Yesterday was a double disaster for this foal and a PR disaster for the Agisters, Verderers and Commoners. If I’ve got the story straight, his mother was killed by a car during the foggy night even though she was wearing a reflective collar. The driver at least stopped at the scene, there was no evidence of speeding, and they were distraught. But not as distraught as the people the next morning who witnessed what appeared to be a perfectly healthy colt foal being captured and led away by the Agister who took it behind a bush and shot it, then left it’s body beside it’s mother for collection later. No doubt that was at the instruction of the owner of the pony, whose prerogative it is make that decision. However, if the Commoners are seen not to care about their ponies, then how can they expect drivers and other members of the public to care about them too?
As you can imagine Facebook has gone mad with comments and people even making death threats to the people involved. Being a Bank Holiday, there has been plenty to time for things to escalate and fester. These same people, unless they are vegans, need to remember that thousands of male dairy calves are shot every day, and many more animals for the meat that they eat. Nevertheless, there were plenty of horsey people, many of them connected to the Forest, who were horrified by the decision – and many who would probably have taken the foal on and brought it up successfully.
Not all Commoners would make such a hard-hearted decision whether based on practicalities or finance, many would bend over backwards to bring the foal up or to find it a suitable home where someone else would. There are over 400 Commoners and believe me, they all have different views on everything.
I am saddened by the decision but not outraged. It isn’t easy, technically, emotionally, or even practically to bring up an orphan foal. It can be a psychological disaster for the foal itself if it isn’t socialised properly. Many bottle reared foals become monsters, difficult to handle and train in the future, clambering all over people and sometimes extremely aggressive. People prepared to get up to feed a foal ever two hours and even better, foster mares, aren’t easy to find but there are some with the knowledge and experience who would – there are plenty more who would absolutely ruin such a foal through ignorance.Would I take on such a foal? Probably, but then I am an extremely soft touch.