One hot June afternoon, a group of ponies with their foals and yearlings stood on 토토사이트 the edge of a tableland or “plain” in the New Forest. The ground about them was covered with stunted heather and fern, with here and there patches of moss and bare white gravel showing the poverty of the soil.
Beyond the company was a great expanse of blue sky flecked with pinkish cloudlets, and, on the horizon, blue and violet wooded heights, a crinkly contour denoting oak and beech and an evenly serrated line, plantations of firs. As everyone who has journeyed from Southampton to Bournemouth by road or rail knows, a great part of the forest is open heath or moorland; but, unlike the barren wilds of the Highlands, the New Forest has also extensive woods full of gigantic oaks and beeches, while the open ground in many places is becoming choked with self-sown firs.
Therefore, looking into the distance, the masses of woodland largely concealed the open spaces. Emery Down showed on the horizon, the sun fell on the spire of Lyndhurst Church, and in the middle distance a white curving ribbon showed itself as a forest road, before it was lost among the trees.
Below the ponies was a wide valley, covered with coarse grass, and dotted with hollies, gorse and stunted firs. The mares had chosen the hill for their afternoon siesta because up there were fewer flies and biting torments than down below in the swampy bottoms, where, earlier in the day, the ponies had been feeding. They stood mostly in pairs, head to tail, so that the swish of the latter drove the flies from their noses and flanks. Once in a while, a yearling—that is, one born the previous year—finding the sun too hot, butted in between the mares.
The foals or “suckers” lay half-hidden in the heather, wandered here and there nibbling at the herbage, or drew nourishment from their mothers. These varied greatly in colour and size. The tallest was a black mare with the graceful lines of the racehorse, as well there might be, seeing she had some of the blood of that breed in her veins. Next her stood an old white mare, bleached with age, for, while the forest ponies exhibit the usual equine diversity of hues, there are none all white. In her prime she had been a grey, perhaps a beautiful pearl grey with a few darker dapplings, like her neighbour, a young mare with her first foal, black of coat except for a white forehead blaze and fore-foot. Close by stood, and dozed, a chestnut mare with a mane and tail of pure gold, or so it seemed in the sunshine. There were also bays, with black manes and tails, but the commonest colour in the group was a dark brown. It was noticeable that most of the foals were darker in colour than their mothers.
Standing by themselves were two dingy brown ponies, a mare and a two-year-old, shorter of leg than the other adults. Their necks showed little of the arch of a well-shaped animal—indeed, both ponies were almost donkey-like in shape, with hollow backs, drooping bellies, and “cow-hocked” hind-legs. The mare had a beard hanging below her chin.
Almost their exact counterpart, even to the beard, had been set down, ages before, in the wall-paintings and drawings scratched on bone of the old Stone Age. These two, one might suppose, were throw-backs to the old forest pony, which was hunted, or possibly domesticated, by the men whose remains were interred in the mounds dotted over the forest. Indeed, close by stood a great tumulus, and some way off was a group of nine mounds, big and little, like parents and children.
Of the other ponies, several showed the attempts at improving the breed practised of late years. One had the short leg of the Exmoor pony, another the tiny ear of the Shetland, others the shapely line of the polo and even of the Arab, for at one time or another all these, and others, have been used as sires. In some cases the importation threatened to improve the race off the forest altogether. It is no land of milk and honey, for the green pastures and lush spots are not in themselves extensive enough to support the stock of ponies, and only those which can exist on the coarse tussock grass, the sweet but prickly shoots of gorse, and the astringent heather tufts, are sure of surviving. Also a good proportion of the ponies stay out in the forest all the winter; and though snow does not fall frequently or lie long in this locality, yet the weather is often colder than in the Shetlands, where the little pony of the far North, his ears buried in his shaggy mane, and a doormat-like thatch on his back, winters without difficulty.
But here, at the other extreme of Britain, if there come a long spell of bleak wet weather, and especially if sharp frosts intervene, the younger ponies are likely to suffer, and a man, seeing his neighbour’s yearling looking “seedy,” will think it his duty to inform the owner, who, unless careless and improvident, will have the creature “caught in,” and give it shelter and food.
Perhaps the most striking in colour of the group on the hill was a chestnut mare, of that rich hue known as “liver” chestnut. In the sun her coat flashed bright orange-red, while by contrast it appeared deep purple in the shade. Her foal at the moment was lying in the heather, out of sight. When at length he arose, one saw why he could lie hidden so completely, for he was so small and evidently had not long been born. Compared with the other foals, which were now well grown, though still leggy, the colt seemed absurdly disproportioned, and with his big head, long ears, and bent hind-legs looked, apart from his colour, more like a fawn than a pony in the making. His body was so meagre that it seemed merely a connecting-link between his fore and hind quarters. As he stood up he swayed to and fro. His little napping tail looked exactly like the strip of goatskin nailed on to form the tail of those wooden steeds which were being made, not so far away from where the ponies stood, in the toy factory at Brockenhurst.
But the interesting thing about him was his colour, for he was a “skewbald,” patterned boldly in chestnut and white. Nearly all the other foals were dark, and it was as yet almost impossible to foretell their exact adult colour. Alone among the youngsters, the skewbald foal showed what his coat would be like when he was full grown. Although so young, he possessed the agility of young creatures which have no period of sheltered repose, unlike fledglings in the nest, or the young fawn hardly able to stand, and hidden by its mother while it gathers strength. In his way the foal was as nimble and alive as young partridge or lapwing chicks. He trotted to his mother, took nourishment with the curious twisted neck characteristic of the attitude of a foal when feeding, and relapsed from sight among the heather.