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Warning after pony fed bread by walkers develops colic

A horse owner in the New Forest is urging people not to feed ponies after her two-year-old filly developed an impaction colic from being fed bread.

Sally Strugnell said it was “bad enough with tourists” feeding the feral ponies in the forest, but that living in the area meant domestic ponies on private land are also treated like “part of a petting zoo”.

“It’s the tourists but it’s also people who have moved here who aren’t forest people — apples fall off their trees or they mow their grass and they think ‘let’s put that out there for the ponies’,” she said.

“People who live in the forest are constantly picking up bags of carrots and windfall apples, bread and even sausage rolls. With Halloween coming they’ll also be constantly picking up pumpkins.

“My filly Luna was in a field, she wasn’t out in the forest but unfortunately a public footpath runs at the back of the field and it’s popular with dog walkers going to one of the local commons. Everyone seems to think horses are communal property.”

Sally said it made her “go cold” to contemplate what might have happened had she not been running late the morning the coloured rescue cob collapsed in her field.

“I was with the horses two hours later than usual as my daughter had a physio appointment,” she said. “We put some hay in the field and I went to put the chickens out for the landowner who was away and we came back to start mixing feeds and as we did, Luna collapsed.

“She got to her feet, staggered sideways and collapsed again. By that point I was already on the phone to the vet.”

Sally credits the swift arrival of the vet, who treated Luna with painkillers and an anti-spasmodic, with preventing the situation from getting worse.

“The vet sedated her to do a rectal exam and she was pulling out all these incredibly dry faeces. I didn’t have a clue why she was so constipated, nothing had changed in her routine or feed,” Sally said.

It was after the vet left and Sally was walking the 12.3hh filly that she passed some droppings which were found to contain crusts of bread.

“I just couldn’t believe someone would do that,” she said. “When I spoke to the vet later, she thought what had probably happened was that the first lot of bread had been digested but soaked up all the moisture in the gut and caused an impaction colic, so the next lot hadn’t broken down properly.

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“Once we had arrived in the morning and she had been fed some hay on top of it, there was a quick onset of pain symptoms.”

Sally said she had now put up signs all along her fence warning walkers not to feed the ponies, as well as putting posts on the village’s Facebook group.

“I’m trying to raise awareness that what people might think is a nice little treat could actually be a death sentence,” she said. “Someone replied to one of my posts and said the same thing had happened to her horse nearby and it had died — we might have had a horrible shock but she lost her horse.”

Sally added that some of her friends’ laminitic ponies in starvation paddocks were being fed apples, as people felt sorry for them being turned out with no food.

“You shouldn’t be feeding someone else’s animal,” she said. “If I went round a village chucking sausages or bits of bacon to people’s dogs or giving sweets to their children they would be furious.

“My ponies are like my children — Luna had such a rough start in life, she was dumped in my friend’s field full of lice and worms and she deserves only the best.”

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