The Section B Welsh Pony has been added to the new Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) Watchlist published today (Wednesday 17th April), following a marked decline in dams registering progeny.


One of the four types of Welsh Pony, the small but spirited Section B was for many generations the main transport for shepherds and hill farmers and today excels as children’s riding ponies. With a sustained decline in dams producing registered progeny (from 1044 in 2009 to below 400 in 2023), as of today it is now classified as rare. The Section B’s addition to the At Risk category in today’s Watchlist means the breed will receive increased support to help secure a thriving future.


The RBST Watchlist 2024-25 shows which of the UK’s equine and livestock breeds are now the most urgent ‘Priority’ concerns, which remain ‘At Risk’, and which are currently non-rare native breeds. It reflects robust measures of the genetic diversity within each breed as well as the numbers of breeding females registered. With the addition of the Section B Welsh Pony, there are now 13 native equine breeds categorised as rare. See the full list attached or at


RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “The RBST Watchlist process helps us to pick up on concerning trends early, such as the marked decline in Section B dams. The Section B Welsh Pony is a fantastic breed, really intelligent and adaptable, well suited for children but also at home in the show ring or driving. Its addition to the Watchlist today is the start of an increase in activity in collaboration with breed societies, conservationists, farm parks and the wider RBST membership to help reverse this decline.”


Today’s new RBST Watchlist brings positive news for the New Forest, Dartmoor and Exmoor pony breeds.

  • The New Forest Pony breed (currently in the At Risk category) is performing very well, and if current trends continue the breed could move out of the rare categories in the coming years. There have been ponies in the New Forest since the end of the last Ice Age, and the contribution they make to the forest environment and biodiversity is crucial. These ponies became famous for racing in the 19th Century, and today they are a popular choice for pony club and riding club all-rounders, for both adults and children.
  • The Dartmoor Pony has recorded stable numbers in 2023, reinforcing the positive trends and genetic diversity improvements that saw the breed transition from the Priority category to the At Risk category on last year’s Watchlist in April 2023. Dartmoor ponies are a great breed for grazing poor quality forage, as well as making ideal ponies for young riders thanks to their steady temperament.
  • The Exmoor pony (in the Priority category) has seen a welcome improvement with the number of dams increased by 28% from 2022 to 2023. Small and extremely hardy, these intelligent and adaptable ponies are fantastic for conservation grazing as well as for riding. This very welcome improvement in the breed’s situation follows decades of conservation action including a ground-breaking genomic analysis project which completed in 2022.


Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “The improvements for the New Forest, Dartmoor and Exmoor pony breeds reflect the breeding programmes and conservation activities of the past few years, which have delivered strong successes despite the severe challenges that breeders and owners have faced during the pandemic and in the current difficult economic climate. This good news is testament to the dedication of all those working with rare breeds, and the growing appreciation among keepers, riders, land managers and the public that our native equines are great, versatile breeds for modern times.”


However, today’s new RBST Watchlist also reflects continued concerns about a number of other native equine breeds. Three of the UK’s native equine breeds have an ‘Effective Population Size’ (which is a measure of genetic diversity within the breed, not a population total) of below 50 which is a worrying milestone: the Cleveland Bay horse, Suffolk horse and Eriskay pony. The Hackney horse & pony is close to this level. All of these breeds remain in the Watchlist’s Priority category.


Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “The Cleveland Bay Horse, Suffolk Horse, Hackney Horse & Pony and Eriskay Pony remain among the most vulnerable of the UK’s native breeds, requiring the most urgent action. We continue to work hard for these and all our rare livestock and equine breeds through scientific research, application of the latest conservation tools and techniques, supporting crucial networks for breeders, and promoting these breeds and their fantastic qualities for today and tomorrow.”

(Image provided by the WPCS)