Redwings has paid tribute to a beloved and long-standing resident who has died 20 years after being rescued from a horse sale where he was destined for slaughter.

Oliver Twist, who suffered from a facial deformity known as wry nose, was a popular member of Redwings’ charity adoption scheme and had lived at their Caldecott Visitor Centre, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, since 1999.

He was originally spotted at a horse sale in Nottingham in 1997 by a concerned member of the public who contacted the charity to see if it could offer him a home.

His congenitally twisted nose meant he was unable to wear a bit and bridle and could not be ridden — making him a likely candidate for the slaughterhouse.

but once at Redwings, his quirky face and mischievous, friendly character made him a favourite with the charity’s supporters.

His popularity meant he soon became an official Redwings “adoption star”, attracting sponsors to fund his keep and that of other horses and ponies at the sanctuary.

After 13 years of bringing joy to thousands of visitors, Oliver was retired from the adoption scheme in 2014 to enjoy a well-earned break from the spotlight.

While still in reasonable health for his 27 years, on Wednesday, 21 March, the grey gelding suffered a very sudden and severe seizure, from which he failed to recover, and Redwings’ vets had to make the decision to put him to sleep.

Charity chief executive Lynn Cutress said: “We are truly devastated to lose Oliver, who was such a characterful and lovable pony.

“Over almost 20 years, he won the hearts of thousands of our supporters — some would even travel long distances just to enjoy a cuddle with him at our Caldecott Visitor Centre — and we can’t thank them enough for the love they showed him.

“While we miss him terribly, we take comfort that we were able to give Oliver the safe and happy home he so deserved after narrowly escaping slaughter just because of his minor disability. Thank you to everyone who adopted him over the years as it was your sponsorship that helped make this possible.

“In tribute, we have set up a memorial fund in Oliver’s name to help care for the next generation of horses who need the safety and support of Redwings, just like Oliver himself did once. What a fitting way to celebrate such a charming chap who gave so much pleasure to so many people over so many years.”

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For more information or to make a donation in Oliver’s name, call 01508 481000 or visit the Redwings website.

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