News Article Details

Miniature pony helps man find happiness

Star Beacon - 1/5/2019

Jan. 05--JEFFERSON -- Joseph Laing looks serene walking his American miniature pony around town.

Laing, 26, who is a high-functioning young man with Asperger's syndrome, routinely walks the pony, named Sugar Plumb Fairy, down East Pine, North Market, East Beech and North Chestnut Streets. Laing, seen Thursday with Sugar Plumb Fairy near their home, said the therapy pony provides him with emotional support.

He's cared for her for more than eight years now, and she has helped him deal with loneliness and social anxiety. Laing said he is most pleased when people stop to talk to him about Sugar Plumb Fairy and pet her soft fur, especially children and the elderly.

She might even perform a trick, like holding up her hoof to shake your hand, when asked nicely. Sugar Plumb Fairy is 19-years-old, Laing said, but such ponies can live very long lives even into their 50s.

"She means a lot to me and has helped me out," Laing said. "She cheers me up and I like when people stop to pet her and we talk."

Laing's mother Tammy said through the ups and downs of life, Sugar Plumb Fairy has been a constant friend to her son. During those times when her son has struggled, walking and grooming of the pony have been extremely therapeutic, Tammy said.

Joseph Laing has spent countless hours grooming and caring for the pony, who is blind in one eye and is a rescue animal. The pair have been good for one another and trust one another after having walked hundreds of miles around Jefferson over the past eight years, Tammy said.

"It's almost like animals speak a language that people don't hear," Tammy said. "But it's communicated from soul to soul."

Tammy said she's noticed her son and the pony have provided encouragement to others they meet while on walks.

"He's able to encourage people all over Jefferson and little children in the summer love to see her," she said.

So if you see Joseph Laing and his pony walking, stop and say hello. It might make your day, and his, a little brighter.

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(c)2019 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

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