The fate of Canada’s Newfoundland ponies just took a turn for the better with the announcement from the Newfoundland Pony Society (NPS) that it has entered Phase II of its fundraising campaign to create a permanent heritage park in its home province. The goal is $175,000 over two years.
“We were encouraged by the support we received last year which enabled us to put two ponies on pasture, repair some fencing and upgrade the buildings,” said Libby Carew, volunteer NPS Council Member who led the campaign. “Our goal is to restore the habitat for the Newfoundland Pony and create a place for the public to experience them and learn why we need to preserve them,” she added.
As reported in Horse-Canada in 2019, the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Government issued a 50-year agricultural lease of Crown land near in Hopeall, Trinity Bay for the creation of the Newfoundland Pony Heritage Park. With Phase I complete this past summer, over 700 visitors, including many tourists, visited the pasture to meet the two resident ponies, Singapore and Dream Boy.
The Newfoundland Pony, which is an endangered breed, is unique to the province, having evolved over hundreds of years from Mountain and Moorlands ponies that early settlers brought from the UK. They once numbered more than 10,000, but by 1992, there were less than 150 breeding-age ponies left in the province. A lack of access to pastureland, mechanization, and shipment of ponies to mainland meat plants devastated the pony population in its homeland. There are now more outside of the province than within.
Because of dwindling numbers, the NPS is working on developing a small breeding program and finding other ways to encourage and facilitate breeding by pony owners. One of these ways is potentially hosting a stallion in a separate isolated area of the Hopeall land to allow access by owners of mares for breeding purposes.
“Keeping the ponies and people safe was our priority last summer and we plan to build on our success as we develop the Park,” said Jack Harris, president of NPS. “Our vision is for a larger heritage park with a pony herd and a breeding program for pony owners here. We need to improve the facilities, increase fencing to host more ponies, and enhance the visitor experience with more events and a display area to showcase the Newfoundland Pony’s history,” added Harris.
The Newfoundland Ponies and the NPS were in the news this past year for tragic reasons as well. Two ponies died in separate incidents; Little Catalina #945 who died from overfeeding by strangers while on pasture and Dawson’s Bernie Frances #938, a young stallion who was killed on the Tilton Barrens highway.