Borders debut for mini ponies

92-year-old Robert Cheape with mini-Shetland pony, Wilson at Riverside Health Care Centre, Selkirk.
92-year-old Robert Cheape with mini-Shetland pony, Wilson at Riverside Health Care Centre, Selkirk.

Residents at Selkirk’s Riverside Health Care Centre enjoyed the mane attraction on Tuesday when they received a visit from miniature Shetland ponies Wilson and Edwardo.

Run by husband and wife John and Elaine Sangster, Glasgow-based Therapy Ponies Scotland was in the town to make its Borders debut, benefitting all 40 residents at the home.

Left to right Sandra Black with her 90-year-old mother Elizabeth 'Betty' Ormiston, a resident at Riverside Health Care Centre. They were joined by Betty's sister-in-law, Betty Spencer when they met Edwardo the mini-Sheltand pony and his handler, Elaine Sangster.

Left to right Sandra Black with her 90-year-old mother Elizabeth 'Betty' Ormiston, a resident at Riverside Health Care Centre. They were joined by Betty's sister-in-law, Betty Spencer when they met Edwardo the mini-Sheltand pony and his handler, Elaine Sangster.

“It’s really made my day seeing them, I’m normally scared of horses,” laughed 92-year-old Margaret McGrath.

The visit, organised by staff at the Bridge Street centre, also attracted residents’ family members and friends on the day.

Resident Jean Young, 89, added: “It’s great seeing so many people here.”

Standing at just 26 inches tall, six-year-old Wilson and two-year-old Edwardo are two of the couple’s 13 ponies which have been bringing pleasure to people at the likes of care homes, schools and hospices since 2015.

Residents at Selkirk's Riverside Health Care Centre get a visit from Therapy Ponies Scotland's mini-Shetland ponies, Wilson and Edwardo.

Residents at Selkirk's Riverside Health Care Centre get a visit from Therapy Ponies Scotland's mini-Shetland ponies, Wilson and Edwardo.

Karen Smith, the centre’s activities co-ordinator, said: “You can see the difference in the residents’ faces, any animals or children really brightens them up.”

Manager of the centre, Tracey Bell, added: “You can see that they are really enjoying it. It’s relaxing and really beneficial having the company of animals.

“Even the ones who don’t normally take part in things are enjoying it.”

Elaine said: “It’s incredible seeing how people can react to the ponies, the ponies are great with people.

“It’s lovely to see the effort some people will go to just to pet the ponies as well.

“I had horses when I was younger and in 2009 we got our first miniature horse.

“It all started when we used to walk them with our dog and it could take up to three hours or so just to walk up and down the high street because everybody wanted to pet them!

“Some friends of ours down in Devon were doing therapy ponies and it just made sense to try it out up here in Scotland too.

“Shetland ponies can sometimes have a bad reputation but these ones get a lot of attention and we spend a lot of time with them so they are really patient and trusting.”

Among the gatherers at the care centre was the centre’s oldest resident, Dorothy Anderson, who celebrated her 100th birthday in January.

The residents are now looking forward to seeing a regular therapet Bermese Mountain dog in the coming weeks.

A video of the ponies’ visit may be found on the Southern’s Facebook page by clickinghere.