A woman who thought she’d never see her beloved childhood pony again is celebrating their reunion.

Naomi Baskerville first met Shetland pony John Willy Parker at a local riding school 20 years ago when she was six years old. Two years later she took him on as her own.

But when she reached the age of 14, Naomi, who is from Stafford, had outgrown the pony, found she was getting busy with her school work and had less time to spend with him. She decided to allow a younger rider to enjoy him.

Naomi, aged around seven, pictured with John Willy Parker at a local show

Sadly the Shetland then developed health problems and ultimately ended up in the care of the Blue Cross, at which point Naomi thought she had lost contact with him forever.

“When it hit me that I would probably never see John Willy again, I was devastated,” said Naomi. “It is the biggest regret of my life. I thought I would never get over the loss of my old friend and I was miserable for months.”

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To try and cheer her up, her mother took her along to an open day event at the Blue Cross rehoming centre in Rolleston-on-Dove. On their arrival they were surprised to see a picture of John Willy.

“As soon as I saw his picture I just burst out crying. Mum persuaded me to chat to the charity’s team to see if anyone remembered him, but I was worried he might have died since the picture was taken,” Naomi explained. “I’m so glad I plucked up the courage to ask; they all knew him and remembered his cheeky character. Happily he was alive and well and living with a family in Scotland – they even had pictures of him with his new family.”

Then, just a few months later, Naomi received a call from the centre saying John Willy was back in their care and asking if she would like to visit him. She jumped at the chance and since November, he has been living back in her care.

She also took on another Blue Cross pony called Woody to keep him company and says she is delighted to be able to see them everyday from her bedroom window.

Maria Kavanagh, horse welfare co-ordinator at Blue Cross in Rolleston said: “I remember John Willy very well. He was the cheekiest little pony. He could be quite aloof with all of us, but when he was with Naomi it was obvious they have a wonderful deep bond.

“We are delighted they have been reunited after all these years. Fate has brought them back together.”

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