Only 250 breeding Newfoundland Ponies are left on this planet, and 13 of these critically endangered ponies are thriving in Jaffrey, NH because they live under an umbrella of protection. Emily Chetkowski, President of Villi Poni Farm, became a champion for this gentle, loving breed after buying a Newfoundland Pony as a companion for her old half Clydesdale horse.
“In a few short months, [my pony’s] full-blooded sister came up for sale. Six months after that, their Registered Newfoundland mother came up for sale. Then an injured Newfoundland stallion needed help. And so it began,” says Chetkowski.
Villi Poni Farm was the winner of SANFORD’S COMMUNITY COMMITMENT
in November, earning a $500 charity donation!
Chetkowski quickly fell in love with the breed, and as she learned about how critically endangered Newfoundland Ponies are, she became convinced that they’re a breed worth saving.
Chetkowski and the volunteers that help run Villi Poni Farm are striving to “cultivate suitable, conservation minded homes for Newfoundland Ponies, and to grow the herd slowly and carefully,” says Chetkowski. “This isn’t just about numbers of ponies nor how quickly we can increase their numbers. First and foremost is the welfare of each and every pony. That, in turn, translates to the welfare of the entire breed. Long term, we envision a strong Newfoundland Pony owner/breeder community here in New England.”
It’s a lofty, yet attainable goal, as Villi Poni Farm has already saved about 100 ponies in the last three years by utilizing a network of carefully selected foster farms.
History of the Newfoundland Pony
Historical and social realities have placed an enormous strain on the Newfoundland Pony. The breed’s temperament made them ideally suited as workhorses for Newfoundlanders, as these all-purpose ponies displayed stamina, strength, intelligence, courage, obedience, willingness and common sense. They were used for plowing, hauling fishing nets, gathering hay, carrying and hauling wood, and for transportation.
Thousands of Newfoundland ponies once roamed Newfoundland, Canada, but in the 1960s, the ponies were displaced by technology. ATVs, tractors, snowmobiles and other mechanical equipment increasingly took over the work these lovable animals performed.
Soon, the ponies came to be viewed as a nuisance, and they were fenced out of peoples’ gardens.
“Fencing laws were enacted and breeding was discouraged. Many ponies were sold by their owners who thought they were going to new homes, but in fact most were sent to horse slaughter and meat processing plants in Quebec. They were taken off the island by the tractor trailer load,” says Chetkowski.
Tainted pony meat is often sold to unsuspecting consumers, which continues to strain the breed as well.
“No matter how people feel about horse slaughter, pro or con, there is one fact that cannot be disputed. Horses not raised specifically and carefully for human consumption are not palatable, period,” says Chetkowski. “Horses that are raised for meat in Europe are raised under strict regulations. There are many drugs that they cannot ever have. One such drug, known in the horse world as Bute, an equivalent to our Ibuprofen, is commonly given to horses. Bute given even once to an equine, never leaves their body. When consumed by humans, it causes blood dyscrasia, one of them being Leukemia. Many unsuspecting people eat this essentially poisoned meat, thinking it is safe to eat when it is not. There is no way to know if an equine headed to slaughter has had Bute in its lifetime or not unless that animal was raised specifically for meat where certain drugs are prohibited. It is simply NOT fit for consumption, yet the industry still thrives and turns a blind eye,” says Chetkowski.
With no conservations mechanisms in place, and a demand for pony meat in existence, the breed never recovered from the government initiative that decimated its population, and remains critically endangered to the present day. Chetkowski says that “initial attempts to save this breed meant breeding as much as possible and selling ponies. There was little follow-up, and basically no teaching on conservation and preservation. Ponies are passed from home to home as children grow out of them. These ponies become lost and end up in situations like most of our herd did before [Villi Poni Farm was] formed. Many never reproduced. The breed’s numbers are not effectively rising because of this.”
Villi Poni Farm and other conservation breeders strive to replace an animal with one offspring and then add one more to the population, but because of their tragic history, Newfoundland Ponies have very few breeding offspring. Chetkowski is often approached by people seeking to adopt a pet pony, but the mission at Villi Poni Farm is to grow the breed, not sell ponies per se.
“Rare breeds aren’t nor should they be for everyone,” says Chetkowski. “Educating and facilitating breed conservation awareness is a key component to the preservation and restoration of this breed. We never sell ponies and none of our current herd is available for adoption. However, the foals of these ponies will be available for adoption through our one-of-a-kind breeding program.”
Chetkowski’s program is designed to cultivate conservation knowledge and “safe homes” for the Newfoundland Pony through mentoring. New owners are expected to breed responsibly, and the ponies remain under Villi Poni Farm’s umbrella of protection for life.
If you are interested in learning more, please visit www.villiponifarm.org.
2017 & Beyond
–FREE access to the movie “Where Once They Mattered,” which highlights challenges the Newfoundland Pony faces as it struggles against extinction.
-Equine Assisted Learning Certification Program: June 5 – June 11.
-Tours available by appointment.
-Villi Poni Farm is excited to announce that they are expecting the birth of a new foal in July.
Villi Poni Farm was started in 2010, but received 501c3 designation in January of 2013 while located in New Ipswich, NH. In March of 2016 they moved to Jaffrey, NH.