W.I. Newsletter January 2021

Thanks to a technical hitch at the start of this month’s meeting, followed by an unnecessary, apologetic email from our Zoom “host” Lynne Lucas the following day, we now know from the responses just how appreciative our members are, that we can at least meet virtually.  They all reassured Lynne it wasn’t a problem.

Our speaker this month was Suzanne Kemp who has acquired commoner rights in the New Forest and is, therefore, allowed to put her five ponies out to graze.  We learnt that whilst some of the many ponies we come across in the Forest (remember those days when we could leave home and drive anywhere at any time!) are semi-wild, each one of them does have an owner.  Most of the ponies are micro-chipped and all have an equine passport.  Whilst the Verderers oversee the Forest, they in turn employ the Agisters, currently five, to be responsible for the ponies.  They are human encyclopedias and can identify a pony in trouble and alert the owner if necessary.

The ponies are described as ecological lawnmowers as they graze the heathland and moorland. They create the landscape as they nibble at the nutritious gorse and other thorny shrubbery and grass.

We heard that in recent years measures have been taken to restrict the number of foals born each year and to contain their births to the summer months.   This in turn has strengthened their bloodlines.  As each stallion can sire up to 40 foals, the number released on to the Forest has been much reduced and those that are put out to serve the mares are carefully selected.  In addition to her five ponies, Suzanne also has a stallion, Major.

The New Forest Pony is a hardy breed and is much sought after, and even after Brexit, exportation to Europe is still possible as apparently, we have third country status.   

Many events are normally held throughout the year, but obviously with the arrival of Covid-19 restrictions none of these could take place in 2020. With some trepidation the annual sale of livestock was held as an on-line Auction in December and this proved to be highly successful and prices held up. 

Suzanne illustrated her talk with many slides of the forest and ponies including one taken in Lymington, before the installation of so many cattle grids, showing several ponies in the High Street waiting outside the Fish & Chip shop!

Once Suzanne had been thanked and left our meeting, there was time for a chat amongst members.  Needless to say, top of the agenda was who had already received their vaccination, who had an appointment and who had yet to hear.

Before this meeting, our members had been advised that we had been the recipient of a Grant from the Parish Council for which we are very grateful.  Our income is down this financial year, but we still have to pay for speakers and our Zoom subscription and other ongoing commitments.  This will now allow us to have a welcome back event for our existing members, whenever that may be, and a recruitment drive in the future.

However, you don’t have to wait for that; if there is anyone out there who is looking for some camaraderie then look no further.  Please contact us as we are still open to new members.  You can find further information on this website or just pop into the village shop where more information can be found on the electronic notice board or you may find one of our members behind the counter. Apart from on-line meetings, members are keeping in touch by email and telephone.  Subject to the prevailing restrictions, members are also meeting up to walk together. 

Our next meeting (via Zoom again) will be on 25th February and we will have a representative from the nearby Hawk Conservancy.  It will be interesting to see what they have to say, as there has been speculation in the local press that their future is in doubt as their reserves are depleting.    As usual look out for the Invitation to join this meeting from Lynne Lucas.  It is a 7.30 p.m. start.