Pictures of a Dartmoor foal with a bag of dog poo stuck in its mouth have gone viral – but this is just one example of a widespread issue.
Pam Clifford, who volunteers with the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony group, was checking this year’s youngsters on the moor on 14 May as part of the Dartmoor foal watch initiative.
She told H&H she photographs the foals as part of the project, and posts them online, which can help find them homes after weaning.
“I’d taken one picture of the foal lying down, then went to take one from another angle, turned round and thought ‘oh my god’,” Mrs Clifford said.
“I went back across and tried to get hold of the bag but he just went zooming off. I tried my best but there was no way I could catch him, so I got hold of the local pony keeper, who lives nearby, and she came out and got the bag out of his mouth.”
Mrs Clifford was unable to get close enough to the foal to check, but believes the bag was stuck as it was still there when the keeper arrived.
“It could have been fatal if he’d swallowed it,” she said.
“But it wasn’t just that one; the keeper picked up about 14 other bags of poo while she was there.”
Mrs Clifford said walkers’ leaving bagged poo behind is a major issue locally.
“It’s not just up on Plaster Down, it’s all over,” she said. “There’s an airfield, where ponies graze, there are bags hanging from trees and fences, and it happens in the New Forest, Wales, everywhere.
We've rounded up some interesting — and entertaining — facts about the Christmas extravaganza
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
“There are also people who dump huge piles of grass cuttings for the ponies to eat, boxes of apples; they just don’t think, and it can all be fatal.
“I just want to do anything to help spread the word.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.