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Molly... the heroic pony

[]Iíve written articles over the years about horses who survived amputation surgery. There was Boitron, the California Thoroughbred stallion who could service mares after amputation surgery. There were Dr. Ric Reddens dramatic cases of founder survivors who galloped around his paddock on artificial feet with "transplanted frogs". Dr. Chris Colles had the never-say-die Appaloosa in England with the spring-loaded foot. And who can forget that paint yearling in India ? Or the landmine-maimed elephant amputee in Thailand ? Longtime Hoofcare and Lameness Journal readers will remember them all.

So when I first heard that a pony had survived amputation surgery at Louisiana State University s (LSU) equine hospital, I didnt run to the keyboard and beg for photos. A few weeks later I did, though.

Meet Molly. Shes a gray speckled pony who was abandoned by her owners when Katrina hit southern Louisiana . She spent weeks on her own before finally being rescued and taken to a farm where abandoned animals were stockpiled. While there, she was attacked by a pit bull terrier, and almost died. Her gnawed right front leg became infected and her vet went to LSU for help. But LSU was overwhelmed, and this pony was a welfare case. You know how that goes.

But after surgeon Rustin Moore met Molly, he changed his mind. He saw how the pony was careful to lie down on different sides so she didn't seem to get sores, and how she allowed people to handle her. She protected her injured leg. She constantly shifted her weight, and didnt overload her good leg. She was a smart pony with a serious survival ethic.

Moore agreed to remove her leg below the knee and a temporary artificial limb was built. Molly walked out of the clinic and her story really begins there.

This was the right horse and the right owner," Moore insists. Molly happened to be a one-in-a-million patient. Shes tough as nails, but sweet, and she was willing to cope with pain. She made it obvious she understood (that) she was in trouble. The other important factor, according to Moore , is having a truly committed and compliant owner who is dedicated to providing the daily care required over the lifetime of the horse.

[]Mollys story turns into a parable for life in post-Katrina Louisiana . The little pony gained weight, her mane felt a comb. A human prosthesis designer built her a leg.

The prosthetic has given Molly a whole new life, Allison Barca DVM, Molly's regular vet, reports. And she asks for it! She will put her little limb out, and come to you and let you know that she wants you to put it on. Sometimes she wants you to take it off too." And sometimes, Molly gets away from Barca. It can be pretty bad when you can't catch a three-legged horse, she laughs.

Most important of all, Molly has a job now. Kay, the rescue farm owner, started taking Molly to shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers. Anywhere she thought that people needed hope. Wherever Molly went, she showed people her pluck. She inspired people. And she had a good time doing it.

Its obvious to me that Molly had a bigger role to play in life, Moore said, She survived the hurricane, she survived a horrible injury, and now she is giving hope to others.

She's not back to normal, Barca concluded. She's going to be better. To me, she could be a symbol for New Orleans itself.

[]This week, Molly the Pony, a childrens book about the pony who has already inspired thousands of people around New Orleans , has been published.

Its not a book about amputation or prosthetics, its a book about people and ponies. But the photos you see here are from the book.

Maybe Molly wont make the vet textbooks, but she might reach more people from the pages of this book for children. If you know a child, a library, a hospital, or maybe a therapeutic riding program that can use a lift, heres a book that can do that. And you can explain how the leg and hoof work!

HOW TO ORDER: This book is an oversized, square "laminated" (so it wipes clean) hard cover book. Hoofcare Publishing is proud to offer it for sale to you at the price of $15.95 each plus $6 post. A portion of the sales price will go toward Molly's fund. To order, send check or money to Hoofcare Books, 19 Harbor Loop, Gloucester MA 01930 . Telephone orders to ( USA ) 978 281 3222. Fax orders to ( USA ) 978 283 8775. Email orders to Visa or Mastercard accepted; please supply account number and expiration date. When ordering, please give phone and/or email details.

You will LOVE this book--and Molly!

Submitted by Audrey, Emmitsburg, Md.

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Ten Ways to Becoming a Better Equestrian
  • 1Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don't pick it up right away. Instead, shout, "Get Off, Stupid! GET OFF!"
  • Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice "relaxing into the fall." Roll into a ball and spring lithely to your feet.
  • Learn to grab your checkbook and write out a $200 check without even looking down.
  • Jog long distances carrying a halter and a carrot. Go ahead and tell the neighbors what you are doing - they might as well know now.
  • Affix a pair of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling to a halt. Smile as if you are having fun.
  • Hone your fibbing skills: "See, moving hay bales is FUN!" and, "No, really, I'm glad YOUR LUCKY PERFORMANCE and multi-million dollar horse won the class. I am just thankful that MY HARD WORK and actual ability won me second place."
  • Practice dialing your chiropractor's number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.
  • Borrow the US Army's slogan: Be All That You Can Be - bitten, thrown, kicked, slimed, trampled, frozen . . .
  • Lie face down in a puddle of mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself, "This is a learning experience. This is a learning experience. This is . . ."

