Nfld. & Labrador

We owe it to the Newfoundland ponies to protect them, say advocates

People who love Newfoundland ponies are raising money to establish a heritage park for them in the Trinity Bay area.

Newfoundland Pony Society aims to raise $250,000 to establish a heritage park for the hardworking animals

Clifford George — here with his Newfoundland pony, Annie of the Avalon II, at his home on Trinity Bay — has been working to save the animals for decades. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

People who love Newfoundland ponies are raising money to establish a heritage park for them in the Trinity Bay area.

One pony owner, who has also worked for decades to save and promote them, says residents of the province have a debt to the animals that should be acknowledged.

We'd have froze to death without the Newfoundland pony.- Clifford George

"We've got something that's unique in this province. It grew as we did, distinct, and the pony grew up with us, and they were responsible for more or less keeping us alive. We'd have froze to death without the Newfoundland pony. So we owe it to the ponies to save them," said Clifford George, who keeps two Newfoundland ponies in Whiteway, Trinity Bay.

George says there were about 154 Newfoundland ponies in the province when the last count was done in 2008, but there were once thousands of them. It's estimated there were as many as 4,000 in the province in the 1980s but George says they were even more when he was young.

"I went in the woods with me father and we used to pass people all day long taking out lumber for to build houses, bringing out lumber for the flakes, bringing out firewood for the winter, bringing the cod traps out on the wharf in dray carts. You know, that's what the pony did. Every day of his life he worked for Newfoundlanders," he said.

Keeping ponies off the meat truck

In the 1970s and 1980s, when ponies were being replaced by trucks and all-terrain-vehicles, people sold the horses to slaughterhouses for meat. George helped save some of those animals.

We used to buy them for the meat price to keep them from the meat trucks.- Clifford George

"People didn't need horses anymore. So we used to buy them for the meat price to keep them from the meat trucks. They went for 50 cents per pound, about $350," he said.

For decades, George has worked with the Newfoundland Pony Society to try to educate people about the ponies and encourage more people to help save them. He says the provincial government should do more to protect them.

"The ponies of Iceland were saved by the government and the people there.The Newfoundland government has given the responsibility to the Newfoundland Pony Society to raise the ponies and save them, but it's not giving a whole lot of money. We need more money in order to save the pony," said George.

Hopeall Pony Heritage Park

The Newfoundland Pony Society has secured a lease on 25 acres (about 10 hectares) of Crown land near Hopeall, Trinity Bay. Their plan is to one day keep as many as 20 ponies at what they are calling the Newfoundland Pony Heritage Park.

"We needed them years ago; now they need us. We were on the edge of losing them and now we want to see the population increase," said Tammy Webber, a member at large with the Newfoundland Pony Society and pony owner.

"It would be a place the pony can call home and people can come see the pony."

Newfoundland Pony Society member Tammy Webber stands on the land near Hopeall that the society hopes to turn into a pony heritage park. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

But first the land must be cleared and the building renovated before the Newfoundland Heritage Pony Park can start taking in animals.

The society says its goal is to raise $250,000 to get the park up and running. So far they've raised almost $50,000. 

"It's going to take time and money," said Webber. "Once we get the ponies here, hopefully it will have a snowball effect and get the pony back in people's hearts and minds."

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