For ponies so small, Dame Maggie and Princess Rose have had an enormous impact on many lives.
The Shetlands rehomed by Blue Cross work as therapy animals, comforting terminally ill patients at hospices, inspiring children and adults with learning difficulties and even helping to steer troubled youths away from crime.
The mother and daughter, aged 18 and six respectively, were rehomed by Blue Cross Burford to Alex Taskin in January 2016 and she soon noticed their incredible ability to calm and soothe those in their presence.
So having seen on TV the profound benefits that therapy ponies can have on people, Alex was inspired to launch an equine therapy arm to her people development business, with the help of friend Suzanne Halsey.
The pint-sized ponies’ first outing as representatives of Equilibrium for Life was to one of their local hospices in Kent early last year, which proved beyond doubt their remarkable affinity with those in need.
“They’re incredibly sensitive to people’s emotions and feelings. So when we take them to meet patients, they know when someone is really ill or dying. They’re completely quiet and just stand there, and they will nuzzle the person.
“It’s amazing to see. I’m not sure you can ever understand the science behind it, it’s just incredible,” said Alex.
Alex and Suzanne now take Maggie and Rose to various hospices at least once a month. And when Blue Cross first caught up with them, the ponies were the star attraction of the Wisdom Hospice open day, standing statuesque still as a queue of eager children took their turns to pet them and brush their manes.
In one particularly touching moment, Maggie rested her head in the lap of a young disabled boy using a wheelchair who was on his way to visit his sick grandmother – and his parents couldn’t believe how his face immediately lit up.
“On one visit there was a gentleman, who did not have much longer to live, and Rose just went straight up to him and nuzzled him. He kissed her on the head and was so happy to see her.
“It’s nice for people to have these touching photos of their loved ones, who they know will sadly die but it hopefully gives them a nice memory of them smiling,” said Alex.
The ponies also travel all the way to Guy’s Hospital in central London for its annual Cancer Survivors Day each year and are one of the main attractions.