The Ginger Pony is nine years old. Born in the gorse on the Forest heath outside, we watched him grow from his first day, and he came to live with us that winter. It was the year of Foot and Mouth Disease and animals could not be moved from the Forest or transported anywhere. Ginger needed a home, and he found one here.
Below is his pretty yearling chestnut niece, grazing on the Forest green this summer. They are both the spitting images of Ginger`s mother, an old chestnut mare who died last winter. If this young pony survives the Forest roads, she will go on to produce foals of her own in New Forest springtimes still to come.
Here are two of our New Forest boys; best friends sharing a stable while they waited to have their hooves trimmed on Saturday. Look to the left and you will see an almost identical matching pair. They are a mother and daughter pair bond who were peering through the back gate from the Forest heath, hoping for a scrap of hay at feeding time.
Many New Forest ponies are related in some way or another, particularly if they are hefted in the same area and if their mothers and grandmothers have been grazing there for generations. Chocolate, our dark bay pony in the stable, is the younger brother of the dark bay mare (called Micro as she was once a very small foal) outside. She helped to look after him when he was a young foal on the Forest. Their mother, a small dark bay mare who we called Muffin, used to wander off a short distance and leave sister and brother grazing and sometimes playing together.
That winter, Muffin managed to avoid the annual round up and still had her foal at foot during the worst of the weather. We kept an eye out for them , with the knowledge of their owner who lives many miles from our village. Eventually, with mare and foal losing weight and with the foal gaining confidence in us, we offered to buy him and he was invited through the gate to join our little herd of New Forest ponies. Muffin was in her late twenties at this stage. The following year, when her newest foal was hit by a car, her owner took her off the Forest and we understand that she has now joined her ancestors.
The Grey One in the stable is half brother to the grey filly foal outside the gate. They are both three years old and share the same father, who is a beautiful steel grey New Forest pony . The Grey One came to us as an orphaned six week old, after his mother had been killed by a Hit and Run driver in our village. A friend found him trying to suckle his dead mother beside the road. The Agister was initially preparing to shoot the foal, as his commoner owner is an elderly man who was unable to rear an orphan. My friend pleaded for the little one`s life and the foal was given to her. We cared for him together for several weeks until he was given to us as we had the time and facilities to raise him.
That summer, 2007, we had three needy and motherless foals with us. All are now lovely, thriving youngsters so it was well worth the night feeds and the hours of work involved. The Grey One is now a fine, sturdy gelding who is growing well and who has the kindest temperament. He was integrated with a kind, older pony as soon as was practical. The Chocolate pony, himself grown from a poorly Forest foal, took over his role of Big Brother and has been a good companion ever since.