It was to cheers of care home staff that Pearl Todd embarked on a unique journey which has been over a year in the making.

The 103-year-old, who had to sell her horse before coming to Ranfurly Care Home in Johnstone, wished for one more horse ride. 

An employee at the care home, Karen Dove, was adamant to ensure that it happened, but a year of searching for an option accessible to Ms Todd came up short.

The solution came when she spotted Simon Mulholland’s wheelchair-accessible vehicle headed by a pony named Obama.

Speaking of Ms Todd’s request, Ms Dove said: “Her last wish was to ride a horse again and we knew that couldn’t happen, so we tried everything else.

“We tried carriages but because she uses a hoist, they said the hoist might spook the horse.

“We thought we had lost it, but then this pony came through Barrhead and I thought there it is – there’s the answer to my prayers.

“It was like a dream come true.”

HeraldScotland:  Pearl Todd with Karen Dove Pearl Todd with Karen Dove (Image: Gordon Terris/NQ)

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While she had to endure the November chill, Ms Todd was able to explore the hilly park which would have been inaccessible to her in a wheelchair.

The former midwife, from Kilmacolm, had owned on a horse previously and wanted to reconnect with the animal.

“I had to sell it. It takes a lot of money to stay here,” Ms Todd quipped.


Ms Todd’s two sons travel up from England each month to see her, but this was the first outing she has been able to take in three years.

“It was lovely,” she said after returning to the care home. “I enjoyed it.”

However, this would not have been possible without the innovative three-wheel pony-drawn vehicle with space for a wheelchair built by 67-year-old Simon Mulholland of Pony Axe S.

With the help of Obama at the helm of the vehicle, Mr Mulholland has made Scotland’s beaches and outdoor terrains accessible to people with disabilities.

“I cannot imagine not going out to a place like this,” Mr Mulholland said. “For me, it’s about being away from the roads, I don’t want to be on a tarmac path or on a blocked-off bit that is for the disabled.

“I want to be in the countryside,” he said as he explained the motivation behind Pony Axe S.

Gesturing to the slopes of Thomas Shank Park and the remaining autumnal foliage, he added: “It’s about making places like this accessible, making the countryside accessible.

“It looks like I am the only person in Scotland doing it.”

The innovative vehicle has helped people across Scotland access its beautiful beaches and countryside with Obama working from “Berwick-upon-Tweed to Dornoch”.

He has provided trips for people who travelled from Australia and Canada just to be able to visit a beach with their wheelchair.

Mr Mulholland said: “There is a huge demand for it. The tourist potential is enormous.”

Moving to Paisley from England has been key to the success of what he does, as Scotland has been far more welcoming to his initiative.

“In England, everyone is finding excuses why it won’t happen; in Scotland, everyone is finding reasons why it will happen.

“We’re not being told to go away. We’re not being told we can’t do it. That’s what matters. I just want to expand it with more ponies taking more people because it shouldn’t just be one pony.”

He emphasised that safety for those in the vehicle has been crucial for the whole idea and has managed to create an automated system which releases the vehicle from the pony.

“I can’t stop the pony from doing something stupid, nobody can. He can be as stupid as he likes but Pearl would be okay,” the 67-year-old said about the safety system.

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HeraldScotland: Simon Mulholland helping Pearl Todd into the vehicle.Simon Mulholland helping Pearl Todd into the vehicle. (Image: Gordon Terris/NQ)

Obama, who is 19 years old, was rescued by Mr Mulholland in 2009 and has fully embraced a role that has seen him recognised across Scotland.

Isabelle Mulholland, 18, explained: “We have got two other ponies that we tried to replace him with, we wanted to let him retire. He wasn’t having any of that.

“Ponies don’t need tweed jackets and things, they just need love and attention. If he walks around, he will always get that love and attention.”

Ms Mulholland helps her father with the trips whenever she is free from other obligations.

“I nearly start crying every time. It’s amazing.” The 18-year-old added: “Even when it is a long day walking, which it is, you get to hear things and you get to see things that you wouldn’t see on a normal day. It’s amazing to see everything Obama does.”

Read more about Obama and Simon Mulholland's work HERE