A SWEDISH-BORN stallion has made a donation to help secure the future of one of the Uk's oldest native breeds. 

Apple's Original, owned by Maddy Buttner from Bristol, donated semen to the Exmoor Pony Society's Gene Bank Campaign. 

“Safeguarding the gene pool for the future is a big and bold undertaking," said Maddy. 

"As a breeder, my interest has always been the underrepresented bloodlines within the breed, hence putting the effort into bringing critical lines back to the UK by importing Original.

“So I’m beyond delighted that he has been chosen to be one of the first stallions to participate in the project. It’s been a real team effort getting him to the donation centre, as the logistics for a free living pony are considerably more challenging than for an in ground one. Thanks to all involved in making it happen because I couldn’t have done this on my own.

“I am so pleased that his genes are going into the gene bank to help safeguard his breed features for the future.”

The society is more than half way to raising the £100,000 needed to fund the campaign, and the semen donations are set to come from seclected stallions and be stored in a gene bank of cryogenically preserved genetic material that could safeguard the breed in the event of disaster.

Nigel Hill, chairman of the Exmoor Pony Society, said that the Exmoor pony if one of the 'most iconic natve breeds' in the UK, and so it is important to safeguard its future.

"As a ‘Priority’ breed according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust they’re essentially endangered," he added.

"In order to reach the minimum quantity to provide breed ‘catastrophe insurance’, ideally 25 stallions need to contribute. We aim to achieve this within two to three years and are actively raising funds to make this possible.”

The 19-year-old stallion is from a private nature reserve in Somerset, where he is a free-roaming conservation grazer. However, he was bred by Louise Rundell at the Apple stud in Vårgårda in Sweden. 

With a history of registered Exmoor ponies exported from the UK to Sweden, notably in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, the Swedish Exmoor Pony Society is a daughter society of the UK parent society and follows the same rules for registration.

Sue Baker, ecologist and a member of the society's scientific advisory panel, said: “Original carries some bloodlines that have become scarce in the UK.  Those interested in increasing the number of ponies carrying these genes realised over a decade ago that importing a stallion from Sweden was crucial.

"So, in 2010 Original was brought to the UK when he was just six years old. In 2013 his first UK-sired foal was born as part of owner Maddy's breeding programme, and his 2023 companion has been confirmed in foal.

"Having been born 'in-ground' at a stud and riding school, he is very easy to handle which is a great advantage for the gene bank project. For obvious reasons, unhandled free-living stallions are not candidates for donation.”

Louise started breeding Exmoor ponies in 1990 and has bred 40 foals, all registered in the EPS stud book. To date nine ponies have been sired by Apple’s Original.

Original was registered as pure-bred in the stud book following an inspection by the EPS as a two-year old, and was also approved by the Swedish stallion judging committee. He went on to win a number of competitions. 

Louise added: "When we were going to the breed show in southern Sweden in 2008 I was told that some people from England were on their way there to look at him. Then I saw it clearly: he was moving on in life.

“He had a greater mission to perform. It is very difficult to let go of something so loved and beautiful. I will never forget the day he left. But I will also never forget the day he met me on Exmoor. I have had the pleasure of meeting him many times on Exmoor since, and we always have our chat and cuddle.

“That he would then be selected and given this important assignment for the future, I could never dream of. It is fantastic. I am so happy, proud and humbled that Original contributed and that we, two-legged, have made it possible.”