Wild Exmoor Ponies in Sutton Park

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This afternoon Ed and I went for a walk to see the wild Exmoor ponies in Sutton Park. I’ve lived in Birmingham for fourteen years and visit the park fairly often, but I’ve never seen the ponies before, just the cows. I just assumed the ponies were shy, and largely kept to themselves in the deepest parts of the woodland. I was hoping to see them today, but didn’t really think that we would.

Wild Exmoor Ponies in Sutton Park

The ponies in Sutton Park live and graze north of the railway line down near Bracebridge Pool. There were three ponies browsing on holly on the main road down by the restaurant on Bracebridge Pool, and we found another band in the woodland when we went for a walk around the lake. The ponies by the road were very curious and friendly, so much so that I stepped away from them on several occasions as every time I crouched down one of the mares approached me. She seemed quite calm, but it’s best to keep a distance. All of these photos were taken with an 85mm lens and some of them were cropped to make the horses look bigger in the frame – in other words, these photos were all taken from a distance of several meters and from the main paths. Don’t be fooled by the close ups! Please, don’t try to imitate these photos with your camera phone. A camera phone has a very wide angle lens and you would need to be right next to the ponies to get a similar perspective.

Update 17th June 2021 | pony health & welfare

Last night I was up at Sutton Park for a walk and met one of the park rangers – Matthew – as he was tending to the horses. He told me that he was in the process of trying to teach the horses to be wary of humans as they have become very bold, and are venturing closer and closer to visitors in the park. Some people have been feeding them too, which is harmful to the horses’ health as food such as carrots can choke a horse or give them a painful condition called colic. Feeding the ponies also changes their behaviour and grazing patterns and puts the conservation programme under which the horses were introduced to the park in the first place at risk. It may feel like a kind thing to do, to offer a beautiful horse a carrot or crisp, but it’s not in their best interest. Please don’t do it.

I am not a horse expert, but as this post is one of the top posts that surfaces when people search for the Sutton Park ponies on Google, I feel it is only responsible to repeat this message to park visitors who might be searching for the ponies or have stumbled upon them for the first time and want to find out more about them.

Please, for your own safety and that of the horses, do not feed the ponies. It is not the kind thing to do, and causes them harm. There are lots of notices up around the park asking you not to feed them, and those notices are up for a reason, not just to spoil your fun!

Also, please don’t crowd them, touch them, and do not let your children venture too close to them. They are quiet and calm most of the time as they have their heads down grazing, but they are wild animals and they are unpredictable. If something spooks them they will flee and this could cause you or your child harm if you are too close and blocking their path. If the ponies become too bold and tame, they will need to be removed from the herd so as not to alter the behaviour of the other horses. They are very difficult to re-home as they are a specialist conservation horse, so what this means in practice is that the horses will be euthanised.

If you love the ponies, please keep a respectful distance from them. Keep to the paths, and zoom with your camera rather than your feet.

Okay, back to the pictures, which were all taken with a DSLR and a long lens.

Wild Exmoor Ponies in Sutton Park
Wild Exmoor Ponies in Sutton Park
Wild Exmoor Ponies in Sutton Park

I was so happy to see them. They’re such beautiful animals, and it felt really special to see wild ponies so close in to the city centre as I’ve previously only ever encountered them on the hills and mountains in Shropshire and Wales.

May 2021 // edited to add the following video which I recently published over on my second YouTube channel ‘Eighteen & Cloudy’.

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