Ponies on the pill scheme

Ponies on the pill scheme sees marksman shoot contraceptive darts into 500 horses on Welsh hillside

swhp1The pioneering project to curb the number of foals being born on thousands of acres of common land is believed to the the first in Britain.

A marksman armed with contraceptive darts is targeting a herd of 500 wild horses – to stop them over-breeding on a Welsh hillside.

Animal welfare expert Phil York is putting “ponies on the pill” by firing the darts into their flanks in a mission to curb the effects of their frisky ways.

swhp2Marksman Phil fires the vaccine from a distance of 50 yards into the wild ponies and horses roaming on 3,000 acres of common land at Gelligaer, near Caerphilly.

The aim is to cut down on the number of foals being born to keep the 500-strong herd down to manageable numbers.

So far Phil – from the Monmouth-based charity the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies – has vaccinated 60 ponies on the common.

swhp3He said it is the only such scheme in Britain after getting the idea from similar programmes in the US.

Phil, 52, said: “Each animal needs to be shot with the contraceptive three times over a period of six-and-a-half months for it to have any effect.

“To them it just feels like a bee sting on their rump.

“The dart will fall out within a short time and they just carry on with their lives. If it doesn’t we follow them and retrieve it.”

swhp4The contraceptive darts cost the society £50 an animal.

Many of the animals are cross breed horse and ponies dumped by owners who cannot afford to keep them.

But a few dozen of the others are pure Welsh mountain ponies who are not being put on the pill.

Phil said: “We are trying to increase the numbers of the Welsh ponies which have dropped drastically in the past few years.

swhp7“By preventing other varieties breeding with them we are hoping that Welsh mountain ponies can make a comeback in their native land.”

Each dart contains a charge which shoots the contraceptive into the animal.

Identifying individual ponies is no problem for Phil who said: “They each have their own characteristics and picking them out is no problem.”

He said: “The dumping of semi wild ponies and horses is causing major problems for communities across Wales and we are confident we are making a start in solving the problem.”