Welcome to my New Forest Life Tales Issue #010 February 2012.
I don't think anyone would ever deny that the New Forest is a beautiful place to live.
Apart from a stunning environment which changes often on a daily basis, we are also really lucky to be close to and often part of, the lives and exploits of the animals wandering about, just outside our door.
Most times I feel joy to be so close to nature. Observing the animals living in their natural environment is fascinating. I see the dynamics of the herd, whether it is the New Forest ponies squabbling over a tasty gorse bush, the survival tactics of the deer or seeing the destruction the cows can achieve at a fence, when leaning over to grab a tasty biteful of hedge!
However, nature is cruel and sometimes living here can deal a bitter blow.
A few days ago we had a nasty accident with a mare who had trapped her leg in a tree root and was unable to free herself. She struggled to release herself, whilst the foal she had given birth to last year remained by her side. Despite various attempts to rescue her, which did result in her being freed from the tree, it was too late to actually save her. It's probable that her attempts to free herself and the shock to her system this involved, meant that she didn't have the resources left to carry on. The Agister had to shoot her to put her out of her misery.
It does bring it home to you how vulnerable they are just by going about their normal day to day lives. I love to see them kicking up their tails in spring and racing across the
heathland or belting through the woods outside our cottage. The New Forest holds many dangers apart from hunger, road accidents, poisoning by ignorant visitors who think a sandwich in a plastic bag is a natural source of food to feed the ponies and much more. There are ruts and rabbit holes, badger sets, fallen trees and logs, bits of wire and bricks left over from wartime occupation, all over the New Forest, just waiting for them to stumble over.
Because my website is based on my life here, in this lovely National Park, as well as my recommendations, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on what help is out there for animals when they need the intervention of humans to deal with their trauma.
I'll tell you what I've experienced over the years and then you will see why I recommend them. If some organsations are missing it is because I'm not happy to recommend them or haven't
had to use them.
Starting on the New Forest. If you haven't read my New Forest Commoners information you may not know that each area of the New Forest is looked after by the Agisters. They are responsible
for the health and welfare of all the animals. In this case our local Agister was called. Andrew made a huge effort to try to recover the mare so that she could be removed by her owner to regain her health, off the forest. Sadly, she was too traumatised to make use of his attempts and he had to shoot her on the spot. Her foal was taken away by the Commoner owner. It's very reassuring to know that when we encounter accidents like this a phonecall can bring aid, usually very quickly.
Over the years I've had to use the excellent services of what used to be called the I.L.P.H.
This was the International League for the Protection of Horses which has now rebranded as
World Horse Welfare
My local officer Ted Barnes would always come out when I encountered a cruelty case.
This included allowing a pregnant mare no water in a baking hot summer on a squatted field in Surrey. Also, ill fitting head collars put on that had eaten into the face and head, starving ponies in rugs that had been stolen from owners horses who
actually cared about their horses being cold in a field. The rugs had been stolen to hide the level of starvation, not to protect the animal from cold.
Ted always dealt with the owners (when he could track them down) with politeness and with a view to education. I always wanted to simply punch them for their utter cruelty to a trusting animal! Perhaps a very good reason why I would never be able to work in an animal welfare job?
is an "international animal welfare organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules in some of the world's poorest communities. Providing treatment,
training and programmes around animal health and wellbeing, operating across Africa, Asia and Latin America." Again, I can vouch for their fantastic welfare ethics.
We were visiting Petra, in Jordan. We had been told that we would be able to ride a horse from the entrance to Petra into the more central area. Warning bells sounded.
It was baking hot and hard ground. What would these horses look like? As we arrived a string of very thin horses were tied up, but thank heavens across from the entrance was The Brooke
Hosptial. They run an education programme, welfare clinic and emergency hospital, all on the spot at Petra. It's a very hard sell to try to get you to ride one of the horses. I was tempted to say yes and just walk it into the Treasury area. After much bartering I just gave the owner the money for the ride, checked the horse over and was reassured that the Hospital was in the background all the time. He thought I was mad and was mildly insulted for a few minutes.
Although not a welfare charity it's also quite helpful to know about
UK Horsewatch Alliance.
If a horse is stolen it can be posted on this website and hopefully, as has happened in the past, successfully
reunited with it's owners before it is shipped off to Europe as meat! Anything to do with horses involves high costs. Owners are not always wealthy but struggle to feed, equip and keep their horses healthy. Unfortunately, whilst all this hard work is going on there is also an element in society who enjoys making money by stealing either the horse, the tack, the trailer or as we have discovered before, the rugs off our horses backs! This organisation runs alongside the Police and Crimestoppers. There are a network of volunteers throughout the country trying to keep one step ahead of these heartless thieves.
Although this New Forest Tale had a very sad ending, as a close friend of mine sensibly said to me, nature is cruel and often heartless. This poor New Forest pony was rescued quite quickly.
She could have been injured in a more isolated area and struggled for days. She was despatched quickly and kindly. But it still breaks my heart to know that I had seen her happy and healthy all through the summer and winter months, roaming around this beautiful New Forest National Park, just living her life.
I hope you've enjoyed this small insight into living within the New Forest UK National Park I've been able to share with you.