Just imagine this unusual scene at a local hospital ward: A tiny horse is standing by a bed, nuzzling the young patient's hand, while in the corridor outside, another pony is towing a laughing child along in a wheelchair.
Meet the very special miniature therapy ponies who bring joy to sick and disabled children as well as elderly patients and dementia sufferers across Scotland.
Story via TWNews
Therapy Ponies Scotland is run by husband and wife team Elaine and John Sangster, who have been keeping the animals in West Lothian for the last 10 years.
They set up their organization four years ago after a friend asked them to take a pony to visit patients at a rehabilitation care home. There was such a positive reaction from patients - many with brain injuries - that the care home asked if the couple would come back.
Elaine says: "We had been keeping miniature Shetlands as pets for around ten years. We loved them and took them everywhere we went. We even took one, Wilson, on our honeymoon as he was too young to be left alone.
"But after that first visit to the rehabilitation unit we were asked to visit several care homes and hospices. It made us realise that we wanted to share the joy and love that we got from the ponies and do this full time.
As soon as they made that decision, thry were inundated with requests. In fact they have not stopped and are always travelling." The couple now visit care homes, nursing homes, hospices, day-care centers, sheltered housing facilities and out-of-school clubs for disabled children across Scotland.
They have specially trained the ponies to be gentle and quiet. And only those small enough to travel in a lift are allowed to visit.
"The ponies do go into lifts to reach bedrooms where people are too unwell or just don't want to leave. It's amazing to see the reaction from both young and old. Our ponies are so small that their heads are the same height as someone's lap. You will see someone who had seemed emotionless, suddenly respond and kiss and hug a pony.
"I would say that if we do anything, we provide a distraction. While we are there all worries and concerns go out the window."
"It is also really special to see the children. But it isn't just the poor children that we help but their siblings and families too".
Elaine believes that they have made more than 650 visits since they first started. They now own 15 miniature ponies but only take two at a time on a trip.
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