Bear, an Exmoor pony, had sadly not seen the best side of human nature during his short time here on this Earth. Having been brutally branded multiple times as a newly-weaned foal, Bear learned to distrust humans and was petrified of even being touched. Bear’s distrustful nature made it difficult for him to be trained and was a deterrent to potential owners. As a result, he was ultimately scheduled to be slaughtered.
Dawn Westcott, nicknamed the Pony Whisperer after her best-selling novel Wild Pony Whispering, met Bear while he was awaiting his cull. By a sheer stroke of luck, a charity had caught wind of Bear’s situation and were attempting to find him a home. Until then, however, he would be housed with Dawn.
Although this situation was only supposed to be temporary, Dawn quickly formed a bond with the mistreated Bear, who rapidly began to cooperate and grow close to her in return.
She says, “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.”
Through their relationship and training, Bear has thrived, ultimately being named International Horse Agility World Champion for two years in a row, competing for 12 months against participants from 13 different countries. He has also beaten a royal horse owned by the Queen, garnering first place in the NPS Mountain & Moorland Silver Medal Rosette Championship while doing so.
Listed under his competition name of “Hawkwell Versuvius,” Bear’s accomplishments are made even more notable by the fact that he often excels in areas in which Exmoor ponies are not usually considered to be talented performers.
Since acquiring Bear, Dawn has become an impassioned activist, speaking out regarding the “barbaric torture” that is modern branding. She’s also encouraging folks to consider adopting an Exmoor pony for themselves, hoping to reduce the rates of their culling.
“The Hawkwell herd is one of the oldest and most prestigious Exmoor pony hers and they do try very hard to place their foals,” she says. “But the foals, being wild-born, can struggle to find people willing and able to take them on.”
In the end, these unwanted foals are culled, a process which Dawn describes as “distressing for everyone.”
This is a picture of the now-grown Bear with his own foal, Elbrus.