PEOPLE posing for selfies with New Forest ponies are being warned they are at risk of being badly injured or even killed.
Dozens of photos of visitors getting up close to the ponies across the beauty spots of the forest are being posted on social media, especially Instagram.
But Tony Hockley, chairman of the Commoners’ Defence Association, says people doing that could be badly bitten or kicked by the animal which can weigh over 300kg.
Taking the photos can also end up putting the animals themselves in danger, he warned, as they get used to humans, pester them for unhealthy food, and go nearer to roads.
Dr Hockley told the A&T: “We are seeing more and more of this kind of behaviour because of the popularity of selfies and social media but the New Forest is not a petting zoo.
“Some of these animals have never been handled and can be extremely unpredictable. They have very powerful jaws and legs which can easily badly injury someone, or even kill them.”
Dr Hockley added: “Every year there are several deaths in the UK caused by a kick from a horse. It is hard to understate the danger of getting close to ponies to take selfies with them, or feed them.
“Even more dangerous is getting in among a group of ponies, they can get very aggressive then. Just stay away from all of them.”
The commoners who own the ponies are also getting fed up with their animals being posted all over social media, Dr Hockley said.
He said: “It often interferes with their natural behaviour and the way they feed. New Forest ponies have evolved over hundreds of years to trickle graze – that means they spend all day eating little bits including holly and all sorts.
“We have now found that thanks to people feeding them, often in an effort to get them to come close for a photo, they have stopped grazing and are hanging around car parks and roadsides.
“They only have very small stomachs so being given a large amount of food at once can cause them colic, extreme pain and even death.
“They can also run across roads in an effort to get to food putting themselves at risk of getting run over.
“The commoners are getting very fed up with it all, it is morally wrong. They don’t interfere with other peoples’ animals so why should they come down here and do what they want with ours.”