Don't feed or pet the ponies

ponies grazing at Woodgreen

Ponies can bite and kick!

Feeding New Forest ponies and donkeys human food, or even on things like carrots, is against the byelaws for some very good reasons:

  • Some ponies and donkeys can develop an unhealthy craving for human food. They can then become aggressive with people who, quite rightly, try to keep their picnics to themselves. The result is that innocent people are kicked or bitten through no fault of their own, or that a tent is destroyed by an animal searching for lunch!
  • Feeding of ponies makes them more vulnerable to traffic accidents. This is because they tend to gather near roads (looking for people with food) and of course as most people know, they have little or no road sense!
  • Human food can give the ponies colic (bad stomach ache) – which is very painful. There is plenty of natural food in the Forest and they are best left to the gorse, grass and holly they have become accustomed to over the last few hundred years. If a particular pony does need additional food, the local Agister will know this and ensure that the commoner who owns it provides food, usually by taking it to back-up land away from the open forest.

Even stroking ponies can be dangerous. They may look friendly but they are unpredictable and can bite and kick, especially mares with foals. A good tip here is never to stand between a mare and her foal – they may take fright if they fear they are being separated.

Only when really necessary, do Agisters remove individual ponies from the Forest – they have the right to graze here and the problem is essentially one caused by people, not by the animals.

Similarly, additional fencing to keep people away from ponies (and vice versa) is seen as a very last resort. The New Forest is a wonderful open landscape and should stay that way.

For families who want to picnic away from ponies, there are fenced picnic areas at Blackwater, Bolderwood and Wilverley.


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