Annual Pony Drift Sale - Interview with Martin Smith

This years pony sale will be held on Thursday 8th October 2020 at Chagford.

DEFRA recognise the value of these ponies and to that end they have given us the opportunity to manage the sale in a way which is beneficial to the ponies and will make the new owners experience a good one. The Oct 2019 drift sale was run
by FDHP volunteers partnered with the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (an Independent Voice for the Pony Keepers of Dartmoor). Despite complicated administration tasks, the sale was a roaring success. 284 ponies sold on the day for higher prices
than any fetched in the last 20 years.

Martin Smith at ChagfordInterview with Martin Smith April 2020.

  • Q. How did you get involved with the charity and the annual pony auction?
    • A. Bad luck, and purely by accident, whilst my wife was working with Charlotte I happened to have a conversation with Charlotte about the passporting issues and the Pony auction process. Charlotte explained that they have on previous occasions been producing passports until 2 am the following morning after the auction just in order for the buyers to take their ponies away from the auction site. So I got to thinking about how I could improve the process.
  • Q. So what skills did you think you had that could benefit the process.
    • A. I’m lucky that my career in industry gave me skills in planning, finance and project management, bid management and engineering, so was used to solving problems and delivering solutions and getting results.
  • Q. So what did you do to help Charlotte’s problem with the passports for the auction?
    • A. Initially I had to understand the requirements of both DEFRA and the farmers selling their ponies and the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association and learn about a whole new environment/subject and all the issues it comes with.
  • Q. So after understanding the issues with the auction what did you then do. 
    • A. Essentially I redrew the whole process out from end to end on paper to show who, where and when things had to take place. Then I allocated owners for each part of the process, and identified where we needed hardware, numbers of people and where external support would be required. As an outsider I was also able to question why things had to be done a certain way and I wanted to challenge some of the existing ways things had always been done and also why DEFRA needed things to be done in a certain way.
  • Q. So what did you do next?
    • A. Having a better understanding of the process I was able to build a prototype database system that we could demonstrate to see whether we had covered all the requirements, I then presented this to the team (including the Pet ID passporting Office) and once it was agreed it with them, we then wrote to DEFRA in March 2019 explaining how we planned to produce the Temporary Identification Document (TID) with a photo of the pony for the 2019 pony auction at Chagford and provided a detailed process and the plan of how we were going to deliver it.
  • Q. What did DEFRA say to your proposal?
    • A. Due to Brexit negotiations DEFRA finally agreed to the proposal 2 weeks before the auction was to take place, we therefore had to take a big risk that they would agree the proposal. We had no choice but to get on with the job of organising everything before we had DEFRA approval.
  • Q. What were the biggest tasks you had to do for the auction.
    • A. Essentially we were in a field with no electricity or internet connectivity and so we had to build a network of computers, printers and laminators that would all work off a couple of generators. All the PC’s and printers had to talk to each other because each operator had to be able to access the common database which held all the buyers, sellers, pony lot numbers and the microchip numbers information as each pony was chipped. This then generated the one page Temporary Identification Document to which we then had to add the photograph of each pony (printed) for each pony sold. The ponies were coming through the auction process at roughly one every 30 seconds. So no pressure then!!
  • Q. So did it all work on the day of the auction?
    • A. Apart from a few minor technical issues which we overcame it did work and we managed to send off 285 ponies with Temporary identification Documents by the end of the auction and we were packed ready to go home about 17:00 on the day.
  • Q. So it was a big success?
    • A. Yes the auction was, the DEFRA requirement is complex, add in the environment and that several stakeholders needed to do their part, meant the process is not simple. From a Seller / Buyer prospective I tried to make it as transparent as possible so that that once the pony was sold all that was needed was cash from the buyer and the paperwork (TID) was handed over, and the new owner could leave the site. Behind the scenes 3 of us had to work hard for the following 3 days with Charlotte working several more days after to complete the full paperwork pack and send it off to the passport issuing office for the full passport to be generated post the auction and send it to the new owner.
  • Q. So what changes if any are you working on for this years auction in 2020?
    • A. Following the successful auction DEFRA came and visited us as we had proposed some further changes to the passport process. To simplify it and automate it further to enable the previously Temporary Passport to become the full passport for all ponies sold at the auction, to do this we had to agree that the silhouette page would be replaced by a photo of the pony and this was agreed in principle with DEFRA at our meeting.

Helpful Head Collars – Sponsorship

Another big thank you to our sponsors this year, they make such a difference in helping us help those foals which we were unable to home either because of underlying problems or that they didn’t look as pretty or cute, usually turns into a duckling swan story.

It is fantastic that the sponsorship money, whether monthly or annually allows us to take in big groups of foals as the cost of hay, hard food, worming, and bedding would otherwise be prohibitive plus it enables us to add value to the ponies by head collar training them, and getting the colts gelded which makes a huge difference to us finding good homes for them.

Sponsored Gelding Cookie – His sponsor is a lovely lady who lives in Australia. Cookie is currently at a foster home with 2 other little friends, he was a late foal and was so tiny when he came to the farm the sheep were bigger than he was. He has grown in confidence and has become a firm favourite with all the volunteers.

Chagford Sale

Dartmoor Pony Drift SaleWe are happy to confirm that Chagford Drift Pony sale WILL be going ahead on Thursday 8th October.

Please share with everyone!!

Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, getting support for all the ponies on Dartmoor

International Homes

Since last September we have found good homes for 13 ponies in the UK and a further 56 homes in Germany. In total we have exported more than 200 ponies to Germany, where they are much loved and enjoyed. It never ceases to amaze us how brilliantly our new owners overseas manage to train even the most difficult of our ponies and that ensures they will have a happy and fulfilling life. Their patience and success with even the most challenging of ponies is amazing. We are delighted to work with these talented horse tamers/trainers.

Overseas Videos posted onto our Facebook page have shown DHP ponies Liberty training, competing in dressage competitions, jumping and generally making us proud of the ponies and enjoying that the ponies from the hills of Dartmoor are so appreciated.

We must also thank our transporters Parkers International who do an amazing job getting the ponies over to Germany, and to see the ponies getting out of the transporter at the other end looking well, calm and content is a tribute to their care and

Our German friends are paying more than £1,000 for each Dartmoor Hill Pony, which includes all our pretransportation Vet checks, paperwork and the transportation costs, and they are happy to do so as they have recognised their true value, lets hope we can also achieve this closer to home while we still have the opportunityto do so.

Finally thanks must go to Sandra Parlow and her team in Germany to whom we are eternally grateful for all their efforts and time on our ponies behalf.

Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, getting support for all the ponies on Dartmoor

Recognition of the value of the pony herds on Dartmoor is long overdue. That DEFRA has considered this submission and are including a pony element in the Dartmoor Test of the new post-Brexit agri-environment scheme is a reason for celebration.

This is a significant step in securing the future and welfare of Dartmoor’s pony herds through the implementation of a Payment for Public Goods. This submission is backed-up by detailed third party evidence, scientific studies and external reports – and has included input from so many: Commoners Association, hill-farmers, tourism businesses, Dartmoor National Park, Natural England, Dartmoor Commoners Council, Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, breeders of registered Dartmoor Ponies and keepers of semi-wild herds alike and us at Friends, a real reason to celebrate the ponies, living in semi wild herds, alongside cattle and sheep to keep Dartmoor as we know and love it, their future secured.

A real Dartmoor team effort. In order to keep DEFRA, on its toes recognising that the ponies on Dartmoor are valued by everyone.Please sign up to our Dartmoor Warrior campaign to get all the ponies the support they need. The ponies must not be overlooked again or they will no longer be found on the moors.