owned by Gill Bridgeman
The Dales Pony is a native to Northern England, specifically the upper dales of the eastern slopes of the Pennine Range near the Scottish border. This area supported a lead mining industry from Roman times through the mid-nineteenth century. The lead was carried by strong, active pack ponies, working in gangs of 9 to 20, loose-headed, and in the charge of one mounted man.
As pack animals, Dales ponies became renowned for their great strength, iron constitution, endurance and the ability to get over rough country fast. A pack load was 240 pounds and the ponies traveled up to hundred miles a week over some of the most difficult terrain in England.
The Dales Pony is a comfortable riding animal, strong enough for draught work, and able to thrive on the bleak uplands of the dales. These abilities and characteristics made the Dales ponies first rate work animals on small farms. They could pull over a ton and carry large quantities of hay (with a rider) in deep snow. Additionally, they covered great distances shepherding flocks and with their eye-catching trot could take the farmer to town in style. Being willing and clever jumpers they also enjoyed an occasional day's hunting. Thus, when the railways appeared, and the pack trains disappeared, the Dales pony found a niche on the farms of the English dales.
Early in the 20th century, there was a tremendous demand for active "vanners" for town work and "gunners" for the Army. At this time, many fine Clydesdale stallions were traveling the districts, and were bred to many Dales mares, threatening the purity of the breed. The Dales Pony Improvement Society was formed in 1916, and the Dales Pony Stud Book opened, which ensured the preservation of the ponies. The Board of Agriculture offered Stallion Premiums after an inspection of the breed by Captain A. Campbell, who reported in a subsequent letter "Your breed has one superb asset, possessed of every specimen I saw, i.e. the most perfect foot in the British Isles". The War Office also awarded Premiums and in 1923 and 1924 the Army took over 200 Dales ponies. Dales ponies served overseas in both World Wars.
The Second World War nearly saw the end of the breed. Ponies were taken by the Army and mares were used for breeding "vanners", and even the young mares were taken for work in the towns and cities. Few came back, and after the war the fate of the Dales breed lay in the hands of a few dedicated enthusiasts who refused to believe the day of the heavy pony was over. In 1964, the Dales Pony Society was reorganized, and "Improvement" was dropped from the title. Ponies were sought and registered and a Grading-up Register was introduced for inspected ponies. The number of registered ponies has risen steadily over the years, and, today, both the quantity and quality of the Dales Ponies seems assured.
Today the Dales Pony demonstrates all the qualities and athletic abilities which brought their forebears such renown. The combination of strength, agility, thrift, hardiness and high courage, with good conformation and a calm, intelligent nature, makes the Dales pony a first-class riding and driving pony with all the abilities of a true "all-rounder". Through our artificial insemination (AI) breeding program, Davidson Dales hopes to help more people in this country discover the unique and endearing qualities of the English Dales Pony.
Excerpted from the The Dales Pony Society of America, Inc. Web site at http://www.DalesPonies.com/ .
Height of the Dales Pony The Dales pony stands 13.2 to 14.2 hh.
Color of the Dales Pony The Dales pony is most usually black but bay, brown, gray and occasionally roan occur.
Characteristics of the Dales Pony The Dales pony has a pony-like head, short strong neck, straight shoulders, strong back and hindquarters, thick mane and tail. They are hardy and strong with good stamina, and a fancy, fast trot.
Temperament of the Dales Pony These ponies are docile, sensible, intelligent, and hard working.
Uses of the Dales Pony The Dales pony is an ideal trekking pony and good general riding or driving pony for both children and adults. Many Dales are also talented and willing jumpers and enjoy the show ring.