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Blue Cross rescues neglected Bodmin Moor ponies

Neglected ponies found in pitiful states roaming free on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall have been rescued and rehabilitated by Blue Cross as part of an ongoing joint initiative – and will soon be looking for loving homes.

Bracken, a five-year-old gelding, is progressing well.

In partnership with the Bodmin Moor Commons Council and Redwings Horse Sanctuary, our charity has already rounded up 169 semi-feral ponies on the East Moor to identify them, provide health checks and match them with owners.

Sadly, more than 100 ponies – including in-foal mares, foals and youngsters – were left unclaimed, and Blue Cross has taken in 26 of the most needy cases.

They include young geldings Conker and Bracken, who were both terrified when they arrived but have become confident ponies who enjoy a good fuss from their trainers.

“The ponies were in a dreadful state when they arrived,” said Vicki Alford, Horse Manager at Blue Cross, Burford. “Most were very weak and underweight and terrified.

“We put them all in one large field as a group for a couple of weeks, to give them security and stability within their own herd before moving them into stables for castration, microchipping and passports.”

Gradually the ponies were introduced to feed and they soon started coming to the field gate when the grooms arrived. Eventually it was possible to split them into smaller groups to start their training.

“Once we have made a positive association with touch then training becomes a much nicer experience for these poor ponies,” explains Vicki. “Luckily for the ponies we admitted they are only frightened because they have never ever had interactions with humans, not because they have had bad handling or scary experiences. This makes our training so much easier.”

Bracken and Conker, who were both rescued from Bodmin Moor, are firm friends.

It’s thought there are currently about 500 to 600 of the animals running free on the moor, with many in poor condition and indiscriminate breeding leading to numbers continually increasing.

Some of those are owned by locals who have retained historic grazing rights due to it being common land, but a lack of enforcement of identification laws has led to many others being abandoned or illegally grazed there.

Many are suffering and struggle to survive over the winter months when grass is in short supply.

Those that were rounded up in the operation Blue Cross was involved with in autumn last year were microchipped, and ponies without owners that could be traced provided with passports to give them a safer future.

After being frightened to begin with, Conker is beginning to enjoy neck scratches and is confident to eat from a bucket

Of the other unclaimed horses, Redwings took in 16, the Mare and Foal Sanctuary 23, and World Horse Welfare and RSPCA also pledged homes.

Nicolas de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour at Redwings, which led the operation and has been working to improve welfare for the Bodmin ponies for the past few years, said: “This was a huge task but one with a real impact as the ponies now remaining on that part of the Moor are all microchipped, health checked and most importantly they all have an owner who is responsible for their care.

“Meanwhile those that were abandoned to their fate will not have to go through yet another winter without the proper care and management they need.

“We are so thankful to the Bodmin Moor Commons Council, Blue Cross and all the charities, both those who assisted with the operation itself and those who have offered homes to these poor ponies.”

It has been a costly project for Blue Cross to help the Bodmin Moor ponies. Together with the costs of day-to-day care and training the charity has had to fund veterinary treatment, the castration of colts, vaccination courses for all the ponies and farriery to rectify problems with badly cared for feet.

Bracken and Conker will soon be ready for experienced new homes where their training can continue. In time both should make good riding ponies..