Please don’t pet the ponies! Staying safe in the New Forest.

Here’s why you should not feed or pet New Forest ponies and keep your distance as you pass them.

It’s that time of year again, when the New Forest is full of foals and, naturally, people want to get close to admire the beautiful New Forest animals.

The New Forest Roads Campaign is urging visitors to the Forest to pass the foals wide and slow to keep them safe. They are very unpredictable as they find their legs!

By all means, stop and take your photos from a sensible distance, but please don’t attempt to stroke the ponies and definitely never ever feed them. Here are a few good reasons why…

Feeding the New Forest ponies teaches them to approach people. They can become aggressive if they are used to being given food from New Forest visitors. Feeding the ponies or throwing food to them from a car window will also teach them it’s fine to approach cars – and roads. Obviously this is putting their lives in danger. Animals may also fight over food which has been left for them by well-meaning visitors, putting them at risk of being injured, running out onto the roads, or hurting other animals or people.

Not only this, but our scraps of food can also give ponies colic and make them seriously ill, plus feeding them is against Forest bylaws.

Kathy’s story

The New Forest Association recently shared a blog from Kathy Clarke, who has had to remove one of her ponies from the Forest due to it having learned bad behaviour because of people offering food.

Kathy said, “The public need to know that by feeding and petting the animals they are destroying the environment that they come to enjoy. I have seen people actually sitting their children on Forest ponies! They also need to know that in instances like this, visitors are actually condemning ponies to a very uncertain future”.

She added, “I take the safety of the public seriously and have taken my pony home to prevent any more problems. I will now have to try to relocate this pony to a different part of the Forest, away from popular tourist areas but also away from what is her home. I plan to keep her at home with my young stallion for a while, to give her a chance to hopefully unlearn this behaviour”.

If the relocation is unsuccessful, Kathy is worried about the pony’s future. She may try to return to the places she knows, which will put her in danger of traffic, or she could even be banned from the Forest if she continues to seek out food from humans and risk having to be euthanised or sold on, quite possibly for meat.

Stallion season

As we approach the warmer weather, there will also be a number of stallions turned out on to the Forest to breed with the mares. During this time (usually between May-June) New Forest ponies can be very unpredictable and much more likely to bolt across the roads. Drivers through the Forest are urged to #addthreeminutes to their journey by driving a little slower and just being a little more cautious.

We really need to remember that when we visit the New Forest, we are entering the animals’ home and should respect the laws of the Forest – they are there for a reason. Admire the ponies from a distance and if you’d like to learn more about them, the Forestry Commission is hosting a number of events for families this spring and summer, including ‘Wild About Ponies’- a fun and free information session where you can meet a New Forest Ranger and learn about New Forest ponies and other livestock which live in the forest. A great way to educate the next generation of New Forest visitors!


Featured image source: Pixabay

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