FOUR ponies have become the latest casualties to die on a New Forest Road.

Police were called to reports of a single-vehicle crash on the B0379 near Brook on New Year’s Eve at around 9.15pm involving a Land Rover Discovery, which had collided with the animals.

Hampshire Constabulary says the driver of the vehicle was spoken to at the scene, and “having carried out a thorough investigation, no further action was taken against them”.

Korine Bishop, Hampshire Constabulary Rural Policing Inspector, said: “This was a tragic incident which resulted in the death of four New Forest horses. Tragic as this incident is, this is a timely reminder to the residents of, and those driving through, the New Forest to be aware of your surroundings. There is a maximum speed limit of 40 miles per hour applied across the area, and as such motorists are advised to adapt their speed to the current driving conditions.”

In an interview with BBC Radio Solent, Mark Ferrett, whose daughter owned the ponies, said: “You get a phone call from the agister of the forest in the early hours of the morning you know it is going to be bad news. So to receive the news that four of my daughter’s ponies were killed by one vehicle is a shock in its own right.”

He added people travelling across the Forest day or night, have to “respect the animals, they have the right of way” and also the weather conditions. Mr Ferrett said it was a “sad, sad occasion” for his daughter who is a full time farmer commoner. He added: “This is her living, somebody has destroyed four of her animals in one blow.”

This is the latest in a number of incidents along that stretch of road. Three donkeys were killed on December 13 and two sheep died on December 28.

Mr Ferrett urged drivers to “slow down” especially when conditions are dark, frosty, windy or wet. He said: “Forty is too fast, slow down again please everybody.”

This was echoed by the Verderers of the New Forest, who said: “Our message is that these accidents just go to show that drivers must slow down, especially at night when visibility is poor. 40 mph is the speed limit, it isn’t necessarily a safe speed. Also, with this current cold spell, drivers should expect to find animals on the roads licking the salt at night as well as in the daytime so they need to take great care.”

Nigel Matthews, New Forest National Park Authority’s Head of Recreation Management and Learning, who convenes the accident reduction group of organisations working to protect the animals, said it was sad to hear of the new deaths. He added: “It was very sad to hear about the death of the four ponies on New Years Eve, marking the end of a bad December for animal accidents. Although the long-term trend of animal accidents is downwards, the death of any animal is a great loss to the Forest and to its owner.

“We appeal to drivers to drive according to the conditions on the unfenced roads of the New Forest. Slow down and be ready to stop at short notice, especially at night when you may be dazzled by oncoming headlights – or if it is raining or foggy. The animals stand on or cross the roads day and night and in frosty weather may be drawn to lick salt from the road surface.”