Trudging for days across the exposed moor, this is a dying mother’s final act of love for her newborn.
Just hours after leading her foal to the safety of a farm, the mare died.
Experts believe she knew she did not have long to live when she spent five days fighting illness and exhaustion to guide her young offspring across Dartmoor.
The foal was dependent on her mother’s milk, and would have died alongside her if she had not been escorted to human care.
But the tired and emaciated mare battled to deliver her to the home of her owner, Lorraine Chambers – only to die less than 24 hours later. Vets confirmed that the mother died of natural causes but said she would have been aware of her failing health.
Now five months old, the foal, who has been named Queenie, is being hand-reared by Charlotte Faulkner of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association. She will be rehomed on another farm after she is weaned in the coming months.
Mrs Faulkner said: ‘Both mare and foal would have been out there on the moor for the whole summer and would have been brought off the moor in the annual round-up next month.
‘The mother must have known what would have happened to her foal if she had died so she brought her in.
‘Queenie has her own little paddock at the moment and has a friend in another foal close by, but if she gets a little lonely she cries out for my attention, just like any other young toddler.
‘The mother was dying of natural causes and she led the foal to safety. She had the sense to head to her owner’s farm.
‘She knew the route – she had been there many times before. They are amazing animals and perfectly adapted to Dartmoor.’
There are around 1,500 ponies living on Dartmoor, all owned by farmers who have rights to common grazing. The ponies are native to Britain, but have declined rapidly from more than 25,000 in the 1930s.
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