Ponies on our nature reserves

Conservation grazing by Exmoor ponies, Steve Aylward

As tempting as it is to approach our conservation grazing ponies, please respect the vital work they are doing for wildlife and keep your distance. Our Grazing Manager, Jane Barber, explains why...

The sight of Suffolk Wildlife Trust ponies grazing at a beautiful heath or wetland is cherished by many. Whilst the ponies are wonderful to look at from a distance, we ask visitors to please remember these animals are unhandled and must not be fed or approached.

Our ponies have been specially selected to graze particular habitats based on their natural grazing characteristics as well as their temperament. Some sites can be too wet for cattle or sheep, or the quality of the grazing too poor to sustain them. Ponies fill an important gap in our conservation grazing regime, helping to maintain some of our most challenging Nature Reserves. 

Ponies grazing at Knettishall Heath, Richard Young

Ponies grazing at Knettishall Heath, Richard Young

Conservation grazing ponies are used to a forage-based, very low nutrition diet. If this diet is altered by supplementary feeding it can cause serious health and behavioural problems. 

  • There is a potential choking hazard if carrots or apples are fed, and any unknown or high nutrition foods may cause the animal severe stomach pain which can result in death. 

  • Supplementary feeding disrupts the herd’s hierarchy and may cause fighting between individual animals. 

  • Feeding can cause undesirable behaviour such as the animals gathering around gates and on paths in anticipation of being fed and they may even try to ‘nibble’ visitors. 

If you are visiting one of our nature reserves with ponies on site, please do remember that the ponies are best viewed as nature intended, from a sensible distance and left undisturbed so that they can continue doing their vital job as conservation grazers on our reserves. 

 

Exmoor ponies conservation grazing, Steve Aylward

Exmoor ponies conservation grazing, Steve Aylward