Feeding & petting ponies

Ponies graze on common land

Feeding ponies human food, or even on things like carrots, causes serious issues in the New Forest. Some ponies and donkeys develop an unhealthy craving for human food and become aggressive with people who, quite rightly, try to keep their picnics to themselves. The animals also tend to gather near roads, looking for people with food, and this makes them more vulnerable to traffic accidents. Human food also gives the ponies colic (bad stomach ache) which is very painful.

Feeding of ponies is therefore against the byelaws – for good reason. Even stroking ponies can be dangerous. They may look friendly but they are unpredictable and can bite and kick, especially mares with foals.

A range of methods is used to reduce the feeding and petting of the animals:

  • Monitoring the scale and extent of the problem, by the Verderers Office and the Forestry Commission.
  • Face to face discussion with people who are feeding the animals, or at places where problems have occurred in the past.
  • Replacing ineffective permanent signs with temporary, eye-catching ‘look don’t touch’ signs and posters at specific locations where people and animals might come into conflict.
  • Leaflets, including a folding fortune-teller-like ‘flick-flack’ produced by the National Park Authority – great for schools, families and at events.
  • Paper bags, used by retailers, which ask people not to feed the ponies.
  • Pony-proof litter bins carrying the message that ‘Your food and litter could harm the ponies and donkeys. Please take yours home if this bin is full.’
  1. Feeding & petting ponies (you are here)
  2. Pony-proof litter bins


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