Ma-neighhh happy returns to 101-year-old from Cupar

Mrs Paterson greets Herbie
Mrs Paterson greets Herbie

A resident of North Eden House care home in Cupar received a surprise visitor at the weekend to help celebrate a very special birthday.

Mrs Bud Paterson turned 101 on Friday - and to mark the occasion, a tiny pony called Herbie turned up to give her a birthday nuzzle.

Herbie is one of 13 miniature Shetlands belonging to Elaine and John Sangster, founders of Therapy Ponies Scotland.

The couple travel all over Scotland with the adorable little animals, bringing pleasure to people in care homes, hospitals, hospices, schools and nurseries.

The fact that the ponies only stand some 26” inches high means they can fit into small spaces and even travel in lifts, and their gentle temperament makes them perfect guests.

Bud - who was christened Elizabeth - is originally from Falkland, where she grew up in a large family, but later moved to Freuchie with her late husband and worked in an ironmonger’s shop there.

Despite having passed her century, she’s still active and recently served as the audience prompter for a pantomime written and performed by the residents.

She also looks forward to visits from her daughter and grandchildren.

Bud was so taken with the tiny ponies during a visit a few weeks ago that Elaine and John decided to return to Cupar for her big day.

“Bud told us she was going to be 101 soon and we thought it would be lovely to surprise her on her birthday,” said Elaine.

“It was just so heartwarming to see her face when Herbie appeared.”

Herbie, who’s seven years old, is the second smallest pony in the herd, who live a charmed life on John and Elaine’s West Lothian croft.

The couple have always kept the ponies as pets, but got the idea to start a therapy service from friends in Cornwall.

“They are especially good for those with poor mobility or co-ordination or people with mental health issues or learning difficulties,” said Elaine.

“It’s wonderful how they can bring people out of themselves, even if they don’t usually speak to anyone. “

It takes up to three days to prepare a pony for a visit, as they have a thorough wash and brush-up to ensure they’re as soft and fragrant as possible.

They’re very friendly by nature but Elaine and John also give them extra ‘cuddle training’ so they’re never fazed by human contact.

“They’re just incredible,” said Elaine.

“It bowls us over every time we go into a care home and see the look on the faces of the residents.

“It’s often the talk of the place for weeks afterwards.”

To contact Therapy Ponies Scotland, call 01501 748899 or email therapyponiesscotland@gmail.com.