A herd of “grieving” ponies appeared to keep an all-night roadside vigil after one of their family members was killed by a motorist.
Sarah Simmons shared an image of the scene on social media in a bid to urge drivers to slow down in the New Forest, where ponies are allowed to roam freely.
“Broke my heart this morning seeing another pony killed on the Forest Road. Even more that her friends were looking on,” Ms Simmons wrote.
The animal’s owner, Cathy Stride, told The Independent they were unable to move it until the following day due to a lack of light, after it was died shortly after 5pm on 8 January.
She said the rest of the tight-knit herd, which included its mother and half-sister, were waiting there all night, “definitely showing signs of distress”.
Ms Simmons shared the image of the dead pony, which was called Hazelhill Scrap, on Facebook the following morning.
“That photograph shows those ponies weeping for their companion to get up and come with them,” Ms Stride said.
“I know animals are basic and you get a lot of people being overly soppy about them, but they do have feelings… it means something to them.
Barbara King, emerita professor in anthropology at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and author of How Animals Grieve, told The Independent Ms Stride was right to suspect her ponies were in distress.
“It's absolutely correct to say that herd members may grieve when a horse dies,” she said.
“In this case, Hazelhill's mother and stepsister stood especially close vigil, and that makes sense as they were quite likely to have been emotionally close to Hazelhill.”
She added: “Horses feel deeply - joy as well as grief - and they think about their lives.”
The nine-year-old pony, which died from internal injuries and a broken leg, was Ms Stride’s third to be killed on the same stretch of road. She said it would have taken around 20 minutes to die.
“I don’t know what the answer is apart from to keep trying to educate the drivers,” Ms Stride said, adding: “They do grieve, and maybe that might make the drivers think.”
Ms Simmons, whose post has been shared thousands of times, wrote: “I hope by posting this it may make people realise that it’s not just the owner who it upsets but their herd members too.
“Slow down day/night on forest roads, these ponies have more rights to these roads than you do.”
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