Old Yanks in the New Forest: ponies

find the pony in the forest...he has the right of way

find the pony in the forest…he has the right of way

So my husband and I went to London for the World Science Fiction Convention, and afterward visited the New Forest, which is situated in the southwest corner of England, right up against Wales. I’d been wanting to see the New Forest for a long time. My fascination with big trees had me picturing all sorts of wilderness things. Some British form of Sasquatch. At least some wild horses.

It did look as though there would be wild horses. Websites describing the New Forest warn tourists not to run into the “New Forest ponies” on the road. The ponies have right of way. They may approach you, but don’t feed them or try to ride them. Tantalizing hints for the horse-crazy kid in my heart.

a shaggy wild horse

a shaggy wild horse

What I expected: this.

We saw wild horses like this in the desert outside Las Vegas some twelve years ago. Shaggy, dirty, flea-bitten, unfriendly, unkempt, with distinctly plebian features and points, and big gobs of their winter coats falling away in unsightly rags.

Wild horses in the Nevada desert have been having a tough time lately. Locals and government bodies want to get rid of them. Horse fans want to save them. While I’m all for saving horses, no one can call them pretty.

But what we found in the New Forest: this.

glossy homeboys

glossy homeboys

Apparently the locals who have farms edging upon or embedded within the forest turn their horses loose to graze all day. We parked our rented bikes at an entrance to a wide, grassy track and walked a mile or two into the woods. Within a hundred yards we met these guys.

As advertised, they were curious about us but not particularly friendly. Nor did they mug us for our lunch, which surprised me but did not disappoint me. The local apples and Stilton made up the best meal I ate in England for the whole visit.

Continued on next rock…



Old Yanks in the New Forest: ponies — 7 Comments

  1. The New Forest is nowhere near Wales, which is west of England, not south-west (and the New Forest is south-west of London, but it’s in south England not south-west England). It’s about 75 miles from the nearest edge of the New Forest to the Welsh border. The Forest of Dean is the English forest that’s right up against Wales, but it doesn’t have ponies.

    • Sorry, Mike–everything’s so darned close together over there! Even the New Forest is broken up a lot if you look at a close-up on the map. Villages and roads all through it. Compared with any chunk of a western US national forest, with square miles of wilderness unbroken by so much as a logging road, it takes different eyes to see it.

  2. The important thing about a ‘forest’ in English law is that it’s a place of deer, not a place of trees. This can take visitors by suprise – yes, there *are* trees in the New Forest, but that wasn’t its predominant feature.

    I have never heard of anyone turning their riding horses loose in the forest to graze or bringing in their forest ponies at night. (Only foresters – people with specific rights – are allowed to run ponies or cattle in the forest). Exmoor, Dartmoor, many mountain areas in Wales and the Dales all have similar horsekeeping practices, only there they are usually brought closer to the (low-lieing) farm in winter.

    • Well, these ponies were spotless. No dust or mud or a blade of grass on them; no sores, no flies (except one grey horse), no sign that they, you know, lived outdoors 24/7. They all looked freshly groomed and fat.

      This old horse broad has never seen a horse that could spend twenty minutes outdoors without rolling in something, dinging themselves, or getting wet.

  3. Thanks! The Brits do a lot of things differently from our Yank ways. I just returned from my own “literary adventures” there — my husband Thor said we were being haunted by Jane Austen. I’ll hold forth this Saturday on the Book View Cafe blog….