Exmoor ponies had a taste of stardom after appearing on ITV’s flagship daytime show earlier this month.
Dawn Westcott visited the central London studios with her rescue pony Monsieur Chapeau and his equine friend, Farleywater Lady Stumpkin Pumpkin, on 12 November.
The co-founder of the Moorland Exmoor Foal Project told presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield about the pony’s rescue.
In January 2014 a friend of Dawn’s — Tricia Gibson — spotted the foal alone on the moors.
“She knew immediately that this was a pony in trouble,” said Dawn.
“He was about four months old and had somehow been separated from his mother.”
Tricia, Dawn and their husbands went out to look for the foal and found him alone in a steep coombe.
Between them, they managed to help the youngster to the road, where Dawn picked him up in a trailer.
He also had pneumonia, rainscald and was severely malnourished.
She said he collapsed about eight times as the group helped him to safety and it was around 10 days before he could stand on his own without support.
During his recovery, Monsieur Chapeau bonded with “Pumpkin”.
“She took him under her wing and there is no doubt that she accelerated his recovery,” said Dawn.
The ponies, who are both two years old, now run with a herd of about 25 Exmoors.
On their way out of the studios, Monseiur Chapeau met American superstar and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, who was also appearing on the programme that day.
“That was just surreal,” Dawn told H&H.
“She must be a horsewoman, she really knew how to greet him.”
Dawn said she was “delighted” with how the ponies coped with the “strange environment”.
Dawn and her husband Nick started the foal project in 2013 and are also among the founder members of the Moorland Exmoor Pony Breeders Group, which was set up last year.
“For a little orphaned Exmoor pony, Monsieur Chapeau has done so much to promote the breed,” said Dawn.
“He is also helping to highlight that we need to do more to safeguard the ponies.”
She added that difficulties with the registration of ponies living on the moor is a major problem for the breed.
The busy ITV studios on London’s South Bank are a far cry from the open countryside that the ponies are used to.
To prepare them for their trip to the city, Dawn and her team built a mock-up of a television studio in a barn at home.
Complete with spotlights, carpet and props, Dawn and her helpers walked the ponies into the “studio” daily and practiced negotiating narrow “corridors”.
ITV arranged for a lorry to bring the ponies up to London, but road closures due to the arrival of the Indian Prime Minister at Westminster meant they nearly missed their slot.
After pushing back their screen time by half an hour, the team arrived just 20 minutes before going live on air.
“The make-up artists were trying to do my face while I brushed Monsieur Chapeau,” she said.
“We went into the studio and just before we went live, Pumpkin did a massive wee on their carpet.”