If you were watching the Super Bowl on February 2nd, you may have been charmed by an adorable chestnut mini in a TELUS ad determined to leave his paddock and join his buddies to the tune of ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’ That cutie would be William, the 18-year-old gelding who holds the title of clinic mascot at Ferguson Equine Veterinary Services in Mono, Ontario.
William is owned by veterinary assistant Sarah Ball, who describes the rather unusual way he came into her life. “My whole family are into horses and we had this old Hanoverian and he was getting beaten up [by his paddock-mates],” she explained. “So we bought him a mini horse to keep him company. The lady was really funny ‒ it was a handshake deal, money exchanged, bill of sale ‒ and then she added, ‘Oh, by the way, she might pregnant.'”
As time wore it it became very apparent the mare was indeed in foal. “Out he popped and he was the most adorable thing. My sister kept the mare and I took him on.”
William’s transition to being a valued ‘staff member’ at Ferguson Equine was pretty organic. “I started working for Robin [Dr. Robin Ferguson, DVM] about six years ago,” said Sarah. “Then we built the clinic and William’s been here for about four years.” Sarah says that besides being a hit with the clients, he makes a wonderful babysitter. “If there’s a horse in the clinic and it’s by itself, he’s its buddy. He’s kind of perfect that way.”
However, how he ended up landing the TELUS commercial involved a bit of kismet. “Through Dr. Ferguson’s practice, one of our clients is Canadian Wrangler ‒ Sue Parker and Rick Parker.” The pair are noted and respected trainers of animal actors for movies and television; on their website they claim to have wrangled ‘everything from trick horses, moose mascots, big cats & charging Brahma bulls to scorpions, rats, beavers, lemurs, monkey bartenders, gargling roosters & break-dancing ducks.’ “Sue happened to be coming through the clinic and we were doing ‘The 12 Days of Willy’ countdown to Christmas [a series of fun winter-themed photos] for our Facebook page. So she caught us doing one of those and I said ‘Hey, if you ever need a mini for anything, let me know because he’s really good.'” Sue took a picture, as she had a client in mind who wanted a big fluffy mini with ‘a certain look.’ “Sure enough, she showed them the picture and they loved him. We were shooting the commercial the next week.”
The experience “was a blast. He was really good on set.” William had already been exposed to lots of exciting things in his life: Sarah had even taken him to her 12th-grade high school evolution class where he got to ride the elevator to the third floor. “If the opportunity came up, I would love to do an ad shoot again. It was really fun and for me, it was a bucket list thing.”
William recently had a little dental work done thanks to specialist Dr. Ian Bishop from Northern Equine Veterinary Services of Kirkfield, ON, who were thrilled to tend to the little celebrity. Selfies were the order of the day and Sarah notes that William is recognized a lot lately thanks to the TV spot and related posters plastered all over the country. “Even our FedEx lady came in and said, ‘It’s the TELUS pony!’
Now the trick will be to make sure William doesn’t cop an attitude and want to hire an agent … but Sarah admits he is definitely entitled to “all the carrots he wants for life.”