The founder of a rescue centre in Wales where six of the last working pit ponies are in retirement has warned that the days when ponies worked down the mines may return.

Roy Peckham, chairman of trustees of Fforest Uchaf Horse and Pony Centre, Pontypridd, says there are several privately owned mines laid up with ponies waiting in fields in case mining becomes viable again.

He says their working conditions were abysmal, with ponies suffering injuries, skin complaints and respiratory problems.

Mr Peckham has campaigned to get the Health and Safety Executive, which was responsible for ponies working conditions, to improve regulations for their welfare but without success.

“They wouldn’t admit there was a problem,” he says. “Itcould start again when coal prices rise again, we’ll be back where we started.”

The six former pit ponies at Fforest Uchaf include 37-year-old Smokey, who is now almost blind. However, he still enjoys life and helps to keep the farm’s youngest resident, a yearling called Luckie out of mischief.