Pregnant and rare horse is found lying dead in its paddock

One of the world's rarest horses has died after being fed by a well-meaning but 'ignorant' member of the public, her owner has claimed.

Pregnant mare Nant Loyw Harmony, 16, was found lying dead in a field in Llanrug, Caernarfon, after either suffering stomach problems or choking on food that had been thrown into her enclosure.

Harmony, who had been due to give birth to her third foal in May, was a rare Cleveland Bay. The breed is favoured by the Royals, and the late Queen was credited with boosting its numbers after purchasing one in the 1960s.

But breeder William Medforth, 34, is mourning the loss of his prize mare, describing the loss as 'devastating' for the Penrhyn Stud farm and 'damaging' for the breed as a whole, of which there may be less than 1,000 left worldwide.

He believes a well-meaning but ultimately misguided passerby is to blame, having discovered what he suspects to be scraps of food at the edges of her field on the morning of November 20.

He said: 'This is a breed rarer than the giant panda. So to lose one of our most prolific brood mares and her unborn foal is not just devastating for our breeding programme, it's damaging for the breed as a whole.'

Mr Medforth recalled: 'I drove past the field on my way to work and saw her lying in the field.

'Evidence suggested someone had tossed food items over the gate and she had died of colic or perhaps choke.

'Patches of grass nearby had been extensively grazed, a sign she had been scouring food items from the ground. There also appeared to be remnants of peelings at the edges of these patches.

'Harmony loved her food, so it's likely she ate the majority of what she was given.'

This is the second time Penrhyn Stud has lost a horse due to feeding by strangers. In 2020, an 18-month-old gelding collapsed in another field, and food was found within six feet of his body.

Signs were put up on all of the farm's boundaries imploring people not to feed its horses - but the warnings have gone unheeded.

Mr Medforth added that, regardless of what people might think, feeding horses is unnecessary and dangerous - as the mounts 'want for nothing' and get a balanced diet from the farm.

Penrhyn Stud was established in 1972 and has a global reputation for breeding Clevelands, which originated in Yorkshire in the 17th century.

The horses became famed for their all-round usefulness, finding favour as coach horses and, during the First World War, pulling artillery.

But the breed fell into decline after the war - before one named Mulgrave Supreme was purchased by the late Queen Elizabeth II, who bred him so successfully she has been credited with ensuring the line's continued survival.

The late Prince Philip used them to compete in carriage driving and they are still bred to this day at the royal stables, used at the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace to pull carriages on a day-to-day basis, including the Royal post run.

Despite this, the breed is still listed as 'critically endangered' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, with fewer than 300 breeding females registered worldwide.

Mr Medforth took over the stud after his father Charles died in 2017 - and Harmony's loss has made his job of protecting the Cleveland Bay all the more difficult.

He concluded: 'This is a breed rarer than the giant panda. So to lose one of our most prolific brood mares and her unborn foal is not just devastating for our breeding programme, it's damaging for the breed as a whole.

'In a good year, we might see only 20-25 Cleveland females born worldwide. In a bad year, there might only be 10-15.

'So every female is critical for the breed. To lose Harmony like we have, means one less female, plus one less foal in the field next year, potentially another female.

'It's very, very deflating. after all the wonderful work my father did.'