DOZENS of ponies have been removed from the New Forest after persistent wet weather caused them to lose too much weight.
The animals, which are all owned by commoners, will be kept in holdings and given supplementary food until the weather improves and spring grass begins to grow.
Head agister Jonathan Gerrelli confirmed that a higher-than-usual number of animals had “lost condition” this winter, forcing their removal from the national park.
He said: “We have removed quite a significant number of ponies this winter. It has certainly been the worst year for a few years.”
Every year the agisters remove a number of ponies from the Forest during the winter months if they are deemed to have lost too much weight.
Mr Gerrelli explained: “The ponies are semi-feral so it is quite normal for them to fatten up in the summer and autumn months and then lose some of that weight during the winter.
“But this year with the extremely wet weather it has been pretty tough out there.”
“We monitor their condition continuously and if we feel that they have lost too much weight we ask for them to be removed to a holding where they will be given supplementary food until their condition has improved.”
Mr Gerrelli explained that with extra food the ponies put on weight quickly, usually returned to the Forest in around eight weeks.
He added: “If anyone sees an animal they are concerned about they can always report it to the verderers’ office within working hours or call the Forestry England 24-hour hotline and the agisters will go out and take a look.”
“We just need some sunshine now to dry out the ground. Once the spring grass begins to come through, the animals will put on condition very quickly.”
Anyone with concerns about the condition of an animal can call the verderers’ office on 023 8028 2052 or the Forestry England 24-hour helpline on 0300 067 4601.
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