A DARTMOOR pony being born in the middle of the road isn't a typical delay, but it's exactly what faced Dartmoor locals Nikki Hirst and Russel Chapman when they were on the way home from a show in Princetown.

Late at night the pair were driving home, when they spotted an unfamiliar sight at the side of the road.

(Nikki Hirst)

'We were driving down into the Merivale dip towards Princetown and I saw a movement in the road,' Nikki explained, 'I wasn't sure what it was, an octopus or snake.'

Getting closer, Nikki soon realised what they had stumbled upon. She said: 'As we got closer I realised it was a foal, literally spreadeagled pointing up the hill towards me with its head lifted.  

'It must have literally just been born and the mare had moved slightly aside but was very anxious.'

'I stopped in the road and Russel sprang into action, he reached the centre, turned my hazards on and was stopping traffic coming the other way, almost immediately whilst simultaneously calling Karla, the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer. 

'With Karla's advice, Russell lifted the foal, it can't have even had its first colostrum; he placed it on the other side of the road where there was more cover and less likelihood of returning onto the road.  The mare followed.  

'I was terrified because moments later, the foal fell down a small bank and the mare couldn't find it.  However we thought we should get out of the way so that we didn't disorientate them any more.'

Dartmoor Pony
(Julian Barnes/MDA)

While this foal was lucky to have both its mother and the support of Nikki and Karla, many ponies die from collisions on the roads of Dartmoor. The pony almost never survives and often the driver leaves without reporting the collision. Recently, Karla has seen unprecedented levels of pony fatalities on the roads of Dartmoor.

dead pony
2023 has seen unprecedented numbers of pony collisions (Karla Maria Mckechnie)

Nikki added: 'Karla checked on them the next day and reported that they were both well.  It really goes to show why we need to follow the speed restrictions, the foal was barely visible, black on tarmac,  I was so relieved that I had seen it and that meant we could protect it from anything else happening on the road.'

Karla said: 'That was a very busy evening. Both the mare and foal are fine, they're amazing animals that are perfectly adapted to living in even the most hostile conditions, like it was on the night it was born.

'Their main threat is being hit by a car, and the mare giving birth in the road shows that anything can happen at any moment, so please keep your speed down.'

Karla is on call 24/7 for hurt, distressed or dead livestock, her phone number is 07873 587561.