A new tourism initiative aims to protect threatened Welsh mountain ponies by giving them new purpose – offering trekkers a wild experience
From the moment we began ascending the hillside I could tell my walking companion, Suze, was nervous. Beneath her long ginger fringe her eyes were wide, on high alert. After years of solo hiking, I was feeling a little apprehensive, too. Would we get on? Would she refuse to walk the distance? Would she be happy carrying all our kit?
Suze, I should mention, is a pony. But not just any pony. She’s one of a semi-feral herd that has roamed the mountainous regions of Wales since as far back as 1600BC. Said to be relatives of the prehistoric Celtic breed, Welsh mountain ponies were traditionally used to transport goods to market, plough fields and work as pit ponies in the mines, not for riding. Their once widespread use is the reason thousands of miles of bridleways were cleaved across the countryside, creating a network of rights of way that exist to this day.