‘Shy’ Shetland who became ‘star’ therapy pony wins prestigious award

  • A therapy pony who overcame his shyness to spread joy among everyone he visits has received a prestigious award at a star-studded ceremony.

    Shetland pony Wilson of Therapy Ponies Scotland received the “caring animal” award at the Mirror People’s Pet Awards 2021 (formerly the Animal Hero Awards) and attended the London-based ceremony in person with owners Elaine and John Sangster to collect the honours last Thursday (9 December).

    John told H&H that 10-year-old Wilson joined their herd of ponies when he was around six months old but owing to his timid nature, it took him some time to settle in.

    “When we first met him he was so shy, he’d run into a corner and hide. When we took him home he was getting a bit bullied by the other ponies and he wasn’t fitting in so we put him in the dog kennel with our Newfoundlands Penny and Innes and he slept there for a little while,” he said.

    “At the time it was close to Elaine and I getting married and while we had someone looking after the ponies we thought it might be a bit too much to ask to look after Wilson too so we took him on honeymoon with us to the Buckatree hotel in Shropshire. Every day he came walking with us and the dogs, and I think that was the making of his confidence.”

    Around five years ago John and Elaine launched Therapy Ponies Scotland after they were invited to bring Wilson into a rehabilitation home for a visit. The couple now regularly visit care homes, hospices and schools with eight therapy ponies, and Wilson is the “star of the show”.

    “We’ve done a lot of training with the ponies. One year we did a presentation at the Royal Dick Vet hospital in Edinburgh and at the end everyone clapped and Wilson went ballistic at the noise. He’s absolutely fine with other loud noises but not clapping so we had to do some training on this before we went to the awards. While we were there instead of clapping everyone was asked to do jazz hands while Wilson was on stage,” said John.

    “Wilson is the cheekiest pony you will ever meet but is as gentle as a lamb. He is a very people’s pony. He’s very affectionate and loves a kiss and a cuddle. It’s nice to win the award, but the most important thing to me is Wilson.”

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