of the trust has moved on to encompass all aspects of Exmoor pony welfare.

The Exmoor Pony Centre, owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, was opened to the public in the year 2006. Located in the heart of the Exmoor National Park it is the hub of all our activity with the Exmoor Ponies. It provides a permanent and specialised base for the foals when they arrive straight off the moor. It is the home to some 20 of our permanent residents, including Abbi and Yorrick. At our Centre, visitors to Exmoor who might otherwise not be lucky enough to see an Exmoor pony have the opportunity to come into close contact with them.

Funding for the development of the Centre was provided by DEFRA's Rural Enterprise Scheme and the Exmoor National Park Authority Sustainable Development Fund. The Centre is run by a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers.

Incidentally, the Moorland Mousie book, which had been out of print for many years, was re-published by the Trust in 2011. The hardback book, with a foreword from our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is available from the Centre or from our on-line shop.

The area around Doone valley features in
Ripples In The Sand and
On the Account
 (yet to be published)
Dunkery Beacon
(photo Simon Murgatroyd)
and the same view for a recent advert
and just to mention another tid-bit of information...

Have you been watching Poldark?
Noticed any ponies "working" at the mines? Well these are Exmoor Ponies so...

Two Very Handsome fellers...

what say you?

Visitors might also like the 'J' post.... J is for (show) Jumping

Website: www.helenhollick.net

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Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com
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  1. I'd like to see the moors up close someday. I'm not sure I could manage riding over them side saddle, though. I've always thought ladies had to be good riders to stay on that way.

    1. if you can ride astride you can ride aside!

  2. I'm visiting via Elizabeth's blog. Wonderful post - I love horses and ponies (even though I am terribly allergic to horse dander). My daughter rode competitively when she was little (not side-saddle, thought). We had a pony for several years, then two other horses. They are a stubborn bunch, aren't they? I'd love to see these ponies up close and personal next time we are in England!

    1. Well next you are England make sure you come to Devon - if you're in the North Devon area I'd love to meet up for a coffee or glass of cider! You'll probably also like my 'J' post...http://leaningonthegate.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/j-is-for.html

  3. I'd never heard of the Moorland Mousie books before, Helen. I love the way you worked in the connection with Exmoor Ponies and Poldark.

    1. Couldn't resist adding Ross! LOL (even though he is Cornish not Devonish)

  4. Anonymous12:34 am

    What beautiful horses. My one friend would be jealous. She has a little herd, but I bet she'd love to have an Exmoor pony.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    1. I do sometimes wonder WHY we have Exmoors.... they can be very naughty!

  5. Thanks for sharing about these beautiful (and strong) animals. Glad that someone saw the need to protect them.
    Exmoor is the setting for Blackmore's Lorna Doone. I bet they rode and worked the ponies.

    1. Yes the Doone's wouwld have ridden Exmoors! (see one of the images above - it is Doone Valley!) One of my daughter's costumes that she wears for competing side saddle is a 'Lorna Doone' outfit. I also have the Doone's in my novel Ripples In The Sand.

  6. Anonymous1:50 pm

    It seems like you are living the life I dream about whenever I watch "Escape to the Country". My daughter would love the ponies. They look fabulous. We used to have an Old English Sheepdog, which was often described as a "horse".

    1. Yes we ARE living the dream - dreams really DO come true sometimes. But believe me I do, very, ver much appreciate what we have!


Thank you for leaving a comment your interest is very much appreciated! It will be published as soon as possible - depending on whether I am at my computer or walking up the lane, or being chased by the goose or helping mend fences after the pony has broken through YET AGAIN.... :-)