Pony sanctuary forges on

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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.


And there has been heartbreak as well. Her first pony, Prince, died a tragic death. Her pain is evident when she talks of the circumstances leading to that event.

Prince had a tumour on his leg that needed to be removed. The vet anaesthetized him to do the surgery. When he started to wake up during the procedure they gave him more of the drug. After several additional injections to keep him asleep, Prince stopped breathing from an overdose of the drug. 

“The surgery was complete, there was a tiny opening left to stitch and then he was gone,” Ms. LeDrew said, tears in her eyes, her voice filled with emotion. “I couldn’t believe it.” 

The entire community was in shock and people are still wondering how such a thing could occur.  The veterinarian was a large animal specialist, a government veterinarian and she is still unsure how this sort of thing can happen with experts there doing the work. Prince is missed by the community who often speak of the tragedy of his death.

What’s next

With 11 ponies now being cared for by Netta however, these sweet natured animals need new facilities. 

But getting Kate and her companions a new place to live hasn’t been easy. 

“We have been allowed to use the land by very generous people, we have used make shift barns but the time came when we needed to make better accommodations,” she explains. 

She goes on then to say that they have incorporated with the official name The Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary Inc. and the organization with Ms. LeDrew along with board members Donna Stacey and Cavelle Pennell started to look for land. A business plan was set in place. Funding was available and the land needed to be theirs before they could apply

But every attempt to secure land was delayed by a combination of land claims from private citizens and the complication of the loss of land registry records in a fire. Finally they were released from a claim against a block of land they were trying to secure by a former resident.  The purchase was made and it belongs to the Sanctuary. But by that time the funding programs the program could have received was no longer available to them due to the due date for applications having passed. 

It was a huge blow for the organization and Ms. LeDrew personally. “We had invested several thousand dollars to buy the land and now we cannot build the facility on it to house the ponies,” she said. 

In addition to the land being theirs now, there are other pressing reasons to move the ponies to a new home. The first of these is that the two current barns are maxed out capacity wise. 

“We can’t breed any more foals now as we have no room,” said Ms. LeDrew.

Their numbers are sitting at 11 currently, 10 owned by the sanctuary and one privately owned that is boarded there. A twelfth has been sold outside the community. Also, since both barns sit on borrowed land and need repairs, something has to be done either way. Repairing barns on land when at any moment they may be required to move by the landowner who had already given them permission for several years isn’t really a wise use of the funds donated and earned by the venture.

Then there is the fact that a larger barn will be more accessible. With the nice large barn built on the land owned by the organization people who visit the ponies could tour that. Ms. LeDrew could grow the sanctuary and keep all of the ponies together with proper corrals as required for training. The land is near the road but further up the island out of the community and would be visible to travelers on their way to and from the ferry. 

“It would be more accommodating for both visitors and the ponies,” Ms. LeDrew says. 

She also wants to make people aware of the larger issue, land management in Newfoundland.  Her project was delayed due to an absence of records and regulations at the land management office. She can see how that can be an issue throughout the entire province with tourists and residents alike being unable to purchase property due to protests by people who may have a history on the land but no registered ownership. In her case the purported owners decided not to pursue claims but it was too late and the process to slow. This is a huge problem that Mrs. LeDrew thinks should be addressed by the government. 

Organizations: Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Refuge, Sanctuary Inc., The Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Change Islands, Ottawa Fogo Island England Japan Australia United States Canada Dorset United Kingdom

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Recent comments

  • Kathleen Hogan
    June 13, 2013 - 12:16

    .......... please let me know via email, how I could make a donation if I can't visit....thanks much.......we used to have a Newfoundland Pony named Madge, when I was a young gal...:D she use to loveeeee molasses bread, and would come to the door for it.....a wonderful memory , it is......and I am so very happy to know that this place in Change Islands is doing such a wonderful work in preservation of these every beautiful Newfie Pony....all the blessings to you.....

  • Byron Hierlihy
    June 09, 2013 - 10:40

    Fantastic article on these beautiful and rare ponies. I know how much it cost to keep and care for these ponies as I own two of them mysel fand hope to have a new addition next spring.. It is nice to see some peolple dedicated to the actual care and rejuvenation of the breed and not for their own selfish purposes. I for one will be visiting and supporting Ms. Ledrew and her team in their efforts to improve facilities etc. for OUR NEWFOUNDLAND PONIES. Will visit soon. Regards

    • Carolyn R Parsons
      June 10, 2013 - 08:20

      Thank you for all of your support. You may email the pony sanctuary and Netta directly at newfoundlandponyrefuge@hotmail.com. I visited with Netta and the ponies this past weekend. Some good things are happening as a result of all of your support. Thank you

  • Debra
    June 05, 2013 - 20:38

    I wonder if Ms. LeDrew ever considered setting up a program where sponsors and private citizens could 'adopt' or partially 'adopt' a pony. I know it might sound crazy at first consideration but it would be something like people who sponsor children through World Vision overseas. I would love something like that. Newfoundland ponies are a great part of our hertiage as Newfoundlanders and I feel it is wonderful what Ms. LeDrew is doing and is very important to maintain. Could you also let me know how I could make a donation? Thank you.

    • Kathleen Hogan
      June 13, 2013 - 12:11

      wow!! a good idea Debra!!..:D

  • Dr John Mac Pherson
    June 05, 2013 - 13:56

    I am moved by your story and would love to help in some way.I live in Halifax, Nov Scotia and wil certain make it a prior to visit at a later date.If I can make a financial donation please e-mail how to proceed.Thinking of the ponies Fondly John

    • David McConkey
      June 25, 2013 - 04:54

      Hi John. Great to see your intent to support the ponies here on Change Islands. Did someone get back to you on how to make a donation? Do visit us on Change Islands when you get a chance. David McConkey