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.
“Registry of lands is a mess,” she said, “and that’s a big problem for everybody.”
Meanwhile she seeks to find funding to build the new barn. The previous barns were built from donated material and she is exploring that avenue again. She is also exploring funding options to see what is open to her.
Meanwhile she continues to operate at a stagnated pace, unable to grow, unable to move forward in what could be a much larger venture. She could board for private owners, offer riding lessons, breed more foals and increase the revenue. Better still she could contribute to the growth of the Newfoundland pony population which, while better than in recent years, still isn’t large.
She works hard to pay the bills that include vet bills, dental costs and of course hay and other feed. In fact last summer Ms. LeDrew revived an old tradition, cutting and making hay for the ponies. She made 2,000 pounds of hay but the ponies needed 11 tonnes for the winter. She offers rides in the carriage or on horseback to make further income.
“I can’t say how thankful I am for private donations that feed the ponies,” she explains and says that now that the enterprise is fully incorporated, she will seek non- profit designation next.
People come from all over the world, Japan, Australia, England, the United States and many other parts of Canada to see the ponies. In fact when reached for a few more details for this interview she was with two ladies from Dorset, England who had interests in the New Forest Ponies, a larger breed from the United Kingdom, for comparison purposes. The New Forests are larger than the Newfoundland breed but it was interesting for her to talk to other pony lovers who had travelled a great distance to see the ponies she spends her days with. People who visit are so taken with the ponies they want to help and that’s something that she’s grateful for.
With full dedication to the ponies, Ms. LeDrew continues to nurture her charges. She tends to them every day, feeding and caring for them. Community members bring scraps for treats and children ride them and enjoy their company. Without a new facility, however, this is as big as she can grow. With three foals turning two this month it’s time to look to breeding again but without a new barn there will be no further breeding.
The Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary Inc. is located on the main highway on Change Islands on the left before the interpretation Centre.