The Exmoor is extremely hardy, resistant to many equine diseases, with great powers of endurance. A small, sturdy breed, it has ample bone, and can carry heavy burdens in relation to its build. It is very sure-footed, and has strong legs and feet with a smooth stride. The head is large, with small ears. The eyes have a "toad-eyed" appearance due to the fleshy rims that serve to divert water. In cold, wet winters the Exmoor grows a double coat, with a soft, woolly undercoat and a longer, oily, water-repellent outer coat. The ponies also have unique hair patterns, including a “snow-chute,” where the hair splays outward toward the dock, channelling the water away from the belly.
Exmoor ponies are usually bay, and they have tan or "mealy" Pangaré markings around the eyes and muzzle. Because similar markings occur in equines other than horses, these markings are considered to be a primitive trait in horses.Entry in the breed registry requires that the animal has no white markings and is not too tall. They usually stand 11.1 to 12.3 hands (1.13 to 1.25 m), with the height limit for mares being 12.2 hands (1.24 m) and that for stallions and geldings 12.3 hands (1.25 m)