Interested in Ragwort? See this page further below for lots of information!
A little message from The 13 Pony Kings of Traprain to all our friends who come to visit us
We absolutely love sharing Traprain with you and its so great to see the look of sheer joy and excitement on the faces of children as they see us - wow!
We do ask just two things from our visitor friends though..... please do not offer your hand to us in any way or food. Traprain provides all the nourishment we need through the ever unfolding seasons and our Band of Volunteers oversee our general well-being. Many human foods are really harmful to us ponies and even pulled grass that humans often like to offer us is actually potentially harmful - because us ponies know how best to "cut the grass" for us to be able to digest it..... touching us with unwashed hands can also cause us problems.
So please - all we ask of you is that you give us a Big Smile when you see us - and know that we are smiling back to you....! Thank you for sharing Traprain with us..... The 13 Pony Kings of Traprain
A Pony Chat of Great Importance
Below is a little story - a "fairy tale with a difference"..... The story starts with youngest MMT Traprain pony Bob seeing his reflection in the summit pond while Whistler and Thistle are standing near him.....
A Pony Chat of Great Importance......
"Oh my! What a handsome chap I am seeing in the Pond, Whistler and Thistle! Could that really be me - handsome Pony Bob?" Thistle and Whistler have a pony-type chuckle to each other - laughing at young Bob's "vanity". They adore Bob - he has brought so much Pony Energy to their herd since his arrival. Whistler and Thistle have had a chat with the herd who have come to the decision it's really time for Bob to understand his ancestry of which they are so proud .....
Whistler says, "Now come on young man, we want to have a chat with you about your ancestry and why we are here on Traprain. Prick those ears of yours up young man - and stop looking at yourself in that Pond! There is a time for Play - and a time to be Pony Serious. Right now its Pony Serious Time". Bob went a bit sulky. He adored looking at his reflection in the pond but has so much respect for his stepdad Whistler and his Play Pal Thistle that he pulled himself away from the Pond - at least for a little while......
Bob and Whistler have a very close relationship; Whistler took Bob "under his wing" when Bob first arrived at Traprain and with the help of the herd - particularly Thistle - taught Bob much of what he knows today.
Photo on right: Whistler left - Bob on right
Whistler begins : "We are descended from the British Hill Pony whose ancestors arrived here, across the land bridge from Alaska, around 130,000 years ago. Humans have an Organisation called "The Rare Breed Survival Trust" who describe us as a rare breed that is endangered." Bob replies, "Oh no! that sounds terrible!" Whistler replies, "Yes, it sounds very dramatic doesn't it - but that’s when our wonderful home of The Moorland Mousie Trust stepped in to help us in 2000. At that time we were critically endangered. Our wonderful Home worked so hard to promote and preserve us - and what a great success story we are today eh!"
“Yes, stepdad Whistler, but why are we here on Traprain?"
Thistle now takes over. Thistle and Bob often play together and Bob adores him. "Ah! now that’s a very good question to be asking, young Pony Bob," says Thistle. There are lots of wonderful reasons why we are here - we will tell you some of the most important ones".
Above: Viper (in foreground) - Viper is of the "Anchor" (Acland) herd. Notice Viper's lovely mane - it often makes me think he secretly perms it...! Really handsome!
Unicorn on the left (can you see a brand?) and Thistle - who is talking to Bob with Whistler in the Story - is on the right.
Bob then says, “Viper tells me he's from the "Anchor" herd. What does that mean though?” “Ah! Another good question Pony Bob. I really like your thinking. You’re enjoying our chat aren't you. The Anchor Herd runs on Winsford Hill. It is known as the Anchor Herd because the ponies - like our friend Viper - have an anchor symbol rather than a brand mark. The Anchor Herd's history really belongs to the famous Acland herd but is often referred to as the Anchor Herd because of the use of the anchor symbol". "Oh, wow Thistle! Viper must be soooo proud!" "Yes," Thistle says, "he is proud, Bob".
Whistler joins in again. "Yes, then of course there are our rather handsome feet. Our small sharp hooves cut into the sward opening up the turf for seeds - and of course we are expert at trampling bracken. You know yourself, Bob, we are fine grazing with other animals and have you noticed how the public love us? Ooooh. We are great natural conservationists, while our good pony friends at the Exmoor Pony Centre - established by our MMT Home in 2006 - enjoy giving rides to visitors!"
"Why are we called ponies, Whistler and Thistle, and not horses - and do you think people will know what we do to ensure we keep warm in winter?" "Ah, yet more good questions, Pony Bob. But this time we are leaving you to answer them..... do a bit of research - see what you can discover...... - it is the best way to learn!"
