Meet Noel, the Welsh pony who made a surprise appearance on Christmas Day
PUBLISHED: 10:00 29 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:33 29 December 2016
This little pony has been given a festive name after he was born on Christmas Day, three months earlier than expected.
The question is, is Noel a four-legged, Christmas Day miracle, or simply the result of nature’s cogs turning in our favour?
Whatever your stance, his charming innocence is beyond dispute. It was problematic to capture on film, such was his protective mother’s acute sense of duty.
“He is perfectly okay; strong and healthy,” said Keith Wright, owner of Maypole Stud Livery Yard in Ipswich, where Noel was conceived.
“They are usually born at the start of spring, so it is very unusual,” Mr Wright, 75, said.
“I haven’t seen anything like it in 30 years. We don’t really know how it’s happened. But last winter was remarkably warm, and the stallion father and the mare obviously got to it before they should have done.”
Ponies are pregnant for around 11 months before giving birth, dating the encounter to January 25. Temperatures reached the mid-teens Celsius at that time in Suffolk.
Matthew Page, an assistant at the stables, based in Thurleston Lane off Henley Road in Ipswich, was the first to discover Noel.
“He went up there to feed everything, and there the foal was, out in the fields,” Mr Wright said.
“When I got up there, he said ‘we’ve got another horse’. I said ‘well, we don’t want anymore’. But he said ‘this one has been born here today’.
“So we went and had a look, and he said we should call it Noel, which I suppose is appropriate. We got the mare and the foal and they are now being stabled, because it is very cold.”
Five or six ponies are born every year at the stables. They are ridden and schooled and are sold aged three or four for as much as £1,000.
As for Noel, he won’t be getting any Christmas snacks.
“We don’t give ponies Christmas treats because they always expect it and it can be a nuisance!” Mr Wright added.