Donor rescinds gift, leaves pony conservancy in the lurch

  • Horses at the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center in Jaffrey last summer. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Newfoundland Pony Conservancy in Jaffrey is moving its operations to Palermo, Maine, after a generous gift from an anonymous donor. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/21/2020 4:43:40 PM

Newfoundland Pony Conservancy founders Emily and George Aho of Jaffrey – and their rare ponies – are potentially without a home after a land donation in Maine was rescinded by the anonymous donor. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the anonymous donor, who had offered a large tract of land, complete with a house, barns and indoor riding rink, rescinded their offer, which leaves the Jaffrey nonprofit in a major lurch.

The Conservancy was already in the process of moving, Executive Director Emily Aho said in an interview Monday, when they got the news. She and husband George have already sold their Jaffrey property which has been home to about a dozen of the conservancy’s ponies and their main base of operations for their outreach programs. Now, she said, she doesn’t know what the next steps will  be.

“The word is devastating,” Aho said. “We are looking for another place. We’d love to stay here, but there’s nothing around, and I don’t think we can afford that much.”

The Newfoundland Pony Conservancy is dedicated to educating the public about and preserving the Newfoundland pony, an endangered breed with less than 50 animals in the United States, with the majority being cared for by the conservancy or foster families in its network. The Maine property was intended to help expand their program significantly, particularly their breeding efforts, but the sudden reversal of the decision has left the conservancy looking for other options, desperately.

Aho said she is currently looking at land in Maine, which is less costly than in New Hampshire, as well as locally. In the meantime, she said, the conservancy is struggling to make up for lost time preparing for winter – believing they would be in Maine by the time snow fell, the conservancy didn’t purchase hay for the Jaffrey property, for example, and are scrambling to buy some now, when prices are high and hay harvests are poor due to New Hampshire’s ongoing drought conditions.

Many of the conservancy’s normal programs were on hold due to COVID-19, but Aho had been partnering with a Keene organization to run a “Heal the Heroes” program, providing equine and riding therapy to hospital workers and first responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. The two organizations, original partners in the endeavor, have already separated their programs, with Aho intending to set up a Maine chapter of “Heal the Heroes” and each organization run their own version.

Aho said she’s determined to see that program through.

“I’m not ready to give up on Heal the Heroes,” Aho said.

The conservancy is able to stay on the current six-acre Jaffrey property for at least the next few months, Aho said, as the new owner of the property was not intending to move to the area until the coming year, and has agreed to allow the Ahos to rent the property until they can decide their next step.

In the meantime, Aho said, the conservancy is looking for additional foster parents to join their network and take on some of the animals currently on the Jaffrey property, to ease the conservancy’s hay burden over the winter.

If you are interested in being a foster family, or to otherwise support the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy, visit


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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