Newfoundland ponies on long journey home

20 of the critically endangered animals have rest stop in N.S.

Published on August 28, 2014
Jim Swetnam (left) watches as Kay Marie Edge of Brooks, Texas, and Dave Shields of Okotoks, Alta., load some Newfoundland ponies onto his trailer at the cattle sale barns lot in Murray Siding, near Truro, N.S., following a cross-county trip from Vancouver Island. The ponies were being transported for temporary lodging in Nova Scotia before being returned to Newfoundland. — Photo by Harry Sullivan/ TC Media

Twenty Newfoundland ponies arrived in Truro Wednesday as part of a cross-Canada journey to their ancestral home.

The ponies were transported from a remote location near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, where the future of the herd was uncertain.

Through the efforts of the Newfoundland Pony Society and many volunteers from across the country, the ponies have been travelling this month. Ten mares are going to be staying at the Boyleston, N.S., home of Maud Peters.

Raven Jackson, who manages Earth Arc animal rescue in Pictou County, said they were initially only supposed to get three stallions, but they are now expecting seven for at least the night.

She said she was contacted by members of the Newfoundland Pony Society for help in housing the ponies on their journey.

The Newfoundland Pony is a heritage breed and is classified as critically endangered, with fewer than 400 left in the world, many of which are too old to breed.

There are 10 mares and 10 stallions in the herd that’s being transported. They range in age from four to 17 years old. Four are registered Newfoundland ponies; the other 16 are their offspring and will be registered with the Newfoundland Pony Society.

“It’s a major, major find for the Newfoundland Pony Society,” Jackson said.

The ponies are similar to Sable Island ponies in Nova Scotia in that they had to survive harsh conditions on their own and therefore only the strongest survived.

“They’re very, very hardy,” she said. “They take very little to feed them. Most of the time they really like people.”

Jackson has an old Newfoundland pony stallion that was destined for the butcher when it was rescued. Like her stallion, these new arrivals have deep foundation bloodlines and therefore are important for the survival of the breed.

Jackson said the planning for the trip has been going on since May.

“This has taken quite a while to get together. It’s such a major thing,” she said. “It’s just amazing they were found.”

Peters was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 10 mares Wednesday and was excited about having them and helping with the effort.

“It’s a journey of coming home for them,” she said.

With Newfoundland pony numbers dwindling, she said it’s incredible to have these animals, which represent a significant part of the breed’s population.

“These 20 ponies are extremely important to help preserve the breed,” Peters said.

After a few weeks’ stay in Nova Scotia, the ponies will be sent to Newfoundland.

-Adam MacInnis