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A rare Newfoundland pony has died after being fed too many apples by passersby, leaving the owner begging the public to not feed animals they don't own.
It happened over the weekend at Driftwood Acres, a privately owned horse farm near Stephenville, on the west coast of the island.
The farm's owner, Jessica Boyd, worked with a local veterinarian and stayed with the mare, named Little Catalina, all through the night, but the damage had been done.
"She was a lovely, just very sweet little pony," said Boyd.
"She would have greeted everyone at the gate and she would have happily taken apples from anyone," she said. "She was a very personable pony, more like a dog than a horse. And she was really special. And this is a tragedy."
A small hobby farm, Driftwood Acres is working to preserve what the Newfoundland Pony Society describes as a critically endangered breed. From 12,000 animals in the 1970s, the group now estimates there are around just 250 ponies across the country who are able to continue the breed.
Driftwood Acres, one of only three breeding farms the society lists in the province, had 12 ponies including Little Catalina, who was the youngest breeding mare of the group.
"This is a labour of love," said Boyd, "not a moneymaker ... The idea here is conservation breeding."
Boyd said she could tell there was something wrong when she checked on the ponies Friday evening. She found around a dozen apples and been thrown into the paddock, Little Catalina lying down, and the other animals ignoring the apples.
"What that tells me is that they had been fed enough apples that they didn't want to eat an apple," she said.
Boyd said the paddock where she kept the mares in the summer is near the old rail track, now a popular ATV path in the area.
"People love going there all the time to see them because they can walk right up to the gate and the ponies will come over."
Little Catalina was in no shape for her dinner of hay, let alone more apples.
"You could tell that she had been rolling in pain. She had some abrasions along one side of her body. She was very dehydrated and kind of gaunt in appearance. It looked like she had lost like 150 pounds as compared to the day before," said Boyd.
They were signs of colic, which in horse terms Boyd describes as a catch-all for stomach problems.
"Horses digestive tracts are pretty sensitive, and there's not a lot of room for error," she said. "Basically, if you can't get things moving, they can die."
A veterinarian herself, Boyd immediately called the large animal vet in the area. They worked together, giving the pony fluids intravenously, and trying to relieve the pressure in her stomach.
Boyd slept in the barn that night to keep an eye on her pony, who continued deteriorating.
"We made the decision to end her suffering because she was dying," said Boyd. "And it was definitely directly a result of having been overfed apples."
It's not the first time she's had problems with people overfeeding the ponies. Boyd described coming to the paddock to discover someone had dumped a garbage bag of crab apples into the field.
"I did put up signs asking people not to feed the ponies like, you know, a goofy little sign, a little cartoon horse and a carrot with an X through it. And people just ignore it."
Even while she and the vet were tending to Little Carolina, Boyd had to keep one eye on the pony paddock.
"I actually had to go and stop people who were there feeding apples again. They said they didn't see the sign and I believe they didn't. But it just goes to show … I had to go out while my pony was dying from eating too many apples and ask people to stop feeding apples again."
Even before this week, she was getting ready to put up more signs to let people know about the potential harm they were causing.
"I purchased a new sign, 'Your kindness could kill'. That's literally what it says. And it has," she said.