Tragedy struck the weekend of July 16th when a rare Newfoundland Pony died after being overfed apples by passersby on its farm in the maritime province. The mare, known as Little Catalina, died as a result of colic after being found lying in the paddock at Driftwood Acres, surrounded by apples that had been tossed in by people who clearly ignored the “Do Not Feed” sign that owner Jessica Boyd had posted.

Boyd breeds the rare ponies as an attempt to conserve the breed. She immediately called the large animal vet but by then it was too late. After spending the night in the barn with Little Catalina, Boyd made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the pony because it was clear that she was dying.

“She was a lovely, just very sweet little pony,” Boyd told the CBC.  “She would have greeted everyone at the gate and she would have happily taken apples from anyone. She was a very personable pony, more like a dog than a horse. And she was really special. And this is a tragedy.”

As reported previously in Horse-Canada, the province committed to the creation of a Newfoundland Pony Heritage Park. The Newfoundland Pony developed through interbreeding of various pony stock brought from Britain, the Newfoundland Pony is indelibly intertwined with the province’s history. For hundreds of years, the affable, resilient animals were used for agriculture, fishing, construction and general transport. With the advent of motor vehicles, the population declined from an estimated high of 13,000 in the 1960s to about 100 two decades later. Currently there are about 400 worldwide. Last year, the Newfoundland Pony Society began a program of DNA testing to identify purebred individuals.

Little Catalina was one of 20 ponies rescued from an uncertain fate in BC back in 2015. The rescue mission became a documentary film, Where Once They Mattered, from filmmaker Christopher Richardson.

Supporters of the Newfoundland Pony as well as Jessica Boyd’s friends and family have created a GoFundMe page to raise funds for Boyd to continue her breeding program. Little Catalina was the youngest of her broodmares and as such, the loss is doubly felt, both personally and for the preservation of the breed. As part of her plans, Boyd wants to trailer her four stallions to the University of PEI to have their semen collected for breeding/artificial insemination under their Theriogenology service. According to the GoFundMe page there are considerable costs for transporting the stallions (ferry and trailer) from Newfoundland to PEI and for the fees charged by the veterinary college, along with boarding. Boyd works as a small animal vet full time and takes on the pony work as a labour of love and at considerable personal expense. She can also use some of the funds to reinforce her fencing so another tragedy can be avoided.

“This is to help Jessica with the tragic loss of her mare and to help her effort to preserve the Newfoundland pony,” the GoFundMe post reads. “We want to turn this into something positive in memory of beautiful Little Catalina.”