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‘An act of kindness could be a death sentence’: pony chokes on carrots left by roadside

An image of a pony choking on chopped carrots left in the New Forest has gone viral – as the public are urged to consider that their acts of kindness could be a “death sentence”.

Park ranger and commoner Erika Dovey received a call about a mare who was seen in distress on Sunday afternoon (24 January) at Hilltop, near Beaulieu.

Erika, who was first on the scene before agister Andrew Napthie arrived, told H&H the mare “could hardly breathe”.

“There were chopped carrots that had been left by the roadside for the ponies and a chunk had got stuck. She was foaming at the mouth and very unhappy,” she said.

“I rang the pony’s owner who came straight away. The problem is, the ponies are semi-feral so we were unable to catch the mare.”

Erika said although the pony appeared to have cleared the blockage herself and it was thought she was recovering, she has since been taken off the forest and the owner is seeking veterinary attention.

“These ponies are adapted to grazing on the New Forest and they’re not used to eating things like carrots and apples,” she said.

“The public feeding horses has become a daily problem here; it’s not just carrots and apples, it’s grass cuttings and hedge trimmings too. In my job I try to educate people that it’s not good to feed the livestock but Covid has exacerbated the problem. I understand people want to get outside but they need to understand their act of kindness ultimately could be a death sentence for the ponies.”

Erika added that as well risking colic or choking, feeding the ponies on the New Forest can ultimately lead to the ponies’ having to be removed or put down.

“It’s dangerous to feed them because the ponies can become very aggressive and the commoners can be asked to remove them from the New Forest. Around five years ago I had to have a pony put down who had become aggressive,” she said.

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“This is a huge problem and we worry about our ponies. People don’t realise all the animals are owned. We check on them and they have enough to eat – they don’t need help.”

The image of the mare was shared on Facebook in a post that has received more than 7,500 shares. Erika said although there are already various campaigns asking people not to feed the animals in the New Forest, she hopes the message can reach as many people as possible.

“I don’t want to be negative as lots of people don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong and you can have good conversations with them and provide education,” she said. “But there are some who don’t seem to care because that’s what they want to do – come to the New Forest and feed the ponies. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

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