A NEW FOREST commoner fears she may have to send one of her best loved ponies to be slaughtered for meat because tourists have made it aggressive by feeding it.
The pony has chased and kicked a couple of people believed to be carrying food and her owner Kathy Clarke has now removed her from the Forest.
“She was a very lovely, gentle well-behaved pony,” she told the A&T. “But she has now developed a habit of searching out people with bags who she thinks have food. When she doesn’t get any, she can become aggressive and has kicked a couple of people.
“I removed her from the Forest because I am very conscious of the safety of the public, but the irony is that it is because of the stupidity of a few visitors feeding her food like sandwiches that she has become like this.
“I wish people would understand that ponies are semi-feral animals. The public need to know that by feeding and petting the animals, they are destroying the environment they come to enjoy. I have seen people actually sitting their children on ponies!”
The pony is currently being kept at home with a stallion in an effort to calm her down and unlearn “unwanted” behaviours.
After that she will be relocated to another part of the Forest which is not visited so frequently by tourists.
“I am hoping she will settle down, but I am worried that if I relocate her she will try to return to where she knows and where she has lived her whole life,” said Kathy, from Minstead. “This will put her in danger because she would be crossing roads.”
If the relocation is unsuccessful and the pony returns to her old haunt, she may continue to behave aggressively towards people she comes into contact with.
“If she attacks someone, it is likely she will be banned from the Forest,” said Kathy. “I would then have to take her to the Beaulieu Road pony sales, and having been banned she would almost certainly go for meat.”
She continued: “I do wish the message about not interfering with the ponies got out more because animals’ lives are being put at risk.”
Kathy made a presentation to the Verderers’ Court about the problem, telling them she was finding it increasingly difficult to run ponies on the Forest because visitor numbers had increased so much.
She said she would like to see existing by-laws prohibiting the feeding of animals on the Forest to be enforced.
Dr Tony Hockley, chairman of the Commoners’ Defence Association, said: “It is very sad when a pony has to be removed from the Forest.
“To ban an animal would be an extreme move, but if it cannot be stopped from being aggressive it would have to be.
“People have to get the message that they need to keep their distance and not interfere with ponies; they are vital for the health of the Forest and other animals living in it. It is a tragedy when one has to be removed from what is essentially its home.”