The New Forest Drift
The Commoners check their ponies

The New Forest Drift takes place each year, from August to early November. It is when the Commoners of the New Forest National Park conduct The Drift and round up all the New Forest ponies. You can follow my little New Forest foal from his birth and his Blog as he gets older. He was taken away from his mother before the Drift to be weaned. I hope you enjoy this insight into my life as a New Forest Commoner.

The New Forest Drift

The New Forest Drift

New Forest Drift a rider heads out to collect more ponies inRiding off to get another lot!

Please do not attend unless you are a Commoner.

The Verderers have published the following statement for health and safety reasons again this year.


"The Verderers have taken the decision to advise members of the public using the press and this website on the dates and locations of forthcoming drifts to ensure they can are advised and can avoid the areas.

In recent years, more and more members of the general public have been attending the drifts but unfortunately, the ever increasing number of spectators is causing disruption and is interfering with the management of the drifts. If the number of spectators continues to increase, the drifts may well be in jeopardy. The official pony drifts are an essential part of the management of the semi-feral herd and their loss would seriously compromise the health and welfare of the ponies on the Forest.

The drifts are not a spectator sport and unfortunately for the reasons stated above, the Verderers now have no option but to strongly discourage the public from attending. Your co-operation in staying away from the drifts will be greatly appreciated.

Organised Events and the Drifts

Organisers of events in the Forest, such as cycle rides/races, orienteering, rambling, sponsored horse-rides etc., should be aware that the drifts are carried out from mid-August to early November each year. Such activities which take place on the Crown Lands of the Forest are only permitted with the consent of the Forestry Commission (Tel: 023 8028 3141). However, even those events which take place on the public highway may well conflict with a pony drift and the Verderers advise organisers to contact the Verderers' Office to ensure that the drifts and your event are not taking place in the same area, at the same time."

End of quote.

New Forest Drift the New Forest ponies health checkNew Forest ponies in the Drift pound

During the New Forest Drift the Commoners get together on their own able footed horses and take part in the annual health check and marking event round up which is known as The Drift.

They do this as part of the ancient Verderers New Forest rights and laws which have been passed down through the centuries.

The New Forest Drift - what happens and why?

  • Foals are taken away from their mothers so they can be weaned. I've written about this in my New Forest Tales when 2 little fillies share their experiences of weaning with us!
  • You can now follow the whole process of buying a foal and weaning it in my Foal Blog
  • The Agisters, who look after the day to day welfare of the New Forest animals inspect and "mark" each pony.
  • Tails are cut to show at a glance which area of the forest a pony comes from - if they are involved in an accident it is easier to identify them and the area they are from
  • If they have not yet been branded because they are foals or have recently been put out, they are branded with their owners unique Commoners letter
  • All the New Forest ponies are given a health check - if they are thin, weak, unwell or need treatment or attention in any way, their owner will be asked to remove them. They will then have to get them back to an acceptable condition to put back onto the New Forest.
New Forest ponies The DrifRounding up for the Drift pound area
  • New Forest ponies are herded into a small group and sent off towards the Pound. Although concerned, if they had been out on the New Forest for a few years they would be familiar with the Commoners calls and hopefully remember that nothing nasty had happened to them previously
  • The riding skills of the Commoners is fantastic during the New Forest Drift. The ponies try to dodge them, as they would naturally in nature, but the Commoners take it all in their stride,  and do a wonderful herding job!
  • When I attended I recognised many of the New Forest ponies who often arrive outside my cottage and it was good to see none of them were distressed. They seemed happy to wait patiently for what was going to happen next.
New Forest The Drift new Forest ponies in The Pound.The Drift
  • Once the Commoners and Agisters were sure they had done a complete round up then a fire was lit ready for the branding iron and tails were cut in the distinctive markings
  • All the New Forest ponies waiting in the pound were monitored to see that they weren't becoming anxious or that there were any fights or too many kicks taking place. On the forest there is a hierarchy amongst the animals and lead mares expect other ponies who are further down the hierarchy to show respect. 

New Forest ponies in The Drift PoundThe Drift - I know all of the ponies and their characteristics
  • While I was waiting for more ponies to come through I met a Commoner who was taking a mare and foal off the New Forest so that the little foal could be weaned. If they are still feeding from their mums they tend to bring her condition down. A lot of what she is eating goes towards providing good milk. She may get thin and start to lose condition
  • As you can see from these photos all the New Forest ponies in this drift were standing patiently waiting for the next part of the process.
  • I have to say it reminded me why I love horses and ponies but also made me think of the poor live animals we export to Europe every year and the suffering they go through before being killed. The New Forest ponies in this pound and experiencing the Drift were much luckier - most of them were going back onto the beautiful New Forest in a short time.

I hope you have enjoyed my New Forest Drift experiences with me and that it has helped you get a better idea of just one aspect of life within the New Forest National Park and just some of the history and customs that are so vital to continuing this way of life for future generations of people and animals. Find out more about the Verderers and Agisters role in the New Forest National Park.

New Forest ponies in the winter snoNew Forest ponies in a harsh winter

New Forest ponies during a harsh winter. The New Forest Drift helps ensure they are fit enough to face a winter like this.

Ask your New Forest question and get my answer.

Do you have a New Forest question? I'll get you an answer - if I can!

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Can I help? 
I am an experienced rider. I love the horses more than just 'riding ' Would really enjoy having the chance to help. I truly understand why this must …

buying young horses 
I live in France and have an official riding school. I understand that every year young stock isd rouided up for sale. Please would you give me …

Where can one go to see Badgers I the New Forest. We are on holiday here from Jersey and would love to see a badger. Thank you Sadly you will …

Branding Not rated yet
I have a new forest pony but can’t see a brand. Just wondering why? If your pony is a registered New Forester Helen the owner/Commoner may not have been …

New forest ponies Not rated yet
We saw three separate groups of ponies all running in the same direction at the same time today near to Rhinefield. Why would that be? The ponies run …

Videos of the drifts? Not rated yet
Will there be any videos of the drifts? Whilst fully respecting the requested to stay away, it would be lovely to see the riders and ponies in action. …

Foal purchase Not rated yet
Hi im looking to buy 2 foals at weaning from the forest how do i go about this please Hi a good place to start is …

Foals  Not rated yet
When and how can a purchase 2 new forest foals The foals will be taken off the forest from September in the Drifts. If you contact the …

your horses Not rated yet
could I buy one and are they killed if not sold? You can buy a New Forest pony at the Beaulieu Road sales (see details Do you …


Branding iron name plates Not rated yet
From previous visits to the Forest Show, I recall seeing a stand that offered hot branding slices of oak to make name plates for doors. I purchased three …

new forest drifts Not rated yet
Is it possible to help commoners with the drifts? Either as a gatherer helping direct and corra or riding to help drive of an experienced rider? The …

Pony Branding Irons Not rated yet
About 40 years ago many of the branding irons used on the forest ponys were on display in a pub in the forest. My recollection is that the pub stood on …

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I hope you've enjoyed my New Forest Drift info and can understand why it isn't an "event" open to the public in general.

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