Shetland Pony
© Siobhan Boyle Elicia Curtis with Shetland pony Tyrone. Her hopes of putting him into shows have been dashed.
Witchcraft is suspected in the mysterious cutting of a Shetland pony's mane.

Little Elicia Curtis was devastated to find the animal she has been grooming had had its mane cut off by an unknown attacker.

The 11-year-old had been helping out with the horses on a farm near Wroughton after her own pony, Muffin, had to be put down last year.

The police suspect it may have been done as part of a rite or spell, but a local Druid has put the blame on New Age Travellers rather than witches.

Elicia had been training the unbroken Shetland, called Tyrone, and was hoping to enter him into shows this summer. That hope has now been dashed by the criminals who came on the night of Sunday, June 16 and cut the five-year-old horse's flowing mane.

The Wroughton Junior School pupil said: "I'm really shocked someone would come in and hurt him.

"I was really looking forward to showing him off because I worked hard with him and he just started to let me ride him.

"Now he is really jumpy and scared and I have to start again. Now his owner says she might have to send him back to Scotland and I would be really upset if that happened."

Elicia's mum Becky Malgarin, who used to ride horses herself, said she was angry about the crime and the upset the thieves had caused.

The mum-of-four, of Pinehurst, added: "I think it's disgusting - they are trespassing in the middle of the night and don't realise the impact of what they have done.

"Elicia was heartbroken when Muffin died and now Tyrone, who was such a beautiful little pony, might have to be sent back she is upset all again.

"I think people who keep horses need to be aware this is happening again. It happened when I used to ride in the 90s and these people have no right.

"This is not the first time Tyrone has been attacked either - they snuck in three times before and plaited the main but now they've actually cut it off."

Police are viewing the incident as criminal damage and said they needed the public's help to catch the culprits.

Plaiting a horse's mane or tail is seen by some witches as a way of generating luck, but cutting is not usually part of that tradition.

A spokesman for the Marlborough Neighbourhood Policing Team said: "A Shetland pony has been the subject of unwanted attention for the fourth time since arriving from North Scotland in April 2012.

"Over the past fourteen months the pony has been the subject of 'plaiting' on three occasions during the solstice period thought to be a good luck charm or subject of witches casting spells.

"On Sunday evening the sixteenth of June the pony has now been the subject of criminal damage.

"Persons have attended the field during the hours of darkness and pulled and cut the pony's mane, making it significantly shorter than it was. The practice of 'plaiting' and hair removal is believed to be associated with witchcraft.

"We think that this could be the case but have been told by a local Druid that it has nothing to do with witches or pagans and has something to do with New Age travellers.

"As this took place under the cover of darkness and there is little CCTV evidence we are appealing for witnesses."

Anyone with any information should contact the neighbourhood team on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.