Redwings Horse Sanctuary has joined forces with a local equine welfare charity, the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP), to tackle the recent neglect and maltreatment of horses on two South Wales commons.

More than 250 ponies have been counted on Gelligaer and Merthyr commons, where little, if any, grazing is now available. The animals also risk injury from burnt out cars and other rubbish.

The condition of the ponies at Gelligaer came to the attention of SWHP in 1990 and throughout the next decade animals were regularly removed by welfare charities acting alongside the police, leading to alleged retaliation against the welfare workers.

One local woman who spoke out against irresponsible owners on the BBC’s Countryfile programme lost her horse after it was mutilated by intruders at her home.

When the pony market collapsed in the autumn of 2001, people living next to the commons bought ponies cheaply and turned them out on the land, despite having no commoners’ rights. These included part-breds who were nothardy enough to cope with the conditions, colts and stallions fighting for territory and in-foal mares still struggling to feed last year’s foal. Attempts by SWHP to educate owners were met with indifference.

Jenny MacGregor of the SWHP says: “We have been campaigning for 12 years to get the Commoners’ Association to make a stand against horse owners dumping their animals on the common, but there is such an atmosphere of intimidation in the area that little has been done.

“We are backed by the landowners, the RSPCA and the police, but there is no one body which has sufficient authority to deal with unscrupulous owners. Ideally, we would like to see all of the ponies taken off the common, but in the meantime we will continue to pick up the pieces. The support of Redwings will be a huge help.”

“The SWHP has done wonderful work in alleviating the suffering of ponies in the area for many years,” says Nicolas de Brauwere, veterinary surgeon for Redwings, “but it needs the support of a much larger organisation. We at Redwings are doing everything we can to help end once and for all the suffering caused to these ponies.”

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