ANYONE wondering why there are ponies out on Dartmoor this autumn with green paint on their manes might be interested to know that it has in fact nothing to do with Halloween.

They are in fact part of a mare contraceptive scheme which is being run on the moor by the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, who are working to regulate the number of pregnancies among the mares to make sure that those that are born will be wanted and loved .

The use of the green dye this year will enable those running the contaceptive scheme to easily locate the mares when they are due for their next shot of the contraceptive drug after 23 weeks, almost six months. This is administered painlessly and conveniently by members of the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony.

Charlotte Faulkner, who runs the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony and its sister organisation the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, explained that the contraceptive scheme, which her organisation has been running for more than five years on the moor, was an alternative to taking stallions off the moor altogether.

‘‘We feel very strongly that semi-wild ponies should live in normal family groups with mares and stallions running freely, she said.

‘The stallions stop the mares wandering too far and keep a herd leared to a particular area of the moor.

‘We need livestock, including the ponies, eating on Dartmoor to preserve the ecology and help to stop certain plants taking over, it is not by accident that Dartmoor is such a wonderful beautiful are full of rare flora and fauna because of the way the moor has been managed over the last 4,000 years by man using ponies cattle and sheep to create the habitat of so many different plants animals and insects.

‘The contraception scheme controls the number of foals born to these family groups, keeping numbers within the range that can be sold to good homes and reducing the need to cull.

‘We managed to find virtually all the mares we needed to give a booster contraceptive to, despite not having people on the ground to tell us where they had seen the ponies we were looking for.

‘This year we are looking at 99% efficacy of this project with the help of some green dye.’

She added that the mare contraception scheme had been well-received by those hill farmers keeping pony herds who have put mares on the scheme. ‘It allows them to keep the herd’s number of foals to fit the market for selling them,’ she said.