What I like about social media is the way you can make connections and learn about the amazing things that other people are doing out in the big wide world. I came across Cuddly Pony Party on Facebook via a childhood horsey friend, and I absolutely love the idea. and wanted to know more. So I contacted Karen Perry, an equine and canine therapist who started it all and asked her some questions. If only Cuddly Pony Parties existed when I was growing up!
Tell us about Cuddly Pony Party - where did you get the idea, and how did you make the idea a reality?
We moved to our dream property, an old brick 1950's house, not very inspiring in itself, but the view from the bathroom window took our breath away; five acres and a dreamy orchard. I knew Daisy had to grow up with ponies! She was 6 months old when we moved in, my imagination went into overdrive, and Cuddly Pony Party was born!! I've worked within the equine industry since 1982 as a groom, manager and instructor, and have run my own equine therapy business since 1995. Cuddly Pony Party is a family run business. My mum, chief assistant, is a retired primary school teacher and my dad, also a retired school teacher, is our photographer. And my 6 year old daughter Daisy helps care for the ponies at home and at the parties! We bring the ponies to children's parties, where they can groom, cuddle and fuss the ponies. They can brush their beautiful blonde manes and tails, and decorate them with sparkles and glitter and ribbons! Then they can each have a ride on their favourite pony, supervised at all times by experienced handlers. The birthday boy or girl will receive a birthday card and rosette from the ponies!
Did you encounter any challenges?
Getting insurance was the biggest challenge. Most insurance companies said, “Ponies? Children? Parties? On your bike!” Thankfully, I persisted, and eventually found a company who took the risk.
Also, finding ponies who looked cuddly and adorable but had the right temperament. Not all ponies love children......! Twinkle was first to arrive and was totally well behaved when I tried her. Got her home and she trampled chickens and dogs who dared venture into her field and bit Daisy! Luckily, we persevered, and now she is THE most amazing pony and Daisy’s best friend! Bubbles we found in a riding school near Peterborough. We liked him as he whinnied to everyone and was used to kids and dogs all over him. He did come with bad riding school habits, he has to stop for many toilet breaks, and he hates going away from the other ponies, but he fits in really well here and adores being adored! He is always the first to speak to me when I open the back door in the morning!
Can you tell us about the ponies?
The tiny guys, Nutkin and Scrumpy, have only been here 18 months. I bought them unseen from their lovely breeder in Berkshire. They arrived on a racehorse wagon in the dark and sleet two days after Christmas. We shuffled them into their field, only to find they had escaped by the morning! Tango, our Belgian Shepherd, was delighted; he seriously thought I had bought him a sheep for Christmas,(Scrumpy was small, white and fluffy) and he herded them back into the field and has stalked them ever since! It has taken them a while to grow into their role as Cuddly Ponies, although Nutkin was always over friendly and sitting on our laps! She was the first to enter the house and join us for breakfast! Scrumpy was wild and scared for the first year, and I despaired of ever finding a role for him, but he clicked this year and at Belton Horse Trials he met the public like an old pro, kissing small girls and falling asleep whilst having his mane plaited! We couldn’t do without him now, and yes, he has been in the house too.......!
Have you always been a pony lover?
I have always been pony mad from an early age. My parents are unhorsey and we lived in a suburb of Nottingham, so having a pony was never an option. I couldn't even have regular riding lessons until I was 12! To get through this pony-less existence, I used to write madly, bashing away at on old typewriter, in a totally different world! On paper I could be Lucinda or Henrietta, who lived in the country with any number of horses and dogs around me. I must have written 8 or 10 "books" like this, but I hated people to read them; it was as though they were prying into my private thoughts. I am lucky enough now to be living my dreams for real!
Has social media helped with your marketing?
Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising but Facebook has been amazing. I am a technophobe, so I have been slow to catch on! I try to update the ponies’ Facebook page once or twice a week and I know I have a lot of young Cuddly Pony fans who regularly check out what the ponies are up to and where we are going to be next. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch and advertise what we are doing. I also have a fantastic web site which one of my equine therapy clients designed for me, with purple stars tumbling down the page. They magically turn to snow in the winter months! I have yet to discover Twitter.......!
And when it comes to books, who/what do you like to read?
I am an avid reader, although I seriously struggle for time these days! Even now my favourite books have an equestrian link somewhere! You can’t beat a good book for decent escapism, and thankfully I never want to escape too far from horse and pony chaos! All my life my favourite author has been KM Peyton, who wrote the fabulous Flambards trilogy. She was instrumental in my childhood escapism, as some of her books about horseless children seemed to totally be made for me. Even now, her books like Fly By Night and The Team are brilliant reads.
I also love Fiona Walker, author of great big horsey and doggy romps, ideal for holidays! And I am hugely enjoying, for the second time, working through the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, a very funny crime writer. Laugh a minute and not a horse in sight, who would've thought it?
Links for Cuddly Pony Party
I’m Karen Perry, somewhere in my forties, equine and canine therapist by day, carazy pony lady at weekends!! Live in a 1950's building site with 5 acres in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir! Dependents - Daisy, my gorgeous 6 year old daughter, not only the inspiration for the Cuddly Pony Venture, but also a huge part of it! She is up at 6.30am with me to help work the ponies, she rides and shows Twinkle and she is brilliant helping the children at parties! Also Tango, our faithful Belgian Shepherd. Nearly 12 now but always our shadow, eager to help lunge ponies, hoping one day we will buy him his own sheep......!