Photo: Mr Alan Turner, colliery blacksmith at Tareni Colliery c1940 (Alan Turner)
Thousands of horses worked in the mines of South Wales from the 18th century up to the late 1980s, when the last pit ponies working in the Swansea Valley retired from Pen Twyn mine at Godre’r Graig c1983. Tareni Colliery: The Mine, The Miners and Their Communities: A History of a Mining Enterprise in the Swansea Valley tells the story of pit horses at Tareni Colliery as told by colliery blacksmith Alan Turner who made shoes for the horses at Tareni. To most people the term pit pony implies a small strong horse that was used to haul drams of coal out of a mine. That was the case in most of the mines in the UK, even in the Swansea Valley, but at Tareni Colliery it was very different. Alan Turner said that the horseshoes he made were for shire horses, not ponies. Shire horses were employed at Tareni Colliery to haul the drams underground because of the steepness of the roadways in the coal seams underground, which were as steep as a forty-five degrees gradient. No pony could possibly haul one and a half tons or more of coal and dram up slopes of that steepness, but a shire could and did. The pit horses usually came to the surface at
Stop Fortnight, the miners’ annual holiday, when the horses enjoyed fresh grass, sunshine, and fields to run about in – an amazing sight!
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