Despite the obstacles Netta LeDrew continues to open her heart to Newfoundland Ponies
CHANGE ISLANDS — She has a gentle face with red hair that hangs on either side and she’ll nuzzle your hand for extra petting if you pull it away too soon. Her eyes are warm and intelligent as she regards you, checking to see if you might have any treats for her. She’s gentle with the children as they poke grass through the fence. She is still young — just two — and likes to frolic with the other youngsters her age.
The pony’s name is Kate and she is royalty in the corral, named after Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. The choice of a name for this beautiful pony born at the Change Islands Pony Sanctuary Inc. wasn’t random. She was named by Sharon Johnston, wife of Governor General David Johnson during their visit to Change Islands in 2011 to commemorate the marriage and visit by the youngest royal couple with a promise to inform the Duchess of the naming when they met. Mrs. Johnston had said that it was ironic to name the pony after the Duchess, considering she is allergic to horse hair. But Kate she became and she’s one of 11 ponies currently calling the sanctuary on Change Islands home and one of three born that year on the island.
The facility is in need of upgrades but it’s not as simple as just picking up a hammer.
That very summer a German film crew came to do a story. That was the first indication that others outside of Newfoundland were interested in what they were doing on Change Islands with this very special breed of pony.
That was also when the first setback to the entire endeavor came. The vet came and did the blood work early that fall only to discover that neither mare was pregnant. The primary goal of the refuge was breeding and so far it was proving to be a difficult task.
That fall and winter, Ms. LeDrew tended to the mares under her watch. She spent her time learning about ponies in general and how to care for them. It was a family project to a degree with her sister Bernice and mother Margaret advising and helping out with the ponies when they could.
It was Margaret who noticed that Charm was getting rather chubby. “Mom said, ‘That horse is getting bigger’ and it made us wonder,” Ms. LeDrew said. The suspicion took hold that she might be expecting after and with a little research she discovered that if you give the mare cold water and put your hand on their belly if there is a foal it will kick.
“So Bernice and I stood with our hands on either side and waited while Charm drank,” she said. How excited they were when they felt that baby kick. A foal was on its way and the breeding program was seeing success after all.
The entire community waited in excited anticipation for the birth of their first foal who had been conceived just before the blood tests were taken so it was too early to detect. That is the theory anyway.
On July 27 after 11 months and 11 days gestation, Lily of the Cove was born. She was the first Newfoundland Pony born on Change Islands in over 40 years. Great fanfare was made of her arrival and with the media exposure given to them after this event the Change Islands Ponies and their refuge were on their way to becoming successful.
It was not entirely smooth sailing when Lily collicked that winter. “We almost lost her.” But again the research Ms. LeDrew had done helped and they were able to clear it up. It was evident that these ponies were in good hands from the outset.
The next season saw the birth of Jigger on Sept. 29 and White Strawberry and Beothuk Blackberry were donated in 2007 as well. Mares were all over that next season and three foals were born and they were Legend, Schooner and Betsy’s Spirit who was named by former resident of the island Elizabeth Scammell Reynolds.
Two years ago, three more foals were born which brought the total to eight.
Caring for these ponies requires complete commitment. From bottle feeding the foal Angel after her mother, the mare Lily rejected her, purchasing the formula she needed and raising the money to do so, finding funding for hay and fencing, vet bills, shots, dental care and other expenses — her life is full of the ponies.