Har­bour Grace man hop­ing to save the New­found­land pony

Of­fer­ing three stal­lions for free breed­ing ser­vices

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

One man is mak­ing it his per­sonal goal to save the New­found­land pony pop­u­la­tion.

New­found­land ponies have be­come some­thing of a rar­ity in the prov­ince in re­cent years, un­like sev­eral decades ago when the an­i­mals roamed freely and many peo­ple owned one or two.

Har­ri­son Verge has lived in the Har­bour Grace area for most of his life and has owned New­found­land ponies for as long as he can re­mem­ber. He has fond mem­o­ries of he and his si­b­lings rid­ing ponies dur­ing their seven-kilo­me­tre trek home from school as chil­dren. Now, the New­found­land pony pop­u­la­tion on the is­land has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly, with less than 100 ac­tu­ally liv­ing in New­found­land.

Verge owns sev­eral ponies, namely three stal­lions – Ad­mi­ral Shal­loway, Cabot Royal Light­ning and John Peter Payne – he hopes will help in­crease the num­ber of New­found­land ponies on New­found­land soil.

Verge is of­fer­ing these three stal­lions for free breed­ing to any­one on the is­land with an el­i­gi­ble mare.

“I got to think­ing about how many ponies are ac­tu­ally left here on the is­land – not many – and I’d hate to see them be com­pletely wiped off the prov­ince,” Verge said. “I’ve got three strong stal­lions out there, all from dif­fer­ent blood lines.”

Find­ing ponies to breed in New­found­land can be dif­fi­cult these days since there are so few of them, he said.

“I want to make sure New­found­land ponies have a chance of stick­ing around af­ter I’m gone.”

Har­ri­son Verge

“I thought, well, why not put it out there that I’ve got three stal­lions here, ready to go for the 2018 breed­ing sea­son, all for free. I just want to see more foals on the ground.”

Verge and his daugh­ter have named the ini­tia­tive the Save the Pony Project, with the ul­ti­mate goal of sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing the New­found­land pony pop­u­la­tion in New­found­land. He says he’s not con­cerned about be­ing paid for the ser­vice, and only wants to en­sure New­found­land ponies con­tinue to ex­ist in their place of ori­gin.

But Verge is not look­ing to breed his ponies with just any mares. He is hop­ing to of­fer al­ter­na­tive blood­lines in the New­found­land pony pop­u­la­tion, but wants to en­sure the mares are reg­is­tered New­found­land ponies, much like his own horses. He noted the Gal­loway pony – a breed na­tive to Eng­land and Scot­land that be­came ex­tinct as a re­sult of too much cross­breed­ing.

Verge ex­plained that there are only ap­prox­i­mately 40 mares here in New­found­land, many of which can­not be bred for a num­ber of rea­sons. Some are sim­ply too old, while oth­ers are too closely re­lated.

“It has to be a reg­is­tered New­found­land pony mare only. No half-breeds,” he stated. “I won’t cross breed my studs – cross breed­ing would get more foals out there, yes, but that’s go­ing to out-breed the horse even­tu­ally, and there won’t be any left.

“I know most of the peo­ple who own mares, and so if they de­cide they’d like to breed, I know that mare’s blood­line and I know which one of my stal­lions is most com­pat­i­ble with that blood­line.”

One of Verge’s ponies, Ad­mi­ral Shal­loway, is con­sid­ered to be one of the most fa­mous New­found­land ponies in ex­is­tence, as it was one of the first of the species to be reg­is­tered by the gov­ern­ment, mak­ing him a foun­da­tion stal­lion of the Shal­loway blood­line. Verge’s other two ponies are both rel­a­tively early in their fam­ily trees as well, with Cabot Royal Light­ning be­ing a first gen­er­a­tion of the Skip­per of Avalon line, and John Peter Payne be­ing in the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of the Rusty of the Black River line.

The Save the Pony Project is still in its early stages, but Verge and his daugh­ter hope to set up a web­site and Face­book page in the com­ing weeks, while Verge works on reach­ing out to New­found­land pony own­ers he knows of in the area.

“We’ve got to do some­thing, you know? There was a time in New­found­land’s his­tory where these ponies roamed freely, and peo­ple re­lied on them to sur­vive. If they com­pletely dis­ap­pear off the is­land, so does a part of our his­tory, and our cul­ture,” said Verge. “My ul­ti­mate goal? To keep New­found­land ponies alive. Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how close we are to los­ing them here on the is­land, and hope­fully this pro­gram changes that.

“Who knows how much time I have left in this life – it could be 10 years, and it could be 10 months, but I want to make sure New­found­land ponies have a chance of stick­ing around af­ter I’m gone.”

Any­one wish­ing to reach out to Verge about his ponies can con­tact him via email at black­brooksstud­farm@gmail.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Har­ri­son Verge with Ad­mi­ral Shal­loway, his foun­da­tion stal­lion, and one of three ponies he is of­fer­ing for free breed­ing ser­vices.

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