Since we got our first Koniks nearly four years ago there has been a lot of discussion around the native breed issue and why we are not using native horse/ponies. Before we made the decision to get Koniks we did an awful lot of research as to which would be the best breed for us.

First and foremost we needed an animal that would cope with the very wet conditions that we ask them to put up with. The areas of marsh that we want grazing are so wet that the animals would have to thrive in areas where their feet were under water 90+% of the time.

They also needed to be extremely hardy as they are out all year round, with only a few gorse bushes for shelter. They need to be very good at finding their own food on ground where all commercial breeds of livestock would struggle, and again they need to do this all year round as we do not normally supplement their feed.

Oh, and they needed to be easy to handle for when we have to round them up for vet inspections or move them from one area to another etc. As you can see (above) they are not shy! And, one more thing, they had to foal easily and without assistance.

We took advice from many experts and consulted native breed organisations and the conclusion was that there is not one native breed of grazing animal that fulfils all of these requirements.

Koniks do. The Konik is a breed of pony that originates in Poland from the early 20th century and they are bred to resemble the ancient horse that would have been in this area at the end of the last ice age. So it can be said that all of our native breeds came from horses very similar to the Konik.

The last four years have proven that the expert advice was right – we have had only one foot abscess that needed treating in all that time, we have had eight foals born without incident, and we have only called the vet out once for an unscheduled visit. Our horses are thriving where most native breeds of livestock would starve.

And it’s not only the horses that are thriving. The areas they are grazing on the reserve are thriving too with less soft rush and an increase in flowering plants. This week we have added another five horses to our herd, taking the total to 28 and we’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labour this coming spring and summer.