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New Forest ponies with strange tail cuts.

This time of year you may notice the ponies are a little more 'on the hoof' and sporting stylist tail cuts. This is because the new forest is midway through drift season.

This is when the ponies get rounded up by the agisters and commoners on horseback and driven into holding pens. From here the ponies get a health check, wormed and new reflective collars fitted if necessary. Some owners will decide to bring in their ponies to handle before selling on, but the ponies that are being released back onto the forest have their tails cut by the agister to show that the pony has been checked and marking fees (£26 per pony) have been paid. Each agister has their own style of cut and patrol their own beat on the forest, which is another good indicator of where the pony was caught.

Although, it is not often they roam far. Ponies tend to stay in herds in their own area, known as haunts.

There are some ponies who know the round up is coming. It rumbles through the forest like jungle drums that the drift season has started and before long, ponies right across the forest are on high alert and some, often disappear deep into the woods not to be caught, and haven't been for years, but most owners are vigilant about checking their ponies and the agister will know the majority of the ponies on their beat, so not a lot passes them by.

Some ponies can be very crafty and I have witnessed mares teaching their foals how to roll across cattle grids into gardens. Obviously, the grass is greener and its a great hiding place! But this is all part of the New Forest ponies character. Smart, crafty and cheeky!

Please obide by the signs if you see a drift taking place for your own safety as well as the safety of ponies and riders.

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