"Okay, Whistler and Thistle, but why is our Home called The Moorland Mousie Trust?" "I think that one is best left to The Moorland Mousie Trust website to tell you themselves," Whistler says. "Oh no, Whistler and Thistle – that’s not fair! I don't have a computer!!!" "Mmmmmm - tell you what then, we won't tell you today but will give you a clue. There's a brilliant Book called "Moorland Mousie" by Golden Gorse. Our Home at MMT have told us all about it - and the Book is the clue. We'll tell you its story - but only once you have thought about it yourself....."
By now Bob is getting a little tired. He walks to the Pond and stares at his reflection again. "I'm so proud to be part of Whistler and Thistle's herd - they are all such good pals to me and I am so grateful to everyone who loves us so much. Thank you stepdad Whistler and best pal Thistle for helping me learn so much today. I'm giving you one of my Big Smiles now as a Thank You....." "
There are reasons why you will see ponies giving you one of these lovely looks - but in Bob's case its REALLY him greeting you!
Can you see the cheeky way he's looking at the camera too?
Pony Chat from the Traprain Ponies' Archives
Here's a couple of true pony stories that date back to volunteer Liz's 1st year with the Traprain ponies. The stories are based around Whistler (alias Pegasus, Midnight), a pony of great insight and wisdom and who has taught Liz much. Liz is greatly indebted to Whistler for many reasons - some of which will be shared on this website.....
I was reminded of the first story while on Traprain this evening (July 2014) while clearing Ragwort from a large bed of stinging nettles in an area I know the ponies love to roam on Traprain.
Photo opposite : Whistler
Whistler's original (passport) name is Pegasus - a name that well suits him! However, when he first arrived at Traprain he was called Midnight and as Liz got to know him better she started calling him Whistler (Pegasus Whistler) ....so he is a pony of many talents, with great and deep insight - and his many names reflects his wonderful character!
This is a true story below about him :-
True Story - straight from the Pony's (Whistler) Mouth!
It was Autumn on Traprain and some of the butterflies and other insects were waving a seasonal farewell to Traprain. I'd found a lot of ragwort thickly entwined in a large stinging nettle bed so decided to start clearing it, knowing the area was a favourite site for the ponies.
Whistler and his herd were quite close by and Whistler had been watching me while I worked away clearing the ragwort. When I eventually finished clearing it Whistler came and stood right in front of me. Then he pulled up a whole plant, root as well - and held it in his mouth so it lay across his mouth - and he started eating it. Oh yum yum! It was hilarious to see because his jaw and eyes rotated simultaneously with each chew. Until then I had not realised ponies even ate nettles...
Interested in Ragwort?
(If you are not a Ragwort volunteer with the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service but would like to join see this page below for details).
If you have joined the Traprain Ragwort Team as a new volunteer here's some useful tips to remember:
Never ragwort in an area where the ponies are grazing. They are very inquisitive creatures and there are at least 3 ponies on Traprain who will readily try to nibble a green ragwort bag!
Always wear gloves and use your ragwort fork
Never leave your ragwort fork unattended. Some ponies will readily acquire it!
Carry more than 1 ragwort bag as they can sometimes split
Always dig the whole plant out including root. When the plant dies back the toxins go back into the root - and the ponies are root eaters.....
Always press the dugged soil down when the plant has been removed
Always wash your hands asap when you have finished
Know that the ponies Thank You and that you are also helping to promote smaller, more delicate flowers to flourish! This year (2019) Traprain has seen a great increase in the number of beautiful wild flowers, particularly from April through to July, along with bees and butterflies. Nature on Traprain is finding a beautiful "balance" of plants - created by excellent grazing of the ponies and which, in turn, is being enabled through the efforts of volunteers to help the ponies graze safely.
Thanks also to Lothian Conservation Volunteers (LCV) who work - as a group - fast and really efficiently on Traprain each year helping to clear ragwort.
Pony Thanks to all volunteers!
Below : ragwort on Traprain. Photo on the left is broken ragwort laying in the long grasses (now removed!). Photo on right is showing how professional the ponies are at grazing. They have recently grazed this slope but have totally avoided the ragwort. However, it can become damaged by strong winds or people and animals wandering through the area so the ideal is to remove it. If the plant is very strong and sturdy and in an area not used by the ponies frequently Liz will check it regularly to ensure against damage - sometimes leaving it for as long as possible to help "the balance of nature" i.e. butterflies.
