‘This can’t go on’: pony found with broken neck after rockets let off on site

  • The owner of a pony who was found with a broken neck after rockets were let off nearby says people need to keep campaigning for a change in the law.

    Julie Burnet’s 14-year-old Exmoor mare Knightoncombe Ghost Swift was found dead early on Sunday, 7 November. An empty TNT rocket box and a lighter were found on the site.

    Juliet told H&H she went to her five-strong herd’s conservation grazing site, Danebury Hill Fort near Andover, at about 7am as usual that day.

    “When I went through the gate, I saw the box and the lighter, and knew straight away what was going on,” she said. “I lifted my head and saw four ponies, and I knew the significance of that because they always stuck together like glue. I knew then that I’d lost her.”

    Swift was found with her neck broken.

    “Whether she’d run into a tree or fallen, I don’t know,” Juliet said. “I just hope it was instant and that she didn’t suffer, but it was absolutely awful.

    “There were footmarks where they’d all been running around terrified, and the other ponies were covered in dried sweat, as they had been the day before, so they’d had two nights of it.”

    Juliet reported the incident to police, who took the fireworks box and lighter for forensic testing.

    “But they didn’t seem that hopeful,” she said. “They also said whoever it was had done nothing illegal but the law says fireworks must not be let off near livestock so I beg to differ.”

    The day after Swift was found, parliament debated the fifth petition calling for a change to fireworks law since 2016, but the Government said there will be no change. Another petition launched since the debate, calling for the sale of fireworks to be restricted to organisers of public displays, has been signed by almost 34,000 people.

    Juliet agrees this would be a solution.

    “You’ve got to compromise, and I understand some people enjoy fireworks,” she said. “What I don’t understand is that anyone can just set off explosives, which is what they are these days. An 18-year-old, who’s a child, can just buy them, even if they’ve got a criminal record, and that’s disgraceful, but the Government just won’t listen.”

    Juliet says she believes the “tide is slowly turning”; some supermarkets have stopped selling fireworks and she believes others will gradually follow suit.

    “It’s not just animals who die and suffer; there’s nothing fun about frightening vulnerable people,” she said. “There’s the damage to the environment too, and it’s not just Bonfire Night, it’s a month, and people don’t tell you they’re letting them off. When will it give?”

    Juliet believes children should be educated more about issues related to fireworks; she got to the school where she works the day after she found Swift, to find displays of fireworks pictures on the walls. After she spoke to the head teacher, these were taken down.

    “Swift was the youngest of my herd; I’d had her 10 years and she was such a lovely mare,” she said. “I’ve not really been able to talk about it because I was so upset, and so angry.

    “She was a breeding Exmoor mare; we can’t afford to lose ponies like that, and she was doing a job, and happy. We keep ponies for life, we never sell them, and it’s the way she died that was so shocking.

    “The loss of this pony seems to have affected people; I’ve had a lot of messages, but it needs to hit home, it really does, and people need to keep signing petitions and contacting their MPs. This can’t go on.”

    What do you think should be done about fireworks? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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