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Search for Dallas ponies as horsewomen trace ‘born free’ fold

Some of the Dallas ponies.
Some of the Dallas ponies.

Horse enthusiasts have set up a social media group to trace a renowned breed of horse which was born free in Moray.

Leading the group is Shela-Ann Ryan, 57, from Fort William who is raising the profile of the Highland-type ponies from Dallas.

There are around a dozen ponies that the women can not account for.

The horses, that were born into a feral group of horses – are in many colours, but the most prized is the yellow dun being sold online for upwards of £2,600.

The women’s group Dallas Ponies Forever tells the story of each of the horses, that they know about, and tries to trace those that have been sold away from the area.

The fold were all once rescued and helped by World Horse Welfare.

After being feral and inbred, the horses were part of a national story when the charity stepped in 2011, to help manage the fold, and give them passports.

Where are the 60 horse?

Of the horses in the Moray area, there were around 50 stallions, when there should only have been one in any breeding system.

There was a band of bachelor stallions vying for mares and there was injury due to fighting in the 11 social herds.

Ms Ryan, a veterinary receptionist, visits the horses regularly on farmland near Dallas after she bought a foal from the farmer, and a few years later acquired the foal’s sister.

She said: “Recently, we have been concerned that there are only 38 of the ponies left in Dallas. We have seen adverts for similar types of horses for sale, but being sold as much younger ponies.

“We would like information on dozen or so ponies that used to roam free.

“There was a roundup in 2011, and at least 30 ponies were sold, many of which have gone on to be used as really useful ponies, fantastic jumpers and some great family ponies.”

Mr Handsome was returned to his home in Moray.

She continued: “But people may be buying ponies described as Highland yellow dun ponies, and may get more than they bargained for. It takes a lot of experience to bring them under control.”

Ms Ryan describes one stallion, named Mr Handsome, who was removed with permission from the fold with 17 others, and taken to be broken in the Borders.

He constantly ran away, and jumped fences – so distressed at having been born free and now living in captivity.

So painful was the process for the horse that after two years he was brought back to be with the others for the remainder of his life.

“These aged horses need to remain together now – it is not fair to separate them,” Ms Ryan said.

Horses don’t have the correct paperwork

Ms Ryan is being helped in her endeavours by a retired vet who lives in the Scottish Borders.

She said: “The ponies from Dallas are at least 11 years old – because all of the horses since 2011, have not been able to breed.

“One horse seller we phoned said the ponies had not been ridden in a long time. But claimed they had been ridden before, and just needed to be restarted. She was unable to tell us where the pony was from or how old it was.”

Ms Ryan said: “These horses from Dallas were born free and have lived their whole lives being feral. They are not easily tamed, and especially not the older ones.

“With expert handling some have gone on to make excellent ponies, but it did not happen overnight.

Fears for anyone who might buy them

“Our fear is that something might happen to anyone who buys one of the Dallas ponies and doesn’t know.

“These are beautiful horses that form part of Scotland’s social history. They should be recorded for prosperity.

“We know that some have died  – but it would be good to know where the rest are.”

The women want anyone with information on the ponies to contact them via the Dallas Ponies Forever Facebook page.

Numerous attempts were made to contact the farmers whose land the horses live on, but we were unable to speak to him.

 

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