Friday, 21 Jun 2024

Fury as wild ponies ‘brutally’ rounded up by ‘yelling rangers on quad bikes’

Gathering wild ponies off the Carneddau mountains

A tradition in Snowdonia has been labelled “brutal” after a national park ambassador watched farmers round up wild ponies using quad bikes.

At the weekend, farmers and their families were filmed rounding up hundreds of ponies off the Carnaeddau range for sorting and health checks.

But one person has questioned the practice of driving the ponies from the moors using shouting and loud quad bikes.

Writing on Instagram, Lisa Wells said she remains “haunted” by what she saw when witnessing the annual gathering, reports NorthWalesLive.

Her comments gained traction with some animal lovers but were greeted with disbelief by many in the rural community. The ponies are managed by farming members of the Carneddau Mountain Pony Society (CMPS), who claim they would be far worse off without their support.

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Lisa, an ambassador for Eryri, Ordnance Survey and the Ramblers, runs Women Only Walks in the national park. After this year’s pony gathering on Sunday, she described the 2022 event as “incredibly sad” and for this reason she stayed away last weekend.

“The ponies were hunted; they were chased at speed by people on quads who screamed, shouted and revved their engines,” she recalled. “There were people on foot chasing and screaming. Teenagers and children running around shouting.

“The ponies were scared, foals tried to keep up with their mums, some ponies tripped and fell. They did their best to escape but, eventually exhausted, they simply didn’t have any fight left and were herded into the farm.” Calling for a different management approach, she added: “There has to be a kinder and more respectful way to look after these beautiful animals.”

The post attracted some sympathy. A woman said it sounded “horrendous”, another added: “I cannot understand why it is allowed to carry on.” Some called for the RSPCA to get involved. I’d always believed these beautiful ponies were pretty well cared for,” said one man.

For many people, this perspective betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of wild animals and their management. Semi-feral ponies will not, they insisted, “respond to a whistle or a carrot”. Unlike domesticated livestock, they won’t canter down the mountain following a feed bucket, said Facebook users.

A horse owner wrote: “For their own protection the ponies are gathered in what may seem a noisy, aggressive way. But it is in fact the best way to keep them moving and get them in safely.”

A smallholder added: “How on earth can you ride a quad at speed over rocks, they’re not motocross bikes? As for the noise and shouting, have these people never seen a round-up of any wild animal in any country?”

In recent decades, horseback gathering on the Carneddau has been replaced by quad bikes. Once down the mountain, the ponies are given a health check. Any ponies unlikely to survive the winter are rehomed, many by Horse Sense Wirral. Some colts (male foals) are removed to control numbers and keep the 300-strong herd in balance.

While there have been allegations of ponies being injured in the annual gather, this year’s only main casualty was a farmer who came off his quad bike and broke his leg. A mountain rescue team came to his aid.

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