CODROY VALLEY – Not far from the turn into Devoe Ranch, a fat goose is straddling the yellow centre line and causing cars to swerve to the wrong side of the road to get by. Despite the impatient traffic, the goose appears in no hurry to return to the rest of the gaggle wandering downhill, heading towards the chickens, goats, llamas, turkeys, ducks, peacocks and horses. Sandra Devoe herds some dogs into the house and wanders over to the car, her long, dark hair whipping in the wind.
The Devoe Ranch has been open to the public for about 3 of the 10 years it has been in operation. Initially it started out with one pony and a few chickens. Now there are over 200 animals, including 15 horses, and 6 of those are registered purebred Newfoundland ponies.
Immediately adjacent from the house a small corral built of rough-hewn logs contains a pair of curious, friendly ponies. Black Tickles and Dwary, or Tickles and Dee as Devoe refers to her latest additions, are rescues. Specifically, they are part of the herd of 20 that were rescued from British Columbia in 2015 and sent to the care of the Newfoundland Pony Society. Donors covered the $40,000 transportation fees.
“They were left on a pasture all winter,” Devoe says, “They were starving. Of course there’s no pasture there in the winter.”
Eventually the ponies were taken to foster homes to recover. Devoe thinks 8 stayed in Nova Scotia, and the other 12 were brought back to Newfoundland.
“Last year, in August, they were needing homes,” says Devoe. “There was an adoption process, so we did the application, and we just received our ponies last weekend. They were in Glovertown in a foster home and they were pastured in the summer.”
The two mares, one a soft ivory and the other a rich, chocolate brown have settled in quickly to their forever home.
“Actually we’ve already been riding these two girls. They’re going to be used for our lessons and they’re our breeding stock. We have a stallion too.”
Devoe doesn’t have all of their paperwork yet, but best guess puts them at about 10 or 12 years old. They have been DNA tested and she’ll know the finer details once the registration papers arrive.
Outside of the corral, 8-month old Newfoundland pony Nellie wanders around unrestrained like an oversized puppy. She likes to put her head over people’s shoulders to get nose rubs.
“She’s really friendly,” says Devoe, who plans to breed Nellie. “Next year or the year after, when she gets big enough.”
All of the Newfoundland ponies are friendly. Their good temperament is a hallmark of the breed and despite the hardship they suffered, Tickles and Dee are no exception. They want their nuzzles and pats too.
Further down the hill is a young stallion, a 2-year old grey Newfoundland pony that was a surprise birthday gift last year from Devoe’s husband. Sir Kenneth of Cold Brook is roaming around another small corral with Midnight, a black mare.
The two don’t seem to be feeling particularly romantic at the moment. Kenneth wants nose rubs and treats and Midnight appears disinterested as she hovers near a small pile of hay. Devoe’s commitment to breeding her five mares to her stallion is important because the Newfoundland pony is endangered.
“There’s about 400, maybe, registered Newfoundland ponies in the whole world,” she says, giving Kenneth a nose rub and a kiss.
If she does manage to successfully breed her ponies, Devoe will find good homes for them.
“We’ll be particular to where they go. We’re just trying to keep the breed going,” says Devoe. “We really didn’t need anymore ponies. We had 13 here as it was, but they were in need of a home so we reached out.”
To help care for her animals, Devoe has completed a veterinary assistant course. She has a veterinarian on call, of course, as well as a ferrier. With so many animals to care for it only makes sense.
“There’s a lot of things I can do myself now.”
She even shears the llamas herself, and plans to send away their fleece to have things made from it. Like Tickles and Dee, the llamas are recent additions too. In fact, it’s getting pretty crowded at the Devoe Ranch.
There’s really no room for any more additions to the herd, but Devoe still has her name on the Newfoundland Pony Society’s adoption list. She won’t turn away a pony who needs a good home, even if it means building another barn, though given the skyrocketing price of lumber that could prove quite pricey.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen this year,” says Devoe. “I wouldn’t see any animal stuck. I would accommodate somehow if there was any dire need, but I’m comfortable with what I have.”
Rescuing horses is actually a huge commitment. It’s not as simple as rescuing a dog or a cat, nor is it as common. People with horses who run into trouble will usually sell them to someone who can provide a good home Devoe points out.
Just feeding them can cost upwards of $250 per month for each horse. She also keeps Clydesdales, Morgans and even an Arabian Appaloosa. Even though Devoe concedes she sees all of her animals as pets, it’s still a working ranch.
“We started riding lessons last year, and we’re doing a Tiny Tots program this year for kids ages 4 to 9, and we’re hoping to do half-hour trail rides this year.”
Devoe also has a full time job to help provide for her animals. In the summer they’re easier to keep but in the winter it gets harder to juggle both commitments.
“It’s a challenge,” she admits. “Between me and my husband we get it done, and we have some really good friends that help.”
West Valley Farms actually loaned Devoe Ranch a trailer to bring Tickles and Dee home. The Devoes also dropped some of the other rescued Newfoundland ponies to their new homes along the way.
“One went to Deer Lake, two went to Cold Brook, two went to Heatherton and two came here, and three more went to the East Coast,” says Devoe. “I’m happy that we were able to rescue a couple and give them a good home.”
For more about the Devoe Ranch, visit their Facebook page: @DevoeRanchOfficial.