His name is Bruno, and to most he’s a pony.

To Ayesha though, Bruno is her world, her soul mate, and her best friend. He never argues, disagrees, tries to make his news more important, and he can eat an apple in under seven seconds!

Ayesha is Autistic, has learning disabilities and communication needs and really struggles to understand friendships.

Nearly two years ago Ayesha decided she would like to try horse riding. We found a reputable stable and went along to meet them. Ayesha rode several horses over the coming months, but one became her favourite. They were made for each other; when all the other children were immaculately turned out and their mounts were equally spruced up, both Bruno and Ayesha looked like they had just woke up and were having a pyjama day.

Bruno didn’t judge. When Ayesha had an off day and forgot all she had been taught Bruno plodded on ensuring they got round the ring safely, and with some element of decorum. When Ayesha had an anxious day and felt scared to ride, Bruno looked after her. After there were always cuddles and a treat, Bruno being so gentle, treating Ayesha like his best friend too.  

Like something out of a children’s storybook the two of them became inseparable, and everyone commented how they were the perfect pairing. The rosettes started flowing, but Ayesha didn’t care if they came first or last, she was equally joyous just to be with her very best friend. Even on the two occasions when she fell off Ayesha was straight back on, Bruno feeling guilty for letting her slip from the saddle seemed to take extra care for the rest of the lesson.

Christmas came, all Ayesha wanted was her very own grooming kit, and couldn’t wait to go to the stables to use it to treat Bruno to a makeover. He still looked like he had just got up; he has that kind of look.  

Bruno was the stable’s old faithful, everyone loved him, not quite as much as Ayesha, but he was ever popular. No way could we buy him, so the hunt for another horse started. Then, out of the blue, the owners pulled me aside and said we could buy him from them as they knew just how precious Bruno was to Ayesha…

We decided to give him to her as her wedding present - Ayesha was to be our bridesmaid out our rapidly approaching big day. She had no idea; she knew Bruno would never be sold so she had no hope of ever owning him.

And then, a few weeks from the wedding with all the plans in place, he fell ill. This wasn’t just a bug, this was something he would be lucky to survive. The vet visited daily, often morning and night, and we all hoped for a miracle, even though the vet said the chance of survival was minimal at best, and if he lived he could never be ridden again.

We couldn’t tell Ayesha, and we had no plan B for the wedding. Ayesha was told he was a little poorly and the stables were closed as they all had a bit of a bug. In the meantime Bruno just hung on in there, we visited regularly without Ayesha to see how he was progressing, and slowly but thankfully he pulled through. But sadly he wouldn’t be strong enough to pull his carriage at the wedding as he had done at so many other events.

The big day arrived, as did two ponies. One to pull us up to the reception, and Bruno, looking handsome, eager for Ayesha in her beautiful dress to ride him through the village to the waiting friends and family.

Everyone knew the story, and everyone knew what was coming next, except Ayesha. The tag round his neck was turned to say ‘Mandy and Marc’s wedding day’. Once she dismounted and went to give him a cuddle the tag was turned round. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd as Ayesha read the message around her best friend’s neck - ‘To Ayesha, I’m yours, Love from Bruno’.

Marc started the Little Blue Cup Project after his #CupForBen Tweet went viral, the internet came together and strange things happened. Find him on Twitter as @GrumpyCarer - an accurate description - or on Facebook.

His two sons (24 and 14) have autism and learning disabilities, his daughter (11) is being assessed for autism. Marc tells us if doctors don't agree she has autism he'll chew off his arm and beat them with it.