A run-in with wild ponies on the Gower peninsula, Wales

A run-in with wild ponies on the Gower peninsula, Wales

“Although ponies may appear docile you should always track these animals from a distance.”

Oops.

These wise words appear on the National Trust website, as a warning about the mountain ponies of Wales.

These hardy, rugged creatures have been evolving since Roman times. If you’re lucky, these days you can see them on the Brecon Beacons, as well as parts of Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia. They might look like regular ponies, when you see them in their multi-coloured herds of muddy greys, chestnuts and tans. But centuries of harsh Welsh winters have helped keep them tough, and woe betide anyone who approaches a herd containing youngsters……

wild ponies

The Gower was designated Britain’s first Area of Natural Beauty in 1956, and it’s kept its naked charm. When we stayed on the Gower Peninsula, we decided to take a trip to the Gower Heritage Centre. This involved a rumbledy drive over a cattle grid, then out onto gorse-strewn heathland. The heath’s mossy, close-cropped grass was peppered with sheep’s droppings, and an occasional heap of horse dung. Aside from a handful of traditional stone cottages clustered around its edges, the heath felt lonely, and wild. The only sound was the whistling of the wind, and the cries of ravens and choughs.

Gower

Gower

When we saw the ponies, I should have known better than to stop the car and get out to take pictures. I grew up on Black Mountain, not far from the Gower, and with the mountain as my playground I was dodging wild ponies until we moved away the age of ten.

Trying to ride a wild pony is dangerous

My friend’s older brother had injured his back while playing a game of ‘Welsh rodeo’ with the ponies. The mountain cobs are small – they used to go down the coal pits as working ponies. It’s relatively easy to mount one, but staying on is another matter. The ponies my brother’s friend tried to break in did not take well to a group of young teenagers attempting to ride them – and my friend’s brother did well to escape with just spinal bruising, when one of the ponies threw him off its back.

wild ponies

The herd of eight or so ponies that we encountered, grazing close to the road, included a foal. This cute specimen was my cue to get out of the car and take pictures. But after a few minutes, a rain-sodden grey mare decided she’d show me who the Gower heathland really belonged to:

Hard. As. Nails.

wild ponies

wild ponies

Have you ever had any encounters with wild animals?

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wild ponies

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26 Comments

  1. June 22, 2017 / 6:14 pm

    They are certainly a hardy breed, I used to have a welsh pony and he was a little monkey, I regularly used to end up on the floor! And he was supposedly tame…

    • Nell
      Author
      June 23, 2017 / 11:26 am

      Ah yes, they’re full of character, aren’t they?

  2. June 25, 2017 / 11:17 pm

    Oops! Bless her though, she didn’t seem to mean you any harm, just getting rid of you. We get down to that area a lot as my husband is from there and I always enjoy seeing the ponies roaming free.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      June 26, 2017 / 8:18 pm

      Ooh, we’ll have to compare notes some time. I’m from that area, too!

    • Nell
      Author
      June 29, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      It really is. x

  3. June 26, 2017 / 10:00 pm

    I had a similar experience in the New Forest – very warily keeping our distance from a young foal. We did spot a few of the ponies when we were on the Gower earlier this year, but from a further distance (and a bit more drizzle) so stuck to oohing and aahing through the window. It is rather lovely to find them living wild though, especially these days.

    • Nell
      Author
      June 29, 2017 / 8:42 pm

      Yes, and the Gower’s relatively small, as a territory. It’s great they’re still able to roam free there.

    • Nell
      Author
      June 29, 2017 / 8:43 pm

      Thank you!

    • Nell
      Author
      June 29, 2017 / 8:44 pm

      Enjoy Wales, Sam!

  4. June 27, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    Haha! I bet you’d still do the same again next time though!

    • Nell
      Author
      June 29, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      Do you know, I think I probably would…..

  5. July 1, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    I do love watching wild ponies from afar. We see them in Dartmoor when we go over there for a drive, just to spot them 🙂 Such beautiful wild creatures #countrykids

    • Nell
      Author
      July 3, 2017 / 6:59 pm

      Yes, I like the fact that they’ve been around for centuries.

  6. July 1, 2017 / 5:14 pm

    It sounds beautiful there and I am always trying to get my son to go exploring from Cardiff University as I always hear lovely reports of the landscape. The ponies look so wild and beautiful and very like our moorland ponies in Cornwall. I’ve loved watching their tummies swell over spring and the little foals now scampering round with their mothers. I am usually on my bike and as you say admire them from a safe distance. One day I will get to see the ponies around the Gower too.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    • Nell
      Author
      July 3, 2017 / 7:01 pm

      That must be a beautiful sight, down there in Cornwall!

  7. July 2, 2017 / 10:00 am

    It looks beautiful, and so do the ponies.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 3, 2017 / 7:18 pm

      They really were.

  8. July 2, 2017 / 11:33 pm

    Wow there is something very magical about the wild ponies of the Gower and what a lovely experience to come across them and yay for coming over the bridge to Wales (where I live 🙂

    Just popping over from Country Kids
    Laura x

    • Nell
      Author
      July 3, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      I used to live there too! My Mum still does, so we regularly come over to your neck of the woods. x 🙂

  9. July 3, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    My earliest travel memory is camping on the Gower and hearing the ponies hooves going past at night. There is something charming about them living wild on the beaches. We’re off there ourselves in September so I hope we see some!
    #Countrykids

    • Nell
      Author
      July 3, 2017 / 8:47 pm

      We’re off in July, so I’ll let you know how it is!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2017 / 11:02 am

      Hope you see them!

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