Food for thought
Monday, November 27th 2017
Both this blog page and a number of newspapers have featured the two Exmoor ponies at Foxglove Covert, provided by the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust. They have caught the imagination of some journalists who have an eye for a good picture and general quote rather than looking at the detail of why this breed, which is classified as 'Endangered' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, is often the breed of choice for conservation grazing.
Exmoors are very hardy and can tolerate rain, snow and cold winds, all of which they have experienced in their short time at the Reserve. They also have a clear preference in eating habits and will look to eat finer, more succulent grasses first before moving on to coarser grasses, rushes and sedges.
When these have been taken, they will readily eat Gorse (which can make up to a third of their overall diet) and will strip broadleaved trees and shrubs when more nutritious food has gone. Taurus and Lark are doing an excellent job on the heathland and are now stripping out the grasses in the larger of the enclosures. No doubt they will then move on to the Gorse and the young Silver Birch in the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, away from the equine media stars, let's not forget that there is a flock of 41 Swaledales steadily working their way through the moorland area, having also made excellent work of removing much of the growth on the Middle Moor area. They are also doing a good job
While not eating such a wide range of plants, they are steadily tackling the coarse grasses on the moorland. They tend to see Gorse as shelter rather than food. In the coming months, work will include removing some areas of Gorse from this area but some clumps will be left to continue as shelter for the flock.
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