Abstract Robyn Petrie-Ritchie AN INVESTIGATION OF THE MANAGEMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO SECURE A FUTURE FOR THE PONY ON DARTMOOR: A BEHAVIOURAL AND OPINION BASED EVALUATION. The management of the pony (Equus Caballus) herds on Dartmoor commons has become a contentious issue between all stakeholders. There are three types of pony being bred on common land and only one of these is the recognised Dartmoor breed. However all originate from the same stock thought to have been introduced by Phoenician traders around 2000 years BCE. Recent changes to export laws and consequently market demand have meant the unhandled pony from Dartmoor now has little or no market. With no enforcement in place to control breeding, and as a consequence of the lack of market demand, up to 1500 ponies are being destroyed annually which is considered by many pony keepers, charities and members of the public to be an unacceptable form of management causing much negative media attention. Questions over what impact changing the management would have on the herds have caused there to be no agreed change. The results of this report have the potential to allow a management plan to be developed for common land, notably on Dartmoor, but also on other similar areas such as Bodmin. A semi structured questionnaire was designed and 51 farmers approached to gain a clear picture of the issues being faced. This report found that in 2014 a significant majority (92%) of Pony keepers are in agreement that the management should change as opposed to staying as it is and a similar majority (69%) wish to see Stallion Removal implemented as the method of breeding control. The behavioural impact on pony herds of three different breeding control strategies including stallion removal, stallion vasectomy and mare immuno-contraception were assessed based on extensive stallion and mare ethograms. All behavioural measures were non-parametric for both mare and stallion behaviours (all AD P<0.05). The results show that the removal of the stallion has no negative impact on behaviour. The proportions of time spent engaging in identified behaviours by mares under the three management plans differed. In the Stallion Removed herd the individuals within become less closely grouped (P<0.05). However, contrary to expectation (of those against SR) lairages (the areas the herds graze in) were not broken by mares when the stallion was removed. Overall the most effective form of breeding control on Dartmoor to reduce the unwanted foal ‘crop’ and achieve a high level of welfare which is supported by the majority of pony keepers, is the complete removal of ‘entire’ males from the open commons. In addition to removal of stallions, sterilisation of stallions was also found to be an effective option with herding behaviour kept high in this management option, which is highly supported by pony keepers. The findings of this report can be utilised to inform the future management of ponies on the moor. With the UK currently in a National Equine Crisis and with charities full of unwanted ponies a change to the existing management and implementation of a new breeding control plan is crucial on Dartmoor.

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