‘That child was so lucky’: walkers warned to leave ponies alone after video shows the risks


  • A child who was “whipped away” from a pony in the New Forest was lucky not to have been seriously injured, the commoner who caught the incident on video has warned.

    Sally Marsh shared the footage, of a family with a group of ponies on a wide area of grassland in Brockenhurst, online, as a plea to stop visitors trying to touch or feed the animals.

    She told H&H she was out with her stepfather to check their own ponies when she saw the family.

    “They’d tried to fuss some other ponies about 100 yards down,” she said. “I saw them going up to this other group and I said to my stepdad: ‘Pull over’ because I knew exactly what was going to happen.”

    The footage shows the family with two ponies, a grey and a bay. The small child appears to try to touch the grey on its belly.

    “Then the bay mare starts to swing round, which sends the grey into a panic,” Sally said. “It’s all over in a flash but the child was so, so lucky. That she was pulled away in time, and that the pony didn’t kick out, because it would have caught her straight in the head.”

    Sally said the video demonstrates the huge issues caused by visitors to the forest.

    “It drives me crazy,” she said. “People say we need more signs but I’ve seen someone feeding ponies from a big bag of carrots, which was hanging on the sign saying not to feed them. What else can we do? Where has common sense gone?

    “Parents wouldn’t encourage their children to go up to a stranger but they do encourage them to go up to a 350kg animal that bites at one end and kicks at the other. It blows my mind.”

    Sally said that despite the extensive measures taken to educate visitors on why they should not touch or feed the ponies, the message is not getting through.

    She has seen grass cuttings dumped in the forest, and carrots dumped on roads to try to attract ponies there for photographs. She has seen or heard of ponies fighting over the food, becoming vicious – and choking to death on the carrots fed to them. And this is on top of the danger to people trying to interact with them, as seen in the video.

    “If you go on social media, you see influencers posing with the ponies or feeding them and think ‘Oh my lord’,” she said. “I don’t know what the answer is.

    “We’ve had signs, people giving out advice and leaflets in car parks but whether people listen or not is the problem, and most of the time they don’t.”

    From July, people who feed or pet animals in the New Forest could be fined, which Sally believes is a positive step.

    “At least we have got to that point, although I don’t know how it will be implemented,” she said. “This is a beautiful place and I want people to enjoy it but they have to respect it.

    “I don’t want to pick on this family but if this video stays in someone’s mind and they don’t get too close, it might save one child, or one pony.”

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