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Where to Spot the New Forest Ponies in Hampshire

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise! Well to be accurate it is a forest, and you won’t spot bears, but you will find New Forest ponies.

I have been visiting Hampshire for many years and still think one of the best things to do in the New Forest is to drive through and see the free-roaming, wild ponies. And if you visit in Spring, you may witness the “Bambi legged foals” learning to become part of the herd. However, never come between a mare and its foal; view from a safe distance.

The ponies roam freely around unspoilt woodland, heathland and river valleys in the New Forest National Park and help to keep the landscape and rare species in good order by grazing on the land.

And it won’t take you long to spot one of the 5000 ponies as they will either be happily grazing on the moorland or walking aimlessly down the high street (yes you read correctly). They have lived in harmony alongside their human counterparts for over 2000 years and are not phased by visitors stopping for photographs or the hustle and bustle of cars and people on the high street.

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Three Ponies Grazing on Grass

Are The Ponies Really Wild?

They are classed as free-roaming or wild but are owned by 700 “commoners”; people from the farming community who have the right to turn out livestock; ponies, cattle, and donkeys into the forest. Common rights have existed since the creation of the New Forest by King William I (the Conqueror) in the early 11th century.

Another “common right” is to be able to turn out pigs in the autumn, in the period known as “pannage season”. Around 600 pigs feed upon fallen acorns, chestnuts and other nuts which are toxic if consumed by the New Forest ponies, deer and cows. This symbiotic relationship means the pigs are fed, and the ponies and other animals remain safe – proof of nature working in harmony with one another.

A White New Forest Pony

Who Looks After the Ponies?

Verderers” are forestry officials who determine the Common Laws and control their execution. The role was developed in the Middle Ages to administer forest law on behalf of the King. Verderers call upon “New Forest Agisters” who assist them each year when the ponies are rounded up in what are called “drifts”.

Over thirty of these New Forest drifts take place each year giving the “Commoners” (pony owners) a chance to check the health of their animals, wean and handle the foals and put on new reflective collars so ponies can be seen on the roads at night.

At this point, the commoner may want to sell his pony and take it from the forest. Ponies that are sold unhandled, straight from the Forest, generally do not fetch much money as they are semi-feral and unmanageable and commoners often take them home for handling before a sale.

If a pony is to be released back into the wild following ‘the New Forest Drift‘ their tail will be cut by the agister, as confirmation that the owner has paid the year’s fee for the right to graze in the forest. The cuts vary in style to show which forest agister is responsible for each pony.

What Are The Ponies Characteristics?

Hardiness, intelligence, and strength are qualities for which New Forest ponies are valued. Being between 12 and 14 hands high (122 – 148 cm) makes them excellent riding ponies, and they are often used in gymkhanas. They are most commonly, grey, chestnut or white in colour and have a long head, short neck and back and strong hindquarters.

Can You Feed the Ponies?

Admire them from a sensible distance and don’t be tempted to stroke or feed them as this could land you in trouble. Feeding the New Forest ponies in a big “NO NO” as they are wild and as such are dangerous; one kick could seriously injure you. If you are caught feeding them a £200 fine and a criminal record will be served out to you. Touching or petting the ponies is totally forbidden, and an agitated pony will have his ears back against his head. If you see this, make sure you move away swiftly as the ponies can move very quickly.

Where To Find the New Forest Ponies?

Everywhere is the answer! You won’t have to search for them too long as they are evident all around. Drive through the New Forest, and you will see them gathered together grazing on the moorland or close to the New Forest villages.

A black and white horse outside a wooden barn in the New Forest

The best places to spot new forest ponies are:

Beachern Woods and Horseshoe Bottom in Brockenhurst

Hatchet Pond in Beaulieu

Abbots Well and Godshill in Fordingbridge

Boltons Bench in Lyndhurst Village

Burley Village (also famous for witchcraft!)

Map of New Forest Pony Hot Spots 

Do I Need a Car to See the Ponies?

Driving yourself is the best way to see them. The speed limit in the New Forest is 40mph, but common-sense will tell you when to slow down. If you don’t own a car, you could hire one from Europcar or book onto a New Forest Bus Tour.

Please park carefully on the grass verges and watch the ponies go about their everyday business from a distance; it is a magical sight to behold. Make sure you have your camera at the ready for some incredible shots.

If a pony starts to make its way towards you, then move away; they can bite as well as kick!

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Can I Get to the New Forest By Train from Central London?

New Forest National Park has a major rail line running through it stopping at several stations Ashurst, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst and Sway. From London, the journey takes 90 minutes, making it possible to explore the New Forest in one day. A lovely way to get around the forest is on two wheels from the bike hire shop in Brockenhurst near to the train station.

The New Forest Code

The nine ways to help keep the New Forest safe:

  • Keep your distance from the animals – don’t feed or touch them.
  • Take home litter and dog waste.
  • No fires or barbecues.
  • Keep dogs under control. Don’t let dogs approach or chase any animals.
  • Park only in car parks
  • No wild camping.
  • Stick to the permitted cycle tracks.
  • Drive with care – animals on the road!
  • Help wildlife by keeping to the main tracks.