And the Number One Exercise to Become a Better Equestrian:

  • Remember, its never the horse's fault...*

Submitted by Dick, Williamsport, Md.

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From time to time, people tell me "lighten up, it's just a horse...,"

... or, "that's a lot of money for just a horse".

They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, of the costs involved for "just a horse". Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a horse".

Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a horse," but I did not once feel slighted. Even some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a horse", but in those days of darkness, I quickly find the gentle touch of "just a horse" who then gives comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a horse", then you probably understand phrases like "just a friend", "just a sunrise", or "just a promise". "Just a horse" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

"Just a horse" brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of "just a horse" I will rise early, take on the day and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a horse"but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. "Just a horse" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday thay can understand that it's not "just a horse" but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a woman".

So the next time you hear the phrase "just a horse" just smile, because they "just" dont understand.

Submitted by Linda, Thurmont, Md.

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When you are tense, let me teach you to relax.
  • When you are short tempered, let me teach you to be patient.
  • When you are short sighted, let me teach you to see.
  • When you are quick to react, let me teach you to be thoughtful.
  • When you are angry, let me teach you to be serene.
  • When you feel superior, let me teach you to be respectful.
  • When you are self absorbed, let me teach you to think of greater things.
  • When you are arrogant, let me teach you humility.
  • When you are lonely, let me be your companion.
  • When you are tired, let me carry the load.
  • When you need to learn, let me teach you.

After all, I am your horse.

****And now, the REAL story........****

  • When you are tense, let me teach you that there are lions in the woods, and we need to leave NOW.
  • When you are short tempered, let me teach you how to slog around the pasture for an hour before you can catch me.
  • When you are shortsighted, let me teach you to figure out where, exactly, in 40 acres I am hiding.
  • When you are quick to react, let me teach you that herbivore's kick MUCH faster than omnivores.
  • When you are angry, let me teach you how well I can stand on my hind feet, because I don't FEEL like cantering on my right lead today, that's why.
  • When you feel superior, let me teach you that, mostly, you are the maid service.
  • When you are self-absorbed, let me teach you to PAY ATTENTION. I TOLD you about those lions in the woods.
  • When you are arrogant, let me teach you what 1200 lbs of YAHOO-let's-go suitably inspired event horse can do.
  • When you are lonely, let me be your companion. Let's do lunch. Also, breakfast and dinner.
  • When you are tired, let me remind you of the 600 lbs of grain that needs to be unloaded.
  • When you are feeling financially secure, let me teach you the meaning of "Veterinary Services, additional".

Submitted by Valerie, somewhere in Virginia

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Fun and Fast Horse Facts
  • The oldest horse on record was named Old Billy, a Cleveland Bay that lived to be 62 years old.
  • Adult horses only sleep 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period.
  • The tallest horse was named Samson back in the 1850's.  Samson stood at 21.2 inches high.
  • The smallest horse in the world is Thumbelina (aptly named).  She stands at just 17 inches tall!
  • A horse can see in all directions except for directly in front and directly behind him.
  • The highest successful jump ever was made by a horse named Huaso in Chile.  He jumped 8 feet!
  • A mule is a cross between a male donkey (known as a jack) and a female horse (mare). Mules are always sterile.
  • Horses cannot breathe through his mouth

Submitted by Dick, Williamsport, Md.

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God Jumps by Lauren Davis Baker - Originally published in

In Memory of Commander Tucker

God gives us horses and compels some of us to love them. Yet why does the horse, an animal with such a big heart, live such a short life? Perhaps it's because if our horses lived any longer, we wouldn't be able to bear losing them. Or, perhaps it's because God wants to jump.

Perhaps God looks down on the fine horses we raise and decides when it's His turn to ride. He gives us a few good years to care for and learn from them, but when the time is right; it's up to us to see them off gracefully.

OK, perhaps not gracefully. Blowing into a Kleenex is rarely graceful. But we can be grateful.

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily, we know we've made the right choice.

Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you, you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it. I found one of ours on the front porch one morning, eating the cornstalks I'd carefully arranged as Halloween decorations.

Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car in "drive."

In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he's fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fence if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership and partnership is what it's all about.

If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn. And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals. Some of us need these reminders.

When you step back, it's not just about horses it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or our horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place. And so we pray:

Dear God,

After You've enjoyed a bit of jumping, please give our fine horses the best of care. And, if it's not too much, might we have at least one more good gallop when we meet again?

Submitted by Dick, Williamsport, Md.

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