Bear the champion pony

Bear the Exmoor pony and his owner/trainer, Dawn Westcott


Bear the champion pony

A pony has gone from facing slaughter to to becoming world agility champion thanks to a very special friendship. Due to the delicate balance of mares and fillies that is required to stop endangered Exmoor ponies from going extinct, the possibility of Bear being culled was very real. He became very distrusting of humans, having been branded as a foal all over his rump and shoulders, causing the equivalent of third-degree burns.

However, just as the end seemed nigh he was taken in by horse whisperer Dawn Westcott, who has gradually trained him into one of the top horses in his field. She took him in herself while a charity tried to find Bear a permanent home, but soon decided she wanted him for herself. Now, he has numerous ribbons and accolades to his name, and is able to boast that he is a two-time International Horse Agility World Champion, winning the accolade in 2011 and retaining it in 2012. The battle for these prizes takes a year, with competition   from 12 other countries, including Australia, USA, Canada and New Zealand. 

His achievements are even more remarkable considering Exmoors are not renowned for their ability in these sorts of competitions. Mrs Westcott added: 'Like any bright creatures, they don’t like being handled with coercion and violence, or not being listened to, and they have so much to offer when invited to be willing partners.’ Not only has she trained Bear up, but she has also successfully campaigned to stop the branding of Exmoor ponies, a process she describes as 'barbaric torture’.

Now, Mrs Westcott is urging people to take in one of their own, to stop them being killed. 'The Hawkwell herd is one of the oldest and most prestigious Exmoor pony herds and they do try very hard to place their foals. 'But the foals, being wild-born, can struggle to find people willing and able to take them on. They placed Bear with a pony charity in the hope that he'd find a good home. Unwanted foals are culled, and this is distressing for everyone.'


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