A new Pony Discovery Centre opens today at the National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield in Yorkshire.
As well as providing stables for the museum’s three pit ponies and a Clydesdale, the centre will tell the story of the thousands of equidae that worked underground in the UK’s mines and provided transport above-ground.
It features a timeline charting the history of the of pit ponies, who were first recorded as working underground in the 1700s. By 1870, an estimated 200,000 horses were working in mines but this number declined as technology improved.
The Pony Discovery Centre has been part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, via the East Peak Innovation Partnership (EPIP), and will help promote rural tourism while explaining industrial life to over a hundred thousand children each year.
The museum is currently home to Eric and Ernie, two Welsh mountain ponies who arrived in 2007 after the RSPCA rescued them from an abandoned coalfield area, and a blue and white cob called Bud who came to the museum in 2017.
“Our three ponies would likely have worked underground 100 years ago,” said the museum’s horsekeeper supervisor, Neil Beaumont. “Today they are ambassadors for the horses that did live and work in mines across the UK, helping us to illustrate the story of the thousands of horses who were vital to the coal mining industry.”
The museum also cares for Finn, a Clydesdale, who is typical of the type of animal that would have worked above ground on the horse gins transporting workers and coal.