Foal saved from slaughter in Portugal becomes TV soap star

A foal who was rescued from a Portuguese slaughterhouse has become the new star of a TV soap opera.

Samuel L Jackson (Sammy) made his first appearance on Coronation Street this week, five years after he was taken in by Dylan Jones of Dolbadarn Film Horses in Gwynedd.

“I was browsing on the internet one day when we came across a charity in Portugal, which was trying to save as many horses as possible from slaughter,” said Dylan, who has links with the country, having trained there in classical equitation.

“There had been a boom in demand for Lusitanos and Spanish horses and they had started to over-breed — a recession hit and horses stopped selling overnight and the studs couldn’t afford to keep them, so big groups were being sent to be killed.”

Dylan favours Portuguese horses for film work, as they have both the looks and the temperament for the job, so he enquired about a bay foal the charity was hoping to rehome.

“We started to make arrangements to get him out of the slaughterhouse and into safe holding stables,” said Dylan. “As luck would have it, he was stabled with a minute black foal, who looked like quite a feeble thing.

“The sponsors who had helped to raise the money to get the foals out approached me and said ‘these two seem really happy together, would you be able to take a second one?’ Because I’m a soft touch, I said ‘OK’, and once they were fit enough to travel, they came over to Wales.”

The bay foal was named Indiana Jones (Indi) and the black foal, who turned grey, was named Sammy.

“I still remember the day they arrived and the lorry ramp went down,” Dylan said.

“Out jumped these two little colts and they had no condition on them at all. Both had been taken away from their mothers at a very young age, missing out on nutrition, and been stored in the slaughterhouse holding area. The sense of death around them must have been unimaginable.”

The colts were turned out into a safe paddock where they were able to “find their feet, become horses and reset themselves”.

They were fed and handled daily and began some basic training when they were a 18 months old.

“When it got to the point they were old enough to break in and start riding, because they had such a strong bond with us and because they had so much early trauma, they didn’t seem bothered by anything,” Dylan said.

“When it got to the point of leading them on the roads, when a lot of young horses are nervous, these two were just toddling along without a care in the world — their early trauma transferred into something they could use, and which was especially useful in the TV and film world.”

The more mature of the pair, Indi, was broken earlier and started working on film sets last year. His first job was alongside the Devils Horsemen in the Scottish Highlands filming Mary Queen of Scots, and he also worked on the BBC1 and HBO series His Dark Materials last summer, in which Sammy also featured.

The foals grew up to have different temperaments, with the bay Indi a “very, very chilled-out, easy going horse,” while Sammy is “very quick and intelligent”.

“I broke Indi in to drive last year and I didn’t even have to train him, he took everything in his stride and was driving round the village like he’d been doing it for years,” said Dylan, who took over the family business from his father Aneuryn, who started it in the 1970s.

“Sammy excels at liberty work and Jasmine Jackson-Lloyd, who is one of our team here, took a shine to him and started to train him up.”

Sammy’s liberty skills were one of the reasons he was ideal for the Coronation Street role.

“The first assistant director called me for advice about a scene in a script,” Dylan said. “A horse needed to be causing chaos in a conservatory and to roam free in the street and they wanted to know if it could be done and I said ‘yes, of course’.

“Sammy was chosen for the part as there were a lot of liberty scenes — he’s not a spooky horse by nature, he’s an inquisitive and bold chap, and so far he’s been good as gold throughout filming.

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“Everyone loves him and it looks like his character might be scripted for quite a while now, so watch this space,” Dylan added.

Sammy and Indi are the only two rescues Dolbadarn has ever taken on, and they fared better than many of the other horses who were not saved, or who were removed from the slaughterhouse but could not readjust.

“I heard a lot of the older horses who were rehomed were just too traumatised,” said Dylan. “Sammy and Indi were the only two foals from their group who I know were saved.

“I kept my promise to give them a chance at life and a job in the entertainment industry and now their careers are just starting out.”

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