Exmoor ponies shine as dressage dream comes true

Forget the typical image of windswept Exmoor ponies, and check out Anchor Buckthorn and Anchor Brown Ale – who are dressed to impress. The two locally reared Exmoor ponies have scooped top honours at a British dressage championship.

The ponies won the introductory pairs at the British Riding Clubs National Introductory Championships run by the British Horse Society, ridden by Eleanor Lunn and her South Molton junior teammate.

The ponies, owned by Eleanor and her sister Verity Goss from South Molton, are both registered with the Exmoor Pony Society and acquired through the Moorland Mousie Trust when they came off the moor at six month old.

Now rising 18 year olds, the ponies are affectionately known by their stable names Galahad and Cookie. Eleanor said: “This was the second time the ponies have competed at the nationals. We came third last year and were utterly thrilled to win this time. It was a dream come true and it seemed quite incredible that a couple of scruffy moor ponies could beat some much fancier horses!”

Sheralee Matravers at the Exmoor Pony Society said: “It’s wonderful that two moorland ponies have not only been able to compete at national level in dressage, but show horses considered to be of much higher breeding how it should be done!

“Both Anchor Buckthorn and Anchor Brown Ale are registered ponies, and were inspected by Exmoor Pony Society and meet the strict breed standard that enables them to be included in the studbook. We congratulate their owners on the championship success, which shows just what a versatile and happy breed they are – whether competing on the national stage or just living outdoors in conservation grazing and rewilding environments.”

Eleanor added: “My sister and I were both pony mad and Verity was particularly fond of Exmoors. We were both volunteering at the Exmoor Pony Centre and loved helping with all the new foals – which included Buckthorn and Brown Ale. The ponies were handled daily when we got them home, mostly by Verity whilst I was at university, and they became easy to handle. I later backed them.

“They were strong, independent ponies and I couldn’t have succeeded without my instructor Cheryl Mundy. Over the years they have competed in both jumping and dressage.

“It was especially wonderful to win as having had them since they were six months old I have done so much of the work myself. They are a challenge. Brown Ale is a very independent pony. He sees no point in repetition during training and needs to be kept mentally stimulated. Buckthorn was very timid, though his confidence has grown.

“They are wonderful ponies and have given us so much fun. We’re very proud of them.”