S – A-Z of Commoning and the New Forest
Stock means the animals that commoners turn out on the Forest. The number of animals varies from year to year, but nowadays averages around 7,000. More than half of the animals are ponies, and about a third are cattle. Most of the rest are pigs, with just a hundred or so donkeys and sheep.
Stallions. Special rules apply to stallions on the Forest. They are only let out in late spring, so their foals are born in the following spring when there is more grass available. The rules are part of the ‘Stallion Scheme’ which was set-up to improve the quality of the ponies and to cut-down the number of unwanted foals. The stallions have to be approved before they are let-out, to check that they will pass-on good characteristics to their young. The number of stallions let out on the Forest is reviewed every year.
Ponies that are born to stallions on the Forest are said to be ‘Forest bred’. Ponies are the only domestic animals that breed on the Forest- the byelaws don’t allow commoners to turn out bulls, boars or rams.
Sawmills powered by tractors were all over the Forest at one time. By today’s standards the equipment was very labour-intensive, although it was a huge improvement on sawing by hand. It was dangerous too, with none of the safety features that would be taken for granted now. It’s still possible to see the old equipment put to work at the New Forest Show.