Ley Hill, Porlock, Somerset: These semi-wild creatures are thickening their coats for winter, but why did this one come so close?
The young colt was surprisingly bold for a semi-wild Exmoor pony. He approached the horses we were riding, clapping his teeth eagerly. This exaggerated mouthing, or “foal chat”, signalled his babyhood and is something all young horses do to their elders until they reach puberty at about 18 months.
He was part of a small group of mares and foals grazing near the summit of Ley Hill, where the milder weather of Porlock gives way to the harsher, wetter climate of the open moor. We had ridden up from West Luccombe, through steep combes sheltered with oaks where it still felt like late summer despite the red berries clotting the hollies. Up on the hill, however, autumn had arrived. Looking across cloud-filled Cloutsham to the purple bruise of Dunkery Beacon, we could hear a red deer stag bellowing in rut.