Ponies on Tiptree Heath
Stock Grazing on the Heath
Our most sustainable tool in the conservation management of the heath is the animals that keep down the over-invasive scrub by eating and trampling. For three summers now we have seen cows grazing, arriving in mid-May but forced to return to their home farm in September when there is no longer enough nutritious grass for them.
This means that for the rest of the year we rely on hand tools and machines. To fill this gap we have introduced Exmoor ponies to graze through the winter. In November 2011, 4 Exmoor ponies arrived at the heath, on loan from the RSPB, having grazed during the summer at a Reserve in the Essex Wildlife Trust Danbury complex.
The herd was increased in February 2013, by 4 more from Cornwall by Mike Sandison, the chairman of Essex Wildlife Trust.
The cows will then return the following summer.
The ponies are called Peregrine, Gadwall, Plover and Petrel, and then Rufus, Jago, Trystan and Shadow from Cornwell. The information below describes how to approach and treat them properly.
Exmoor ponies like to graze during the summer months, eating grass as their first choice therefore competing with the cows, but will browse in the winter turning to gorse tips, young saplings and other rough scrub. So next year they should add to the work done by the cows and help the heath in a natural way.
The ponies create great interest to the heath, but it is important for their own - and human – welfare that they are treated properly by heath users. The following will have to be observed:
They should not be fed
Otherwise they may start to follow people looking for food and may nip them.
The ponies are semi-feral (wild), therefore timid although slightly curious
They will move away if approached by humans or dogs, in the same way as most of the cows.
If approached or chased, they will run
We never know how any two animals will interact, and we ask you to take great care with your horse and dog while around the ponies. So it will be better to keep dogs on a lead to start with until the owner knows how they react to the ponies.
They may lose weight and coat condition during the winter
This is not a sign of illness or neglect, ponies naturally feed up during the summer to store food for the winter. Heath users should not be concerned.