ANIMAL lovers enjoyed the first ever Exmoor Pony Festival last week.

The event was established by breeders and volunteers and supported by Heritage Lottery Funding from the Heart of Exmoor scheme.

Jason Ball, Heart of Exmoor scheme manager, said: “With safaris, country rides and world class horse agility, everyone had a great time, enchanted by Exmoor Ponies in the moorland landscape.

“People took beautiful photographs and they also took home a deeper appreciation of Exmoor Ponies.

“Events showed the Exmoor Pony to be very intelligent, a popular breed for riding and responsive to trust-based horsemanship.”

Festival-goers spent an afternoon with a herd of Exmoor Ponies owned by Victoria and Chris Eveleigh, author and illustrator of the Katy’s Ponies Trilogy, at their traditional moorland farm near Lynton.

The family fun day included meeting mares and foals, pony stories, games, farm tours and a presentation by Exmoor Pony expert Dr Sue Baker, who appeared on BBC Autumnwatch last year.

Bear, a horse agility world champion Exmoor Pony stallion, at Holt Ball Farm, near Minehead, proved a hit with the watching crowd.

His owner, Dawn Westcott, said: “The positive energy from such an interested and enthusiastic crowd was really picked up on by Bear, who was genuinely interested in them and went along the front row, stretching out to greet people.”

Passengers on the pony safaris toured the dramatic moors and coast and photographed ponies at close quarters.

A pleasure ride with the Exmoor Pony Society rounded off the festival – a convoy of riders crossed Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor.