This is the story of a very brave little pony called Faith who came to Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre (EHCRC) in 2010.
Well actually it’s about three little ponies and a dolphin!
So let’s start with hurricane Katrina, yes you read right, in 2005 in the aftermath of this devastating disaster in America many animals were left abandoned or lost in the chaos of the floods and the mass evacuation. An incredible couple Kaye and Glenn Harris stayed and decided to open their doors to whatever animal needed help. You have to picture the scene with the floods, the infected waters with excrement everywhere, the break ins and violent attacks that followed, the army patrolling the streets with helicopters flying overhead shooting at looters, it was an incredibly dangerous time but that didn’t stop this couple.
They did everything possible to get as many animals as they could to high ground and to safety. They broke into houses to free distressed animals and into pet shops to get food for them! They saved cats, dogs, birds, the list goes on and Molly the pony was one of them.
Molly had been left in a barn, a tree had fallen through and fortunately this helped her survive as she was able to scramble up it until she could be rescued. Then in the ensuing chaos Molly got attacked by a dog and had to have her leg amputated. This couple was determined to do everything to help this little pony who had already been through so much.
They found the surgeon Rustin Moore and the Louisiana University Hospital but had to do much convincing to get them to agree to operate. Then they found Dwayne Mara who made prosthetic limbs for people and convinced him to design and make Molly’s new limb.
Molly found her feet so to speak and immediately adapted to her new leg. She went on to live a full life and only recently passed away. Molly became a real celebrity as a symbol of survival, she travelled the country, instilling hope in those less fortunate and was featured in a book and the media far and wide.
Now this is where Faith comes in. It was in the summer of 2010 that Faith was found in a dusty yard beside a Spanish farmhouse. One of her injuries was a wide red gash cut deep across her lower right foreleg, evidence that she had remained cruelly ensnared for days in a rope used to tie her to a tree.
The rope had wound so tightly around Faith’s leg that blood ceased to circulate, causing deep lacerations and distressingly as Dorothea started to clean up the wound the flesh literally fell off her leg, totally exposing the bone structure..
Once safe at EHCRC, Rod and Sue Weeding Co-founders, with their vet Dorothea Dudli von Dewitz got to work on dealing with all Faith’s health issues.
A plaster cast was the best choice for protection and support. The inimitable Dorothea came to the Centre daily for months to attend to Faith and with the Weedings, would remove her plaster cast, inspect the leg, inject antibiotics, clean the wound, bandage it up, apply another plaster cast and dry it with a hairdryer…it went on and on, day after day but to no avail.
It was then decided to try something new, stem cell treatment, an experimental homemade stem-cell treatment Dorothea prepared herself! Twice a week she would draw a little of Faith’s blood, take it home, spin out the stem cells in a centrifugal machine, extract the healing cells and create an ointment to dress the wound.
Although it was in the early days of this type of treatment as always Rod and Sue wanted to try any measure to help Faith. It appeared that the treatment was working initially but sadly the extent of the damage was too severe. So now the options for saving her leg were running out and it looked like amputation would be necessary.
On finding that amputations on horses were unheard of in Spain the Weedings immediately searched for a solution. They thought of the world famous Spanish surgeon Gaspar Castelijins from the Equihealth Clinic near Barcelona who they had previously worked with on the case of Princess. Gaspar had said if they ever needed his help in the future not to hesitate to call. So that is exactly what they did.
Gaspar and the veterinary team would only operate if they felt Faith was mentally and psychologically ready for such a major operation. But after surviving the desperate situation in which she had been found, it was clear that Faith was a fighter, she knew how to look after herself. So Gaspar in Spain liaised with fellow surgeon Rustin Moore in the USA. They tried yet another technique but ultimately amputation was the only option. Bear in mind if equine amputations were unheard of then it goes without saying that there were no prosthetic limb manufacturers in Spain either!
Believe it or not, after she came round following the operation Faith valiantly walked out of that operating theatre on her new leg, designed and made by Gaspars business partner Claudio, a very basic artificial leg made with fiberglass and Velcro and leg components from kitchen cupboards! Although these limbs functioned they weren’t lasting very long so the Weedings decided to head to America to meet Molly, the couple who’d saved her and the incredible and creative prosthetic designer who had given Molly another chance at life just like they wanted to do for Faith.
So after many meetings, discussions, phone calls, measurements etc. Dwayne made Faith her new leg, well at least a temporary one. Then over time he made her 5 in total. Faith adapted so well to her new limb that a new high tech flexible version was made however she did not take to this and so they reverted back to the original version and she did incredibly well. However the team noticed that she needed a more robust liner as a padding to protect her stump from rubbing.
Yes, now this is where the dolphin comes in. Winter the dolphin, who lived in Florida had a prosthetic tail fitted in 2011. Due to an allergic reaction they had to get creative again and developed a special liner for Winter’s prosthesis. A book and film including sequel followed, starring people like Morgan Freeman. Back to our story…having heard about this fascinating story of Winter the dolphin in the States, yes, you guessed it the Weedings were on the case again and secured the same liner for Faith in order to give her protection and padding for a more comfortable fit. And it worked perfectly.
However, although EHCRC did everything they could to give her the best care possible which was around the clock it was felt that it would be better to fund her to go to live with Gaspar in Barcelona. She loved it there where she had companionship, mobility and lived pain-free in five-star accommodation it also meant she wouldn’t have to struggle so much with the very high temperatures on the Costa Blanca.
However, Faith’s other leg was obviously taking a lot of the weight and deteriorating, and having suffered from laminitis previously there was a real worry about how to help. When it gets to the stage that a disabled animal is struggling and you can’t make it better, it’s time to let go. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly but obviously no one was prepared to see Faith suffer. On October 29, 2015, on the advice of the specialist veterinarians, the heartbreaking decision to have Faith put to sleep
Finally, here’s where Iris comes in. In December, 2015, Faith’s prosthesis was sent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Lyon, in France where veterinarian Michael Schramme began fitting it for Iris, a 10-year-old pony. Iris had been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her foot and, like Faith, amputation was the only chance of saving her.
Iris’s leg was amputated in November 2015. At first, Iris, too, walked atop a very basic artificial leg made from two pieces of PVC drainage pipe joined together. When Iris’s owner contacted EHCRC, they knew they had to help, and immediately donated Faith’s professionally made prostheses.
Rod and Sue Weeding said:”We are so happy that Faith’s prosthetic legs are helping another little pony and that she and Molly have inspired other surgeons to continue this work to help others out there.
We believe that every animal that comes to us, because of the pain and suffering they’ve endured, deserves a second chance at life. That’s why we decided to fight for Faith’s life.
We gave Faith a good five years, which she deserved. She had the best and she inspired so many people worldwide. Faith truly has changed all of us and she is deeply missed.”
A huge thanks to everyone who supported Faith over the years. The donations, support and love for this little pony helped EHCRC through many tough times. Faith is often the topic of conversation and especially on the Open Days with visitors and so it was decided to share this story of these amazing animals and the people who rallied around worldwide to do their very best to help each and every one of them.
For more information, to donate or to help in many different ways check out the website www.easyhorsecare.net