Are there Other Animal Encounters in the New Forest?

You can enjoy quite a few other animal attractions in the New Forest. From the Deer Sanctuary at Bolderwood to the Reptile Centre in Lyndhurst, there is something for all the family.

Luxury Hotels in the New Forest

There are plenty of beautiful hotels in the New Forest if you want to stay the night. I have listed some of my favourite luxury hotels with links to pricing and availability.

Limewood Hotel – an upscale boutique hotel located just outside the village of Lyndhurst. Beautiful interior design and a restaurant run by Angela Hartnett and her team. I have stayed here on several occasions and love its manor house meets chic boho vibes.

The Pig – a modern twist on a country-house hotel, with a relaxed, laid-back feel, effortless grandeur and incredible local produce.

Carey’s Manor Hotel – A charming manor house, amazing restaurants & the award-winning Senspa.

Montagu Arms – 18th-century manor house hotel offering a cosy homely feel in a picturesque setting.

The Master Builders’ House Hotel – Set on the banks of the Beaulieu River within New Forest National Park, this hotel offers an AA Rosette restaurant and luxurious rooms.

Rhinefield House Hotel – this uber grand 19th-century country house features a spa, swimming pools, ornamental gardens and fine dining.

And the hotel featured below is the beautiful Burley Manor which comes complete with a herd of deer on the estate!

Looking for somewhere Unique and Quirky to Stay in the New Forest? How about a Shepherd’s Hut for Two in the nearby village of Fordingbridge. Or maybe a former working dairy barn in the village of Bramshaw?

And if you fancy a trip to the seaside while you are in this neck of the woods – excuse the pun – you can visit Hengistbury Head, Christchurch, Mudeford and Bournemouth all just a short drive from the ponies in the New Forest.

Beach Views from Henigstbury Head
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About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Medha verma
4 months ago

Interesting to know that you can see these wild and free ponies roaming around freely but it’s not safe to touch or feed them. It’s good that they’ve imposed a fine on that too, for people’s own safety. Nevertheless, it must be quite the sight to watch!

4 months ago

The ponies look so cute and friendly, they seem to love their home Hampshire. I was somehow reminded of Animal Farm on reading about the feed given to the pigs, albeit to keep the ponies safe. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Last edited 4 months ago by aradhana
4 months ago

Its a good advice that we should never feed the wild animals even when they are as cute as the ponies. Thats great to know that there are around 5000 ponies in the area. I have never been to Hampshire before but I would love to go there especially to see these amazingly looking ponies. I love to take pictures of them.

Ha Truong
Ha Truong
4 months ago

I’ve seen ponies up close in Iceland, and totally love it! Would love to visit New Forest and see some too. With more than 5000 in the area, it won’t be too difficult. Good to know that you can also take New Forest Bus Tour if you don’t drive.

Reply to  Ha Truong
4 months ago

I have also seen the Icelandic ponies – they are smaller and more stocky than the ones in the New Forest. A tour is a good way to see everything the forest has to offer.

4 months ago

I love wild ponies, but I haven’t seen too many of them, so it’s perfect to know that I can spot them in New Forest in Hampshire. You provide lots of tips. It’s awe-inspiring that there are 5000 ponies in the area. I haven’t know the word “Commoners” and “Verderers” and their story, so I learn a lot from this article. I love to photograph animals, but I don’t try to approach them or feed them. I always keep a safe distance.

Reply to  Agnes
4 months ago

There are plenty of great photo opportunities in the New Forest – I am sure you would enjoy it.

Ummi Nadrah
4 months ago

The only time I’ve seen ponies up close is at the petting zoo, and it’s always a joy to feed and play with them. I’ve never seen or heard of wild ponies before. If I didn’t know any better, I would probably have thought they are just as tame, so thanks for the heads up. Good to know you could rent a bike here.

Reply to  Ummi Nadrah
4 months ago

I think you would love to see them roaming about the New Forest. They are a joy to watch.

Linda (LD Holland)
4 months ago

I don’t think I have ever found wild ponies. So I would definitely plan to head out in Hampshire to see the New Forest ponies. With 5000 grazing in the area, I would be sure to get my fill of this sight! But I would keep my distance and not try to feed them. Certainly out of kicking or biting distance.

Reply to  Linda (LD Holland)
4 months ago

I too am wary of horses but to see them grazing in the New Forest is wonderful. Always advisable to stay a distance away from them.

4 months ago

What a lovely place. To be honest I am a little bit afraid of horses, but actually the free roaming “wild” horses seem less threatening, because they keep their distance. Taking the train and renting a bike would be a perfect solution for me.

Reply to  Natascha
4 months ago

We have rented bikes and cycled through the forest – it is quite magical when you glimpse a pony or deer just grazing.

10 months ago

Oh man, I would love to go there and see the ponies one day. I’m a huge horse person and seeing ‘wild’ ponies is something that would be awesome to experience. I like that you included the best place to spot them.

Reply to  Sarah
10 months ago

Glad you liked it The New Forest really is a magical place and even though I’ve been so many times I always get so excited when I see the New Forest ponies!

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