The first foal to be born into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in 2019, Sweet Pea was named by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall on her recent visit to the sanctuary's international headquarters in Sidmouth, Devon.

Animals at The Donkey Sanctuary don't need to be named by a member of the Royal Family in order to live out the rest of their lives like royalty - but it just so happens that little Sweet Pea can tick both of these boxes.

Sweet Pea became the first foal to be born into our care in 2019, after mare Poppy gave birth on 21 June at nearby Paccombe Farm. Mare and foal are both doing well, and have been out in their private paddock enjoying the warmth from the sun.

By Royal Appointment

The Donkey Sanctuary was visited by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall on 17 July 2019 to commemorate the charity’s 50th anniversary. Her Royal Highness, who was also celebrating her 72nd birthday on that day, was welcomed by Chief Executive Mike Baker, a group of children from Sidmouth Primary School, and two miniature donkeys - aptly named William and Harry.

Poppy’s foal had not been given a name at the time, and we were delighted when Her Royal Highness officially chose to name her ‘Sweet Pea’.

After unveiling a commemorative plaque, Her Royal Highness was presented with a birthday gifts including The Donkey Sanctuary edition of Monopoly and a framed photo of Sweet Pea.

HRH the Duchess of Cornwall presented with a picture of Sweet Pea
HRH the Duchess of Cornwall presented with a picture of Sweet Pea.
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Poppy’s story

Fifteen-year-old Poppy came into our care in July 2018, with three-year-old Lucky by her side.

Poppy and Lucky were facing eviction when their owner struggled to keep up with the cost of looking after them. The rent of their house and adjoining paddock, where Poppy and Lucky were kept, had increased, and despite their owner’s best efforts they were unable to find a suitable home in such a short space of time. The Donkey Sanctuary stepped in to offer urgent assistance, to ensure the donkeys were not left homeless.

It was immediately clear that the pair needed careful management, and for very different reasons.

Lucky was a stallion and needed to be castrated, but also has a condition called ‘locking patella’ – a problem with his joints which effects the movement of his hind legs. Lucky will require lots of exercise and may even need physiotherapy to help him overcome this problem.

Poppy was found to be in the early stages of pregnancy, as well as having poor-quality hooves, which showed signs of a painful condition called ‘laminitis’. She would need careful management to keep her in good health, ready to have her foal.

Poppy's front feet, laminitis
Poppy at collection from previous home
Lucky at collection from previous home
Poppy and Lucky when they first came into our care.

Given their opposing needs, the pair were carefully separated over time and introduced to new friends who lived life at a more similar pace to them. Lucky is now settled with a group of younger and more playful donkeys to suit his need for more exercise, and Poppy found a friend in quiet mare Floss, who proved to be a gentle and steady companion through the rest of Poppy's pregnancy.

Sanctuary for life for Sweet Pea and Poppy

Poppy was besotted the minute her little daughter arrived – nuzzling and licking her foal immediately, and watching over her as she tried to stand and take her first steps.

Groom Lisa Coles says: “Poppy is a great mum; she knows exactly what to do. When Sweet Pea is suckling, she pulls her in closer using her chin, and when she’s sleeping Poppy will often nudge her to check she’s OK.”

Sweet Pea is thriving. She’s confident and full of life, and will never know anything other than a world filled with kindness, comfort and love.

She will stay with her mother for the first few months, while she is suckling and dependant on her nourishing milk. Lisa and the other grooms at Paccombe will keep a close eye on her and Poppy, and will begin to teach her simple commands and get her used to being handled, which will help with her onwards care as she grows up. Our vets will also visit frequently to ensure they are both fit and healthy at every step.

Poppy, Sweet Pea and Lucky will forever remain in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, and may even be suitable to join our Rehoming Scheme in the next few years.

Your support allows donkeys like Sweet Pea and Poppy to live their lives in sanctuary.