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Stop feeding ponies, urges Official Verderer

MEMBERS of the public and equestrians are putting New Forest livestock at risk by feeding them hay, the Official Verderer has warned.

In an address to the Verderers' Court, Lord Manners said following warnings about the dangers of ponies choking on carrots, some members of the public have now decided it was instead a "good idea to buy and feed them small bales of hay”.

Reissuing a plea not to feed Forest animals in any circumstances, Lord Manners continued: “Feeding such small quantities of fodder encourages ponies to fight for the meagre offering or hang around hoping for more instead of foraging naturally. Such ponies often then lose condition.”

Pony with foal in New Forest (46078796)
Pony with foal in New Forest (46078796)

Problems also arise when local animal owners put out old bays of hay in the early spring and summer, said Lord Manners.

He explained: “Those responsible are often horse-owners who have hay that they deem unfit for their own animals because it is mouldy or excessively dusty, so they think a good way of disposing of it is to feed it to the Forest animals.

"This again risks the health of the animals which eat it and encourages aggression.”

Another danger comes from gardeners leaving out piles of grass cuttings which can then be eaten by animals.

Lord Manners warned: “Grass cuttings heat up when left in heaps. If ponies or donkeys eat that grass, it causes excruciatingly painful colic and the animal often dies."

Reiterating that ponies should get all the food they from grazing, Lord Manners said any animals identified as needing supplementary support would be removed from the Forest and fed by their owners.

He said: “At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I want to stress once again, that members of the public, including residents, should never feed the Forest animals or put out on the Forest anything which the stock may eat.”

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