Rare Steeds

Dylan Winter explores the blend of genes, breeding, influences of domestication and use across the centuries that has resulted in the nine recognised native pony breeds to be found on the British Isles today. Rare Steeds charts the history, innate character and importance of these breeds and their changing fortunes and relevance in modern day Britain.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, a small herd of ponies crossed a marshy swampland that would one day become the English Channel, separating the British Isles from the European continent. The pony had arrived in Britain. As it spread, other influences were bred in. The breeds that emerged are true exemplars of hardiness, surviving thousands of years of hostile elements and predators. Britain is the only place in the world with so many different feral ponies. Through ancient history to the modern day, the ponies lives and deaths, physiology and feistiness are celebrated.


0101Designed By Nature20060116

To appreciate just how well adapted native ponies can be to their environment and to discover the origins of what is thought to be the original British hill pony, Dylan travels to the freezing cold and windswept heights of Exmoor to get a true feel for the hardiness of the "horsebeast" - the name originally given to the Exmoor Pony.
Producer Sheena Duncan.

0102Highlands And Islands20060117

As it has for centuries, the Highland Pony is still used today to carry stags on its back down from the Scottish hills after a shoot. Dylanr discovers these broad-chested ponies have formidable strength but biddable natures which have found them a legion of enthusiastic owners across the country from its Highland home all the way down to the West Country. Its diminutive island neighbour, the Shetland, is the strongest pony in the world relative to its tiny size.

Producer Sheena Duncan.

0103On Fell And In Dale20060118

The hills and valleys of Cumbria are home to two native pony breeds - the Fell and the Dales. With only a matter of inches and a few features in difference between them, Dylan Winter discovers the uses man has put these ponies to across the centuries and how local owners and breeders maintain the ponies' working traditions.
Producer Sheena Duncan.

0104Celtic Connections20060119

The Welsh Pony has more divisions in its stud book than any other native pony breed - 4 different types. Like many native pony breeds, to find appropriate uses for them, man has selectively bred them for certain features. Today, breed societies exist to encourage interest in the breeds and to help try and promote breeding which keeps the ponies true to their original type, without losing their distinctive features which have allowed them to survive through thousands of years.
Producer Sheena Duncan.

0105 LASTFit For The Future20060120

With two centuries of rapid industrialisation, Britain's native pony breeds have lost much of their everyday use as working ponies and are now mainly used for riding and leisure purposes.

With many breeding populations of ponies in decline, Dylan Winter finds out how important it is to keep free-living herds of ponies on their natural mountain and moorland homes, as well as retain their popularity with prospective owners.

Producer Sheena Duncan.