Skip to main content
close x

Stopping petting of animals

Feeding ponies causes serious issues in the New Forest and is against byelaws. 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 can give ponies bad stomach ache, which is very painful.

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 undertaken to reduce the feeding and petting of the animals:

  • Behaviour change campaigns online and on-the-ground, run by us and the Commoners Defence Association
  • 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’– great for schools, families and at events
  • 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.’

Commoning in the New Forest

Newsletter Image





Six free walking routes when you sign up for New Forest Newsletter

Subscribe to New Forest National Park Authority

By entering your email below you are consenting to us sending you newsletters. To unsubscribe, email More info:

I think you mistyped your email
Your interests (tick at least one)

Please select one

By signing up to this form you are consenting to receive emails from us. Each email will contain a link to your personal reference settings where you can opt-out or change which emails you receive from us. Please read our Privacy Policy for more information about how we use data.

Subscribe to New Forest National Park Authority

Thanks, your subscription has been confirmed. You've been added to our list and your New Forest walking pack is on its way to you, including a link to download our free app.