Ongoing research projects include:
About Our Semi-feral Pony Herd
Since 1994, a herd of Shetland-sized ponies have been maintained at New Bolton Center. The foundation herd consisted of adult domestic pony mares and stallions acquired from local farms and auction and simply turned out together in a system of connected pastures with lush vegetation, natural shade and shelter, and ample natural water.
These ponies live continuously and breed at pasture under relatively natural social and environmental conditions. Our research objectives include the detailed longitudinal study of equid physiology, behavior, and well-being under natural and domestic environmental conditions. This herd has also been a valuable educational resource for equine researchers, veterinarians, veterinary students, graduate and undergraduate students worldwide for observation of normal social organization and behavior.
Perhaps the most striking overall observation is that with modest preventive health care, minimal supplementary feeding in deep winter, and almost no other veterinary care or human intervention, these ponies thrive nutritionally and reproduce prolifically. Mares are continually fertile, have very little reproductive wastage or difficulty, with no need for veterinary intervention.
Hoof health remains excellent in most cases with minimal need for hoof trimming or other care. Lameness and colic are almost non-existent. Laminitis has not occurred in any case in the 11 years of the project. We are interested in understanding the factors contributing to their extraordinary good health and fertility compared to similar stock kept under domestic conditions.