IN a devastating incident, a talented New Forest pony has had to be put down from an injury sustained after heartless thieves stole him and a companion pony from a field at Shripney, West Sussex, earlier this month.
Oke and Annabelle in happier times Photo: Luke Gee LRG Photography
Oke was only four years old and belonged to Annabelle Harvey-Mason, aged 10, who is inconsolable about his loss, as is her entire family. Annabelle was due to be presented with a Star of the Future award at Arundel Riding Club’s awards evening later this month to mark the duo’s outstanding successes this season.
Her mother, Kerry Harvey-Mason, who is on the committee of Arundel Riding Club, has a yard in Aldingbourne. She also rents 32 acres of grazing at Shripney where Oke had been turned out with a companion pony. She had checked and fed both ponies on the evening of Saturday October 12 and the electric fencing around their paddock was intact.
But when she returned early the following morning, the electric fencing to the field had been unhooked and laid down and the ponies had disappeared.
She said: ” I followed the tracks through the fields until I got to the road and found that the fencing there had been removed. It was obvious from the depth and manner of the tracks that the two ponies had not simply been out for a stroll.
They had been ridden. When I didn’t find them on the road, I called the police on the non urgent number at 9am to report that they had been stolen. Both ponies were freezemarked and chipped. I called again at 11am.”
A search party was launched by friends and relatives to try and find the ponies and Mrs Mason said she was told later that at 01.50am, a member of the public had reported seeing the horses loose on the road, and that a man living nine miles away had seen the ponies on the A259 and had rung the police at 9.30am to say two ponies were loose on the road and one of them appeared to have a broken leg.
She said:”I can’t understand why the police did not relate these two calls to my missing ponies and ring me back with the information. The man said that he had also rung the RSPCA, but they were unable to come out to help. I feel very badly let down by the authorities and it would have helped us if police had connected the two calls.
“The only thing we can assume is that when the thieves got into a lit area with the ponies, they saw the freeze markings on them and decided to abandon them because they knew they would be traced. We will never know now, but it is possible the injury to Oke could have been caused by a passing vehicle,” added Mrs Mason.
When she found the two ponies in a ploughed field at Oving/Mertson, Oke had sustained a fractured pedal bone, and although vets tried everything possible to treat this, they eventually advised that he would never recover from the injury and the kindest action was to put him down.
Oke and Annabelle during a competition Photo: Luke Gee LRG Photography
Kerry said:” It was a heartbreaking decision to make. My little girl had put her heart and soul into this pony, which she had backed herself. He was 13.1hh and being a weight-carrying New Forest breed, she would have had years of competition ahead with him. We are devastated and gutted. From the day she saw him in February, she had established a unique rapport with Oke.
He became a superstar with her this season in dressage, showing, show jumping and gymkhana, winning many competitions. The bond they had was indistructable.”
Sussex Police issued a statement saying:
Police said:”We sympathise with the owners. Police received a report of two missing horses that may have been stolen some hours after receiving calls from the public to say two horses were on the loose. We informed Farm Watch and twice sent units to search along the A259, which cuts through a large rural area. The horses were eventually found in a field in Merston.”