"Western Morning News"
 Westcountry Horses   Friday November 16 2001

Final pony sale consigns annual event to history

THE final Sherberton Pony Sale at Princetown tomor­row will herald the end of an era for the Coaker family.

For 40 years pedigree Dartmoor ponies have been sold at the annual fair which has become part of local tradition.

Until the 90s it was a main event on the social calendar, with people travelling from far afield to enjoy the entertainment, which always included a bar where old acquaintances could reunite and perhaps buy a pony or some equipment from the preceding tack sale.

But Diana Coaker is retiring from the Duchy‑owned farm. Her son, Anton, is taking over the tenancy and all but 20 of the ponies, and a handful used in the trekking school, will be sold.

“We will carry on with about 20 mares. They’ve been here for a hundred years and you can trace the lines right back, but 1 suppose you might say 1 am semi‑retiring’ said Mrs Coaker.

 Mrs Coaker began breeding the ponies after the Second World War.

“I bought a Dartmoor pony at Exeter market for three guineas and it was branded IC which didn’t mean a thing to me. 1 took her to Exmouth Show and the Coaker family from Dartmoor were there who IM known for sorne time. Old Frank Coaker came up and said, ‘That’s Two Tails.’

“She had been hand‑reared and at one time had worn a skin of a dead foal in the hope that a mare would accept her, hence the name Two Tails,” said Mrs Coaker.

Two Tails was eventually put on the train at Exmouth and met at Princetown by the Coaker family, who put her with a stallion.

“Of course 1 had to go and visit her and ended up courting john for seven years until we got married,” she said.

Mrs Coaker has always run her mares with a stallion in New Takes, a piece of open moorland which is enclosed

Careful breeding has ensured the registered ponies are in demand all over the world. They have proved particularly popular in Europe and the United States and Mrs Coaker says she has flown 47 hours with her ponies.

“The ponies are so good and we find people abroad buy them and then want another for their grandchildren. We’ve used them in the trekking stable and they been successful in the showring.

“They run wild but they will come into the sheds to have the tails trimmed and they come very quickly to be quiet, as they are so used to people.

“And they never seem to forget where they are from. 1 don’t believe horses can think about the past but if you bring thern back into the past they can remember,” said Mrs Coaker.

The sale seals the lid on a slice of history as it passes into the realms of memoty. But Mrs Coaker says the Sherberton line will not die out. “We will always have ponies here,” she said.

The sale commences at Ilam at Sherberton Farm, Princetown and will be conducted bv Sawdve and Harris.