At an agricultural field day, I came across a small metal pen housing cute young miniature ponies.
Three of them were in a tiny pen and as I got closer I saw they were all for sale. They were grumpy and bored and occasionally one would be aggressive to the other. When they were taken out they pulled on their lead ropes and looked pushy and jumpy.
While there I overheard a happy young couple inquire about buying one. They wanted to keep the pony on a large acreage but could only visit them on weekends. They asked if they had to brush the pony.
The owner of the ponies said they were easy to look after and they were great lawnmowers. I could no longer be silent so I interrupted saying that these ponies will easily founder and they require strict care, with regular hoof trimming and need to be checked each day. The couple revealed that they had never been around horses and just thought they were like a dog, luckily the couple walked away no longer interested.
The question I pose is where does the responsibility lie when selling or breeding ponies? How could a breeder choose to sell ponies to a negligent home where they could end up living a life in pain from foundering, often in loneliness and misunderstood? They are not great lawnmowers when many of them end up foundered because they were allowed to mow the rich grasses at will.
Here’s yet another story of common neglect: I drove to my friend’s house and again passed the little shaggy black Shetland running in a paddock with a ram. My friend was upset at the plight of the black Shetland as she had seen it standing in the common founder stance with all weight on the heels of the back hooves and front hooves. She was reluctant to approach the owner as they’d previously had an argument about her dogs.
We found out that the pony was for sale. I rang and arranged to see the pony and when I arrived my heart sank. Its feet were slipper toed – in other words it had founded in all four feet and had not been trimmed for a long time and were very overgrown. I brought this to the owners attention but she claimed the man that had been trimming him was no longer available. When the daughter arrived with a handful of carrots I talked about founder and tried to explain how serious and painful it was and that too many carrots were his worst enemy – like giving a diabetic sugar.
My friend secretly gave me a 100 dollars and I brought the pony. We took him home and my husband trimmed him and then after a few days of recovery we took him to a rescue organisation as both our properties were lush with grass.
The second question I pose – is it acceptable for a person that knows nothing about caring for a pony to own one and later sell it to another naive and ignorant owner?
I have so many more stories of neglect, even one where I rescued a pony that was unable to stand because it had foundered on lush grass that was up to its shoulder. The owner was still trying to breed them even though they were wild and unable to handle them. But they were exotic looking welsh ponies. Is that an acceptable reason to breed?
I also recently heard of a yet another breeder with a large herd of Shetland ponies with the mares in foal suffering severe laminitis. Is this ethically acceptable? Why is this allowed to happen without these people being prosecuted? If someone treated a dog like this or even a chicken then they would be accountable in a court of law. Why can someone cause so much pain and suffering to a pony and there is little said about it and no consequences?
The sad story is that a lot of the ponies that reach the RSPCA are then passed on to more negligent homes to repeat a vicious cycle of living in pain and neglect. Just the other day a pony from the RSPCA was passed on to a first time horse owner unaware of the dangers that something as simple as grass can pose a great threat to them.
Are these ponies better off put down once foundered because it takes even more knowledge and care to avoid a repeat episode?
A little giveaway miniature stallion ends up in an inexperienced home. They dream of him being a child’s mounts yet this is a ridiculous fantasy as it is crippled, severely foundered and has behaviour issues, yet it is pretty and amazingly I see it back on the grass as I drive by.
I believe every pony and miniature horse needs to come with an instruction manual and a big warning that they require special care.
My heart aches when I see a lonesome pony in a paddock full of grass, or locked in a small dirt yard with no food. Is there much quality of life for these animals? Why does every horse person I know have a sad tale to tell about their neglect?
Let’s lobby for stricter laws in animal cruelty – it should be a fineable offence to allow a pony or horse to founder. Sadly the only way people learn is through their hip pocket. Please help by writing to your local RSPCA or government member to ask for laws to change so we can ensure a brighter future for these beautiful animals.