Remember that cute moonwalking pony commercial that came out last year? So do overflowing horse rescues all over England.
Top photo: Brian Forbes/Wikimedia Commons
For anyone who has ever had the
misfortune to work with Shetland ponies, you’ve learned that despite all the cute fluffiness and tiny stature, they’re realistically just as strong, stubborn, dangerous and hard work as a full-sized horse (if not more so.) Across the UK, the traditional Shetland (as opposed to the refined and dainty American Shetland) can be found dotting the fields, pulling carts or carrying children. For their size, they’re the strongest breed of horse or pony in the world, able to pull or carry twice their own weight. They’re known for their cheekiness, stubbornness and overall sass–combine this with physical strength as well as all of that adorable hair and you have a recipe for one spoiled little animal.
British horse rescues have taken in increasingly large numbers of Shetland ponies in recent years, which likely reflects a national trend in parents buying these ponies for their children to follow a fad. (Remember when the live-action 101 Dalmatians movie came out? Dog shelters saw a huge increase in number of Dalmatians surrendered over the next couple of years.) And in the past year, the number of ponies taken in by shelters has multiplied exponentially. The suspicion by rescue workers is that a certain viral commercial featuring a moonwalking Shetland pony set off the latest pony-owning craze.
You remember the commercial:
Cute, right? Until the shelters are overflowing with ponies that have been taken from households that had no idea how to care for them. Rescue workers describe ponies that have been used as lawnmowers for suburban homes, leaving them foundered and severely overweight, or ponies who are drastically thin. Ponies are turned in with their manes hanging in tangled mats down to their hooves, which are turned up in grotesque shapes to betray the fact that the pony has never seen a farrier. Some families, with absolutely no education on what it takes to properly care for a pony, feed their Shetland breakfast cereal and let it live in the house. Some of these are extreme cases, to be sure. But regardless of the individual cases, the numbers of ponies turning up at shelters is only increasing–ponies can be acquired at auctions for as little as £1.
Two ponies have made headlines in the past year for their bizarre circumstances: a 21-year-old pony stallion was found tied to a bus stop on a busy street, and was being tormented by children when rescue workers arrived to take him in. Just this week, another pony stallion was found tied to a piece of equipment at a children’s playground. Reported to be “cheeky and nippy” the stallion has been taken in by a shelter and gelded as workers attempt to find his owners.
As with many such situations, the problem can be battled only through education. Families and would-be pony owners need to realize the true expense, workload, proper care and commitment required to own a pony. While Shetlands in the right hands can be excellent children’s mounts, they can also be as dangerous as a spoiled dog and do not make good cuddly pets for owners who cannot properly train and discipline them. If people can learn that ponies are not trendy little piles of hair that look “like that moonwalking pony from the commercial!” then, and only then, will this pony-owning craze slow down.
Read more about this issue at DailyMail.
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