From slaughter to the summit: An Exmoor pony has been trained into a world champion
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 - also known by his competition name Hawkwell Versuvius - 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, even putting a Queen-owned horse to shame once.
Bear has grown from a volatile and distrustful pony into one of the country's top competitors in agility
Dawn Westcott and Hawkwell Versuvius after he 2011 International Horse Agility World Champions
She took him in herself while a charity tried to find Bear a permanent home, but soon decided she wanted him for herself.
Explaining his state when she took him in, Mrs Westcott told the Sunday Express: 'Bear didn’t want anything to do with humans. He was put through the horrific process of multiple hot branding as a newly-weaned foal. He was petrified of being touched.
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 and from 12 other countries, such as Australia, USA, Canada, and New Zealand.
He has also scooped prizes in Crufts-style best in show comeptitions and one year even beat the Queen's highland pony in doing so
The shaggy-maned Bear has grown up to have several foals of his own and is picture here with one, Elbrus
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 2012
Competitors accumulate points and are then ranked into more defined categories as the year progresses, with tasks including jumping through hoops, over barrels and navigating obstacles at varying paces.
He has also scooped prizes in Crufts-style best in show comeptitions, netting the NPS Mountain & Moorland Silver Medal Rosette Championship final, beating the Queen's highland pony in doing so.
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.'
Many Exmoor mares are killed every year to the delicate balances of mares and fillies that are required to stop endangered Exmoor ponies from going extinct
His achievements are even more remarkable considering Exmoors are not renowned for their ability in these sorts of competitions
Not only has she trained Bear up, but she has also successfully campaigned to stop the branding of Exmoor ponies, a process she told MailOnline was 'barbaric torture.'
Now, Mrs Westcott is urging people to take in one of their own, to stop them being killed.
She told MailOnline: '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.'
She has also released a book, Wild Stallion Whispering, which went on sale in August.