The Dales Pony is a critically endangered but absolutely fabulous breed from northern England. These ponies typically stand 14-14.2 hands high, but smaller and larger Dales can be found. They are beautiful, friendly, gentle, hardy, and very strong, with great endurance, excellent conformation and lovely temperaments. They are intelligent and easy to train. They are known as “The Great All Rounder” for good reason. They are excellent riding, driving and work ponies. They were originally bred for carrying packs of lead quickly over treacherous mountain terrain. They traditionally worked in groups of 9-20 ponies, working free-headed (not tied to each other) overseen by one person on a pony. They are naturals at navigating the various challenges of trail riding, and thrive on being out and about, investigating their world, and finding solutions to problems. They tend to be very well balanced and comfortable to ride. They tend not to panic in awkward situations. They are used for a variety of riding disciplines now, including trail, dressage, jumping, hunting, Trek, working equitation, endurance, and cattle sorting.
So, why is such a wonderful breed so endangered? The answer is largely because the British Army specifically sought out Dales Ponies to help with the war efforts from World War 1 through World War 2. Sadly, the breed’s desirability nearly led to its demise, because most of the ponies used in war never made it home. Thankfully a handful of dedicated breeders were able to bring the breed back from the verge of extinction.