THE bottom is falling out of the market for New Forest ponies with some foals failing to reach their reserve price of 10 guineas at the Beaulieu Road sales.

It has led to concerns from one pony owner that some will end up like some Dartmoor ponies, as food for zoo animals, on the dinner tables of France or sold for their hide in Italy.

David Readhead of the New Forest Livestock Society, which runs the Beaulieu Road Sale Yard, said while some British ponies would always be slaughtered for human consumption aboard or as animal food, ‘most of them go to private homes’.

And he stressed: “We don’t have meat traders at Beaulieu Road Sales.”

Mr Readhead said the economic situation coupled with the shortage of hay this winter was contributing to the low prices. About 90 per cent of those in the sale ring in November sold, but the remainder failed to reach the minimum bid.

“If they don’t make 10 guineas then they go back to their owner but we have seen some that went for 200 guineas,” he said.

“Overall, it’s fair to say prices are at rock bottom.”

But he pointed out that the situation had been seen coming and the decision had been taken to put only 30 stallions out to service the mares instead of 90 and for only four weeks. The move would reduce the number of foals born from 1,000 to about 400.

In addition, the government’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme administered through the Verderers paid for microchipping of ponies saving either vendors or purchasers £50.