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A Good Home For Every Pony

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When the lead comes off of Joey’s harness you’d think he was more dog than pony. For a split decision he freezes as though unsure which direction to go, before he bolts toward the edge of the circular paddock and then begins sprinting around us like a pony possessed.

Joey is one of five ponies who live on this Ladner farm at Tiny Tales Pony Rescue Society, a charitable organization run by Tara Pay and her mother Marilyn Pay. Tiny Tales was started in 2012 to  nd new homes for rescued ponies, managing to the change the lives of nine tiny horses in that time.

“It’s not as high as I’d like it to be,” admits Tara. “It’s just that the  financial needs for them have to be met by us so we can only do it in smaller quantities.”

Most of their ponies have come through the rescue by word of mouth and Facebook. Other times they’ve
acquired them through the B.C. SPCA and Pipsqueak Paddocks, a miniature horse rescue located in the Fraser Valley.

 The Pays have spent the past three and a half years caring for the animals on their farm in Easter Ladner.

“Horses are a passion for both my mom and I. It just kind of runs in our blood,” says Tara. “And there is such a financial problem with the horse world right now.  There’s just no money in it. People are just having to ditch and get rid of them. And because we have the facility, the passion, and we have the resources to do it then it just went hand in hand.”

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Although the farm is a haven for these ponies, the rising cost of — well, of everything — has made it harder to take care of them.

A bale of hay used to cost anywhere from $5 to $7.at same bale is now between $9 and $14, sometimes doubling the cost of feed.  Those escalating costs make it harder on Tiny Tales.

It also depends on the size of the horse and their specific nutritional needs.

“I’d say our biggest expense are vet bills though,” adds Tara. “Our initial cost for any horse coming in is around $500.”

One pony, Hank, cost the charity $1,100 in vet bills in the first six weeks alone, not including food or bedding. Many of their rescues come to Tiny Tales as stallions, which means there’s a cost to geld them and make the animals more agreeable and friendly to adoption.

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Not everybody who gets a pony understands this fact. Oliver was a stallion who had been so strong-willed
that his previous owners had used a 2×4 block of wood to discipline him. Tara says that on at least one occasion he was knocked out by blows to the head.

Tara sighs.

“So many people talk about these cute little animals and ask how do people abuse them, why do they need to be rescued? It’s because they’re still being mistreated, neglected, it’s still the same way.”

There is a happy ending though, thanks to Tiny Tales. Oliver now lives with a friend who looks exactly like him in the backyard of a kind woman on Vancouver Island. She takes him for walks while she has her tea and enjoys his company.

“There’s no stress in his life. He just gets loved.”

There are many reasons that ponies wind up at Tiny Tales. “Magic” was bought for kids who outgrew their love of ponies and neglected her. As for “Joey”, our hero at the start of this story, he was a show horse who had been pushed too hard by the previous owners and developed acute anxiety.

“A lot of it is just lack of knowledge. Not knowing that these ponies are going to live for so long that you have this responsibility for almost 30 years. It’s not just kind of a fad.”

But thankfully there are often happy endings to these tragic cases. “Ireland” is another success story.

The pony had never been around other horses, only sheep, and as a stallion he wasn’t properly socialized. Today he lives in a farm near Prince George with a beautiful mare as his companion.

It’s not quite the plot to “Black Beauty” but it does bring a smile to the lips.

“So he lives now with other horses the way he should in a beautiful field and she’s trained him, just as they do with dogs and clicker training, to do barrel racing. Mentally and physically he’s used the way he should be and he gets to live in this ideal home for a horse.”

Tara notes that many ponies have problems simply because they’re isolated. Horses are herd bound animals and want to live with other horses. They develop stress and anxiety when they’re left alone, the same way we humans would.

Tiny Tales has a re-homing screening process which requires a detailed application, home visit, and reference checks. There is also a one year follow-up period during which time the rescue can take the animal back if it’s not a good fit or there is some neglect.

“We will always take back anything we adopt out at any time if the family just decides that they can’t care for them any more.”

Not everybody has acreage so there are options to board out their ponies at various farms in Ladner or at Tiny Tales.

“I like people to have a bit of horse experience so I can do those reference checks on them. A lot of our horses have special needs. That’s why they’ve come to us. So having a background in it is something that’s very important to me.”

Adoption fees are $500 and the money goes to immediate good use.

“As a result by somebody adopting him they’re therefore helping us get the next pony in line because the $500 will then cover their vet bill.”

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Last year, Tiny Tales held their “Fairy Tales” fundraiser at the Harris Barn, helping to bring in over $5,000. This year, the charity is looking to do something a little different by hosting a women’s expo and bridal fair.

“You kind of have to get creative with your fundraising,” says Tara. “There’s a lot deserving charities out there that take people’s money and people donate to them so you want to come up with something more creative that gives back to the people as well. Delta hasn’t had a women’s expo and bridal fair in years and with the Harris Barn not having weddings at it, it’s still a beautiful venue to have a wedding fair at because it’s set up for weddings.

It’s good timing for Tara as well, since she’s set to be wed herself this summer.

“It’s not just a bridal fair, keep in mind that it’s a women’s expo as well so we want everyone to come.”

Tiny Tales is still looking for vendors for their Fairy Tales Women’s Expo and Bridal Fair event, to be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. Admission is $5 and can be purchased ahead of time or at the door. Visit facebook.com/fairytalesexpo/ for more info.

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