But Whistler was really teaching me something here.... Until I had cleared the ragwort from that large nettle bed neither Whistler or his mates would entertain the idea of grazing the nettles.... They knew the poisonous plant was there - so they had need to avoid it altogether. As soon as I cleared it - Whistler - followed by the rest of the herd later - started grazing it. Whistler taught me that if we want the ponies to graze really effectively in turn we need to do our bit by giving them a clean area in which to graze.... Yes, the ponies are true professionals at avoiding ragwort - but if a ragwort plant becomes broken or entwined in nettles, cleavers, very long grasses etc there is a high risk of them no longer recognising the plant..... If an area is high in ragwort in turn we can expect that area not to be grazed effectively..... Whistler proved this at the nettle bed.....
I've also noticed what great conservationists the ponies are. They absolutely adore nettles - the whole plant - but do not usually eat it until the butterflies and other insects have finished utilising the plant. Then the ponies step in and eat it. Last winter that same nettle bed had been completely devoured by the ponies - but this Spring (2014) saw a wonderful new growth of flourishing nettle beds in that same area (west slope) - great for the butterflies and other insects - and great for the ponies in the Autumn because it will be ragwort-free for them to use.
The ragwort plant is a really beautiful plant - but highly dangerous to our pony friends..... it is a great plant for many insects - but is also a prolific plant which can be found in almost any lane. The high activity of butterflies and other insects on Traprain - including sighting of the cinnabar moth that needs the ragwort plant for its own survival, shows that even though Traprain is regularly (weekly) cleared of as much ragwort as possible the balance of habitat for insects remains good. Ragwort is regularly checked in the long grasses (via pony trails rather than treading long grasses causing damage to insect and plant life) particularly for ragwort plants looking weak, broken in order to ensure the ponies are able to graze safely. Whistler's message to me was "Liz, if you want us to graze Traprain really well - you need to do your bit by helping us to graze in a ragwort-free zone!" Over the time I have come to know Whistler I have also come to realise his wisdom reaches far beyond mine.... I listen to his "voice" - and he repays me in the most wonderful of ways.... Our ponies are most definitely true professionals in the art of avoiding ragwort - but they are also truly grateful to us - and show it - by grazing well ragwort-free areas.
It is true that they will avoid all plants that are harmful to ponies - but most plants do not need clearing like the pretty ragwort plant does.... The ponies welcome the pretty ragwort to flourish - much of it grows just outside the walls of Traprain for instance - but the ponies ask the plant "please, you can grow anywhere - but we can't graze just anywhere - so when you see Liz and other volunteers working to take you away from the slopes of Traprain don't feel bad about it - feel good in knowing that you, the pretty little ragwort flower - can do no harm to us ponies if you are helped to leave Traprain for other pastures where both ragwort and insect can flourish in peace and harmony - and without causing harm to your 4-hoofed friends"......
If you have horses or ponies and are unsure about ragwort the most important thing to remember is that the WHOLE PLANT must be cleared - root as well. Never leave any part of the plant e.g. leaf laying on the ground. While the plant is in full flower the ponies will readily recognise it and avoid it. Once the plant is damaged (including being only partially dug out ) they will no longer recognise it - and then it becomes dangerous to them.....Using a proper ragwort fork is always the best option and ensure you have a bag with you to put the plant immediately into so no leaves etc can fall onto the ground. Always secure the bag well as some ponies like to be a bit nosey.....!
Although ragwort is well known for its uses in herbal medicine we always need to show it respect by wearing rubber gloves when working with this and any wild plant to ensure any toxicity from the wild plant being worked is not absorbed through the skin.
Traprain Law is SSI protected. Clearance of Ragwort on Traprain can only be undertaken via the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service. If helping with this scheme is something that would interest you in the first instance please contact Neil Clark at:
(Ranger for Traprain : Laura Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please never attempt to take the plant away yourself as we have strict guidelines to adhere to in its removal and any part of the plant inadvertently left could be potentially very harmful to our ponies - thank you.
The second true story is also from Whistler....
A Winter's Tale.....
If you live in the UK you will probably remember the severe winter of 2012/2013..... I had walked onto the summit one very cold and icy morning (while the ponies seemed to be acting as if it was early Spring....!). As I arrived on the summit I was met by Whistler who walked right up to me - I could tell he wanted me to follow him so we started walking together. But where was he wanting me to go to?..... He walked me straight up to the very iced over summit pond - a pond the herd absolutely love (I call it their local Pub....). "Whistler was saying : "Liz, what do you think about this then? Our pond is totally frozen thickly over. Us Exmoors are a tough lot - but we're wondering if you have any ideas of your own..... You know we love to be independent and "do our own thing" but the ice here this morning is well and truly thick mmmm".....
