A Welsh Pony Rescue Support Network 
By Vanessa Vaile

Pony Rescue is the "new kid on the block" at Yahoo Groups, also home to Ponies (for Welsh), Ponycob (section C & D emphasis), Ponies-L (all ponies and pony breeds), Dressage Sportpony (self explanatory), and numerous other pony breed discussion lists.  Membership in Pony Rescue is by invitation (just ask: we'll invite); list traffic is light, with discussion more likely than not to be serious and to the point.  What is this group about, why was it formed, and where is it headed? 

Briefly stated, the Welsh Rescue Network, serving Welsh and other ponies, is an informal support network of breeders, owners, and pony lovers working together to rescue and safeguard ponies in distress and at risk.

According to its mission statement, the Welsh Rescue Network (or Pony Rescue Support Network) is an informal network of pony people working together toward a common goal, networking to multiply "pony power." An internet based network share information efficiently, compile resource lists and coordinate rescue efforts involving ponies, promote fostering and adoption, educate about ponies and equine rescue, and provide relief for ponies in distress, regardless of breed.  The goal is to work with recognized equine rescue organizations as well as supporting and assisting individual rescue efforts. Although Welsh-oriented, network interest extends to all ponies.

Setting the impersonal 3rd person reporting persona to one side, let me own up to my own role.  I hasten to add: I am not in it alone.  The idea started when I wrote Margaret Badger-Blackert (Tywyth Pony Farm) that I would like to make a memorial donation to something in Mary Lou Badger's name.  A project benefitting ponies, and more specifically pony welfare and rescue stuck me as just the ticket.  We looked around a bit.  Despite a mind-boggling multitude of established equine rescue and welfare groups, including some breed oriented, none, with the sole exception of Icelandic Pony Rescue, were specifically devoted to ponies.  Who better to undertake a pony rescue and welfare network than pony people with pony-know-how and years of experience in evaluating and handling ponies? From a "breeder ethics" perspective, we put them on the ground, so we should also take an active interest in their ongoing and future well-being.

When reports on severly neglected ponies in a seized herd in
Texas started appearing on discussion lists toward the end of August, Margaret posted to the Welsh list that a pony oriented rescue/welfare effort was in order. Taking that as a direct hint, I began exchanging messages with Margaret and Jane Cozart, opened a group at Yahoo, and, based on both my own contact list and messages posted at Ponies, sent invitations to a number of pony people that I thought might be interested.  This lead to extensive research on rescue organizations and discussion lists to learn more about what we were getting into.  Then, I created and uploaded a web page. What a lot of activity when all I orginally had in mind was writing a check for a pony rescue/welfare group, not actually STARTING one!

Networking efforts among several pony lists contributed to plans for transport, adoptions, and supplies for the beleaguered pony herd, with Laura Perkins and Julie Holmquist logging many hours identifying and cataloging ponies. Pony people across five states were poised, waiting to take in ponies.  Jane Cozart announced she would take several "unwanted leftovers," yearling and 2 year old colts without papers, with Janet Crouch and myself joining her. Nor were these the only individuals contributing to the effort and committed to taking in ponies. Still others quietly contacted would-be adopters with generous offers of help. Although horse trailers were hitched and ready to roll in four states, the herd dispersal bogged down in the courts and, ultimately came to naught. Yet, despite on-again, off-again frustrations, the ultimate message was that "internet connected" individuals could work together, coordinate plans, and, with little notice, mobilize to rescue a herd of ponies in distress. What was done once can be done again for other ponies in other places -- and better, thanks to lessons learned from the first, impromptu go-round. 

Although our scope includes all ponies, and membership is not limited to Welsh enthusiasts, most members are Welsh or part Welsh owners or breeders. Because of this Welsh "orientation," we seek recognition by the WPCSA.  The WPCSA mission statement clearly states that a purpose of the Society is " to further [the breed's] welfare in every way."  We take that statement to include the ponies themselves and not just "the breed" as an abstract concept. Since several pony welfare related issues under discussion touch on breed society policies and practices, we hope to research, frame and present specific proposals, serve on committees, help with research, coordinate support among the general membership, and generally promote WPCSA adoption of "pony welfare policies" whenever and wherever possible. 

With the help of our "Seattle AGM committee" of Debbie Benson (Wyndham Hill Welsh) and Barbara Curnow (Summerbrook Welsh), we will present a proposal to the AGM in February, distribute information and brochures, raffle a gift basket, and, in general, get the network ball rolling more widely among the general membership. Basket contents will represent our regional diversity, with members contributing regional items; the basket itself, the unity of a common goal and our willingness to work together. Anyone interested in adding regional items (the more unusual the better) should contact Debbie (wyndamhillwelsh@yahoo.com) or Barbara (Barbara@summerbrookwelsh.com) directly.

We would like WPCSA recognition, a link on the WPCSA webpage, coverage in Welsh Review, a pony welfare committee, an education outreach program for new owners and breeders, a mentor network to help new owners with basic pony management questions, development of appropriate procedure to issue duplicate papers to ponies separated from their papers, and serious consideration of a voluntary breed identification system. For this last, we strongly favor freeze branding with a W + registration number, to be noted on registration papers and recognized by the Society as proof of breed identity. The role of a partbred registry in extending the identity of registration and papers to more ponies and thus bettering their chances is another pony welfare issue touched by WPCSA policy. Not all in the group agree on this one, so support will be on an individual basis and not as a group. 

What can we realistically expect to do? What sort of formally organization best meets our needs (whatever they are)?  Those are questions much discussed but yet to be answered. Above all we aim for breed group and breeder involvement and a balanced, sane, practical approach to serious but emotionally charged issues that all too often sets groups within the "fellowship of the horse" against one another. 

Network members are spread across equestrian disciplines, across interests, and across the country from coast to coast, north and south, east and west. We have no physical "real world" location. Pony breeders (Welsh, Welsh cross, and sport pony) in the network hail from Texas, Oregon, Nebraska, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Missouri, New York, Utah, Conneticut, Oklahoma, and other states. Networkers also number Lone Star Rescue president and equine behavior specialist, Jennifer Williams; Icelandic Pony breeder and rescuer, Judy Ryder Duffy; "informal" pony super-rescuer
Regina (aka "the incredible"); and pony owners and lovers (Welsh, part Welsh, and other) from Louisiana , Georgia , Texas , and other parts. On a volunteer and non-hierarchical basis, as befits a network, individual members are informal coordinators or representatives for their geographic areas, with Erlita aka Pony Gyrl trumping us all by volunteering as coordinator for three states!

Our existence and exchanges are tied to the internet.  Nor do we have any formal, recognized status as an organization, although that too is under discussion. Under these conditions, a rescue operation that takes in ponies is highly unlikely, as are a number of other projects taken on by equine rescue organizations.  We can: act as a clearinghouse for pony welfare and rescue projects; share information; forward messages between lists and individuals; volunteer pony expertise to local organizations; advocate pony welfare policies; mentor; facilitate; encourage responsible pony breeding and ownership; liaison with recognized rescue groups; maintain  regional and national lists of volunteers, resources, and foster homes for rescued ponies; and support individual rescue efforts. In brief: network, educate, advocate.

(Welsh) Pony Rescue Network:
Group and Discussion List page http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ponyrescue
web page: http://www.geocities.com/vcrary/savetheponies

Page on freeze branding information

Equine Rescue Information & Resources

Pony breeds

Pony discussion lists

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