The oldest and purest of Great Britain?s many native pony breeds, the Exmoor Pony of southwestern England has a distinctive appearance that dates back thousands of years, and makes it easy to identify today. Pale coat markings on the muzzle (known as a mealy mouth), around the eyes, and on the underbelly and flanks are primitive characteristics of the breed along with its hardiness. Another primitive trait, a seventh molar, is unique to the Exmoor, as well.
Exmoors are broad backed, wide chested, and clean legged. Ideally, they stand from 11.2 to 12.3 hands, and they have a low, straight, natural stride. Fleshy rims around their eyes are called ?toad eyes.? Colors include bay, brown, and dun, complete with the pale, ?mealy? characteristics at the muzzle, eyes, and belly. The Exmoor registry does not allow any white markings anywhere on the body. A tight, hard, shiny coat in summer develops into a dense, multi-layered coat in winter to repel harsh British weather.
Today, the breed is a source of pride for England?s Exmoor region. Alert, vigorous, and resistant to many equine diseases and disorders, they?re suited to many types of work or pleasure riding. Historical uses include farm work, hunting, driving, and shepherding, and today Exmoors make excellent show and pleasure mounts for children (though they?re easily capable of carrying adults, as well). When shown in hand, they?re left entirely unclipped, and under saddle with leg hair intact.
Despite surviving thousands of years, the Exmoor Pony is now one of the rarest equine breeds. Still bred throughout Great Britain, there are only about 2,000 worldwide with a breeding population of only about 10 percent of that. Some Exmoors still roam the British moorland in a semi-feral state, privately owned and branded for registration with the Exmoor Pony Society, but left to graze as they have for countless generations.