Fate reunites besotted owner with childhood pony

Photos by Steve Bardens

Twenty years after they first met, a plucky Shetland pony has been reunited with his besotted owner.

Naomi Baskerville was six years old when she first teamed up with ‘John Willy Parker’ at a riding school local to where she lived. The pair was inseparable and after two years of helping Naomi learn to ride, John Willy became Naomi’s very own pony.

But by age 14, Naomi was outgrowing the small pony and increasing schoolwork meant she had less time to spend with her beloved pet. Knowing just how much joy he had given to her as a young child, Naomi found John Willy a new home with a younger girl at a nearby riding school so they could enjoy the same bond, but sadly he developed some health problems and was given up again, this time to Blue Cross.

John Willy with a besotted Naomi when she was aged seven

Naomi soon realised her decision to rehome John Willy was one she would she soon deeply regret. Once handed over to Blue Cross for rehoming she thought she would never see him again and she was distraught over what she saw as her terrible mistake.

“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.”

Naomi and John Willy are inseparable

But a chance visit to our Blue Cross rehoming centre in Rolleston-on-Dove, Staffordshire, many years later proved to be the first step in Naomi being reunited with her childhood pet.

Knowing her daughter had never got over losing John Willy, Naomi’s mum suggested they visit our centre’s open day to find out how he was getting on.

On their arrival they spotted a photo of John Willy on a poster.

“As soon as I saw his picture I just burst out crying,” Naomi remembered.

“Mum persuaded me to chat to the charity’s team to see if anyone remembered him but I was worried he may have died since the picture was taken.

Fate has brought Naomi and John Willy back together

“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.”

The bittersweet news turned to jubilation for Naomi just months later, when she received a phone call that was to change her life. John Willy had returned to Blue Cross care and was looking for a retirement home where he could enjoy peace and quiet in his golden years having brought joy to so many during his days as a riding pony. Would she like to give him a home?

When it hit me that I would probably never see John Willy again I was devastated.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. Naomi Baskerville

It was a question that Naomi had been waiting to answer for so many years. Yes, she did want to be reunited with her little pony, and now they are reunited they will never part again.

We’re absolutely thrilled that Naomi and John Willy have found each other again. Naomi has also given another homeless pony called Woody a loving home so John Willy can have a companion, and the pair lives so close by to Naomi that she can see them from her bedroom window.

Maria Kavanagh, Horse Welfare Coordinator at our Rolleston rehoming centre 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.”

Naomi with Woody (left) and John Willy (right)

— Page last updated 22/01/2018