Heifer Station has confirmed resident mini-Shetland pony Tilly has recovered after an isolated instance of abuse by a visitor soured an otherwise successful opening to FOOD Week for the Orange winery last weekend.
On Monday Heifer Station called out 'the ladies involved' on social media, sharing another person's Instagram story which included videos of a woman attempting to ride Tilly adorned with the captions 'is rodeo time' and 'Orange rodeo 2021'.
After that shared story the Orange winery slammed the behaviour and, while choosing not to identify the individuals involved, confirmed it is aware of who they are and that the group has now been banned from the venue for life.
"For everyone else, know that this behaviour will absolutely not be tolerated at our venue and we expect our animals and our venue are respected at all times," Heifer Station's Instagram story said.
Heifer Station followed that with a statement released via Facebook the following day to thank people for their concern and confirm Tilly has 'recovered well'. Beyond that, the winery elected not to comment further on the matter.
"Thanks to everyone who has reached out sharing their concern and outrage for our beautiful Tilly," Heifer Station's statement said.
"We are pleased to share that despite her distressing experience Tilly is okay and has recovered well. We won't be making further public comment on the matter."
While the incident was isolated, there is no denying the damage that could have been done to both the famous pony or the people involved.
Speaking largely in general terms, Animal Welfare League chief executive officer Mark Slater explained the 'enormous amount of stress' that is placed on animals in that kind of situation.
He also echoed Heifer Station in saying that kind of mistreatment is simply unacceptable.
"In any situation like that, a lot of damage could be done, it's tantamount to someone coming into your home while you're not expecting it and jumping all over you while you're on the lounge," Mr Slater said.
"For a horse or Shetland pony it could mean damage to a hock, a flank, ligament damage or worse. People might think that it's just a laugh but if situations like that end with animals needing to be euthanised, that's not a funny matter.
"It's a case of people needing to have more respect for animals, even though 99 per cent of people will do the right thing. That's not to mention damage that can be done the other way too, if a person is bucked off or kicked by a pony.
"We're taught as kids not to laugh at other peoples' expense and that should extend to animals too."
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