Nfld. & Labrador

Meet Mudder: Elderly, endangered equine granted a new lease on life

Mudder was skin and bones when she was found. But the Newfoundland pony's life has since turned around.

Newfoundland pony first found emaciated in Quebec

There's a good reason for her grey hairs: after a DNA test, Mudder was found to be one of the oldest currently living Newfoundland ponies. (Submitted by Korrine Affleck)

Mudder the pony's story starts out grim: living in a muddy stall in Quebec, underfed and underloved.

She was being used for rides at a children's camp.

"The kids were still riding this pony that didn't have the energy to really hold herself up," said Korrine Affleck, a councillor at large with the Newfoundland Pony Society who helped rescue Mudder.

It didn't look good at the beginning, as Affleck recalled the first pictures of Mudder showed her "severely emaciated."

"I had no idea who she was or where she was from," she said.

It would take a few different owners, some interprovincial travel and one key DNA test to turn Mudder's life around.

This picture of Mudder was taken just before she was taken to Ontario from Quebec. (Submitted by Korrine Affleck)

The real thing

Affleck first heard about Mudder from a pony sanctuary in New Hampshire. The sanctuary had been in touch with a woman in Augusta, Ont., who bought Mudder in Quebec but found her too sick to care for.

The woman said she was told Mudder was around 25 years old, and that she may be a Newfoundland pony, an endangered breed that numbers about 400 worldwide.

The slim details about Mudder's past were enough for Affleck to justify the trip from her home near Ottawa to Augusta, to put those tidbits to the test.

The Newfoundland Pony Society performs DNA testing on ponies to determine whether they actually belong to the breed, so Affleck snipped off a bit of Mudder's hair and sent it in for testing.

Sure enough, Mudder was the real thing.

More than that, the test results showed she's one of the oldest currently living Newfoundland ponies, far older than that initial age of 25.

Affleck estimates Mudder is about 36 or even older. A healthy horse's average lifespan is between 25 and 30 years old.

Mudder is now very happy in Stittsville, Ont. (Submitted by Korrine Affleck)

Mudder's some happy

With an elderly and endangered equine on her hands, Affleck put the word out that Mudder needed a loving home.

Barb Stein in Stittsville, a suburb of Ottawa, responded. Mudder moved to Stein's farm in March, Affleck said, where she's flourishing.

"Mudder is living the life of leisure and being spoiled to no end," Affleck said.

"She has gained weight and her coat is shiny and healthy. She is being treated like a princess and loving all the attention."

Affleck hopes that uncovering Mudder's story will lead to more Newfoundland ponies being found and registered with the Pony Society's DNA testing programs.

"Finding out who she is now opens the doors to find out where she has been and if she has offspring," she said.

"[And then] finding out where they might be and perhaps even finding another pony to register."

Mudder now lives like a princess, says Korrine Affleck. (Submitted by Korrine Affleck)

Affleck's own love for Newfoundland ponies was sparked as soon as she met one, she said.

"I never came across an animal that is so loyal and so smart," she said.

"The pony personifies … the wonderful characteristics of the province and the people. I think the ponies are so much a product of their land."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show