Drifts in the New Forest National Park.
2020 dates and locations to avoid due to pony round-ups.
The Drift (or Round up) is an annual tradition that is carried out in many areas of the country that have wild or semi-feral stock. It is an essential part of the management of the stock to maintain the health and welfare of the animals.
In the New Forest, the 5 Agisters who between them cover the entire forest area, constantly monitor the animals to make sure they are fit and healthy. Any animal looking poor may be taken off the forest at any time throughout the year and it is then the Commoner's (owner's) responsibility to take it back to their smallholding.
Drifts are organised in the autumn to round up and check on the health and well being of all the ponies. Over 30 drifts happen in the Forest each year with a small area covered at a time. This helps the Commoners, who are the owners of the ponies, to be able to check the animals brought in to their own location and also to help each other.
The Agisters work with the Commoners who attend to ensure as many as possible are 'rounded up'. Not an easy task as New Forest ponies are clever and it is not possible to get each one in. The main aim is to gather the mares with foals. Each pony is checked, wormed , and has its tail clipped to show they have been in, and which Agister has checked them. Each Agister has his own unique cut. Foals are either branded and 'turned back out' or taken off from their mother to be weaned. Every Commoner has an individual brand.
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders please avoid the drifts
Following two incidents in 2012 when members of the public unwittingly became involved in a pony drift, as part of the Verderer's review into safety during the drift season the Verderers decided to provide advance notice of upcoming activities.
Drifts are to be avoided by the public. It is unsafe for people to attend, as the ponies are unpredictable. Although the round-up is a coordinated activity it is not without risk, which is why only experienced Commoners assist with the drifts. Many of the riders on the drifts now wear body-protectors, which lessen the risk of injury to their necks and backs, should an accident occur. The Agisters, who are expert horsemen, also take added precautions and wear the new style air vests that inflate if the rider is disconnected from the saddle.
A spokesman for the New Forest Verderers said: “For their own safety, the public is urged to avoid each area on the day of the drift.”
2020 Drift Dates
Please note: the dates of the New Forest drifts are advertised to alert visitors and road-users to beware. The Public will be asked to move on for their own safety, and that of the animals. The 2020 planned drift days are as below.
More information can be found at https://www.realnewforest.org/about/you-the-forest/ and https://www.verderers.org.uk/news/pony-drifts-2020/