The pits for ponies

History of pit ponies

source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend June 29 2002 p97

Horses were first used in underground mines during the 1700s, and were used throughout the 19th century. Numbers dropped in the 20th century after a peak of 70,000 ponies in 1913. There were 21,000 pit ponies in 1947, when the National Coal Board was established, and only 55 pit ponies by 1984. They ceased to be used in 1999, with the retirement of two ponies from a mine near Pontypool in Wales. John Bright is a writer who collected stories for his book 'Pit Ponies', which came out in 1986. Miners believed that ponies could sense danger before humans could, and this is one reason for the strong affection felt by miners for their equine companions. Both miners and ponies had hard lives. Many ponies lived undergound all year, and only saw the sunshine for a two-week annual holiday. Many miners were pleased to see ponies have a better life, when they were no longer used in the mines, but very much missed their former companions.