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Powerful stallions spar together in display of dominance

The Konik ponies roam free at the National Trust's Wicken Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire.

Two powerful stallions reared up on their hind legs and sparred with each other in a display of dominance during the foaling season.

A group of the Konik ponies, a hardy breed originating from Poland, roam free at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen reserve in Cambridgeshire.

The grazing animals help to attract new species of flora and fauna to the fen, leaving water-filled hoof prints and piles of dung as they go.

Konik ponies
Konik ponies spar together as the foaling season begins at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

Carol Laidlaw, grazing ranger at Wicken Fen, said: “During the mating season, males can engage in sparring, which is a natural part of their behaviour, it dissipates quickly with very few injuries.

“Horses aren’t territorial, but the lead males of a family group will keep other males away through displaying and sparring.

“At a younger age, males often play fight and nip each other’s feet out from one another, as part of their development.”

She said that while the display looks “spectacular” it is not a common event in herd life, adding: “Horses spend most of their time grazing, sleeping and forming bonds with one another.”

Konik ponies
Konik ponies are a hardy breed originating from Poland (Joe Giddens/PA)

National Trust rangers check the Konik ponies, bulls, cows and calves at Wicken Fen daily.

“The Konik pony is a hardy breed ideally suited to the lowland fen environment,” said Ms Laidlaw. “They are more than capable of withstanding the rigours of life on the fen throughout the year and thrive on the available forage.

“We’d advise people to keep a distance from the cattle and ponies and we also ask that they do not feed the animals as they are used to grazing on the plants that grow naturally on the fen.”

Konik ponies
A Konik pony mare with her foal at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

Wicken Fen is the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve and one of Europe’s most important wetlands, supporting an abundance of wildlife.

There are more than 9,000 species, including an array of plants, birds and dragonflies.

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