So I said to Whistler : "Okay Whistler, I can see the problem - but I happen to have brought my spade with me - here's what I will do"..... so I immediately started trying to break the ice with my spade - Whistler studied me deeply.....
Then all of a sudden Whistler decided to walk to the other side of the pond. He stared right across the pond to me - making first of all sure he had eye contact with me - and then he lifted his hoof and started to really thump the ice ha! In the end it was a matter of who was copying who mmmm!
The herd had no real need to use the summit pond that cold morning as they have a great and very flowing water trough at Traprain - but they just happen to like their Pub.....
The ponies also use their great sense about when to drink the water in winter months..... they tend to wait until the Sun has warmed it up for the day......Their natural powers to adapt readily to "the environment of the day" is truly beautiful to witness. They grow their coats long in the winter months - while I'm wrapped up rather like Father Christmas.... and they seem to glide through very thick snow effortlessly - while I tend to frequently get stuck in it.....!
If I see the whole herd suddenly decide to move to a completely different area for no apparent reason - I know its a sign that weather patterns will be changing - frequently within about half an hour of the herd moving away.... nowadays when I see that happen I decide to move area as well as high winds or torrential rain is very likely.....!
More true stories will be given later in the year - one about how our youngest pony Bob was given a strict lesson by older and wiser ponies Whistler and Thistle when Bob first arrived at Traprain.....Ponies have an amazing and beautiful way of teaching each other....
Through the Eyes of a Pony : Whistler's Song
Below are the lyrics from a song Liz of Greenstrings Music wrote for MMT's Charity Concert in 2013. This song will be sung by children at the MMT Concert in October 2016 celebrating the MMT 2016 Competition . The song has been written as if Whistler (alias Pegasus, Midnight....) is singing it....
"Much have I seen, Wonders of Life at my feet
The world in perfect harmony - through the eyes of a pony - thats Love.
The Soul of Earth beneath my feet, The joy of radiant sunshine fills my heart
The dew of each new morning bathes my body oh so bright
While winds sing songs that rustle star fed nights.
Feel the wind through my mane, sense the sweet Soul of Traprain
What more can I ask but that as each new day does past
Humanity will follow Whistler's Way.
My herd it plays in the early morn, our silhouettes they dance to Traprain's form
From the youngest to the oldest - we find joy in each new day
And honour our life - its a pony's way.
The Moorland Mousie Trust it is our Home
They reached out to us in our time of sorrow
We sing to you, humanity - they didn't turn away
But gave us life to sing our Song to Traprain".
Sing to us now humanity, sing to us now, its time to share
Reach into our hearts, feel the Power of the ponies' love
With the dawn of each day - feel our joy".
(c.greenstringsmusic.com for MMT 2013).
"Pony Language" comes in many guises....
On this page Liz will be sharing some great and true stories about adventures of the Traprain ponies - and the ponies themselves will be sharing their stories with you through their photos.
They absolutely love posing for the camera! As soon as they see a camera ..... they stand like satutes patiently waiting for you to click that camera!
"Whistler" who you can see at the bottom of the page shares his thoughts with you on their grazing work in May 2014 and hopes you enjoy reading it!
We even have little friends like this sharing Traprain with us - he's called a Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar and we all reckon he's really cute! Our grazing work is helping to create a lovely habitat for flowers and caterpillars alike!
Below: Enjoying some delicious gorse. We only have little nibbles of it as we always make sure we leave plenty for our insect friends to enjoy!
Here's a few of us having a well earned rest at our Summit Pub after a hard morning's grazing recently!
And here's a few of us taking a sneeky snooze behind the Pub's rocks!
Above: grazing on a lovely sunny evening recently on the west slope
Here we are on the south side where we like to have a quiet stroll.
My name is Whistler from the song shown above on this page) and Liz reckons I'm the wisest friend she has ever known! With my herd I spend many hours in deep contemplation grazing so close to Mother Earth's Heartbeat - how can a pony not be content with the Freedom that our friends of MMT and East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service have created for us - and in turn we see the benefits my herd is creating for Traprain - perfect harmony!
Even a hard working grazing pony has to have Dream Time though.... but look closely and you will see I still have one eye open - just in case our friend the Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar comes along and wants to chat!
The 13 Pony Kings of Traprain wishing you much joy!