Mea­sures in­tro­duced to pre­serve beloved, en­dan­gered New­found­land pony

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ONTARIO NEWS -

TRIN­ITY BAY, N.L. — Help is on the way for the beloved New­found­land pony, once an es­sen­tial part of the prov­ince’s cul­tural life but now a crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species.

The prov­ince an­nounced Thurs­day it is pro­vid­ing land to the New­found­land Pony So­ci­ety to en­sure it can con­tinue its work to pre­serve th­ese hardy an­i­mals. The so­ci­ety has been granted a 50-year agri­cul­tural lease for 10 hectares of Crown land near Ho­peall in east­ern New­found­land.

The New­found­land Pony is a unique breed that is na­tive to New­found­land and Labrador, the re­sult of in­ter­breed­ing be­tween breeds im­ported from the Bri­tish Isles by early set­tlers. The pop­u­la­tion has plum­meted from 13,000 an­i­mals in the 1960s to fewer than 400 to­day.

“This hardy, good-tem­pered, loyal and hard­work­ing pony in­ter­bred nat­u­rally on the com­mon lands around our com­mu­ni­ties over the cen­turies to cre­ate a unique and spe­cial breed,” said Jack Harris, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land Pony So­ci­ety.

“We are pleased to work with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to con­tinue the preser­va­tion of the New­found­land Pony and to en­sure that it can thrive and pros­per in the prov­ince where it evolved.”

The group will use the land for pas­tures and breed­ing — and to cre­ate a New­found­land Pony Her­itage Park.

“The New­found­land Pony is part of our shared her­itage, and was es­sen­tial to our an­ces­tors’ very ex­is­tence,” said pro­vin­cial Fish­eries Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne.

Fans of the pony say it is an ”all pur­pose” work an­i­mal be­cause it has strength, stamina, courage, in­tel­li­gence, obe­di­ence and com­mon sense.

They were plen­ti­ful un­til the ad­vent of all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles.

Many were rounded up for one-way trips to meat plants, even­tu­ally wind­ing up on din­ner ta­bles in Bel­gium and France.

A 1993 search by the New­found­land Pony So­ci­ety found only eight stal­lions on the island.

To pro­tect the ponies, the New­found­land gov­ern­ment des­ig­nated the breed as a her­itage an­i­mal. It is also con­sid­ered a crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species by Rare Breeds Canada.

How­ever, some ponies were sent off the island, with sur­vivors liv­ing across Canada and in the U.S.

The pony so­ci­ety’s web­site quotes Hol­ly­wood ac­tress El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor talk­ing about her pony in Good House­keep­ing mag­a­zine: “My hap­pi­est mo­ments as a child were rid­ing my New­found­land pony, Betty, in the woods on 3,000 acres of my god­fa­ther’s es­tate near the vil­lage of Cram­brook, in Kent.”

In July, the pony so­ci­ety of­fered DNA test­ing for peo­ple who have New­found­land ponies, or sus­pect they have one, to iden­tify if they are pure­bred.

One of the old­est known liv­ing New­found­land ponies — a dame named Mud­der — was found ema­ci­ated and work­ing at a chil­dren’s rid­ing sta­ble in Que­bec this year.

DNA test­ing con­firmed she was Bay­tona Star 228, a reg­is­tered New­found­land pony whose where­abouts had been un­known for years. The pony was res­cued and adopted by a fam­ily just out­side Ot­tawa. The Cana­dian Press

POST­MEDIA FILES

Netta LeDrew with pony at the New­found­land Pony Sanc­tu­ary.

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