Pony survives Hurricane Katrina to become symbol of hope.
Whether she’s visiting nursing homes, hospitals or schools, Molly the Appaloosa Pony never fails to make a lasting impression. That’s because Molly gets around on only three legs.
“When I take Molly on her visits all around the country, I tell people I don’t bring Molly around to places because she’s a three-legged wonder,” says Kaye Harris, her owner. “I bring her because she’s Molly. Because she’s Molly, she was able to be a three-legged wonder,” she said.
Harris, who lives outside of New Orleans, rescued Molly in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Several months later, Molly was attacked by a dog Harris also rescued after Katrina. Molly had numerous lacerations and injuries to her legs, with her right front leg sustaining most of the damage.
“That one particular front leg had been so badly compromised. He had crushed the blood flow so from the ankle, down it just went dead,” Harris said.
All Molly’s other wounds healed but her leg could not be saved. But Harris says Molly adjusted almost immediately.
“She started to walk three-legged and surprised the heck out of me because as horse people, we’re taught ‘lose the leg, lose the horse’,” Harris said. “Here’s this pony walking three-legged, getting up and down three-legged, maneuvering three-legged and coping quite fine.”
Harris says Molly figured out immediately how to compensate for her missing limb.
“I watched everything she did. She was so smart about so many things. She would pick this little hill to put her good front leg up on and rock her way onto her back legs, thereby taking the weight off that good front leg,” Harris said. “She would rest her head on something and lay there with her head rested meaning she was taking weight off the good front leg without having to lay down,” she said.
Due to Molly’s indomitable spirit and will to live, Harris started investigating the possibility of a prosthetic leg for Molly. But she was met with skepticism from the equine community since prosthetic devices are uncommon in horses. Harris finally turned to Dr. Rustin Moore, who at the time was head of veterinary surgery at Louisiana State. She urged him to meet Molly. In an email, Dr. Moore said he couldn’t help but be impressed by Molly.
“The most amazing things about Molly are her strength, courage and will to live, combined with her intellect and her gentleness with people of all ages, sizes and abilities,” Dr. Moore said.
“Molly’s case is an exceptional example of how things can work positively,” Dr. Moore said. “Molly certainly taught me many valuable lessons about “listening” to the patient (and Kaye) or in other words, the importance of observing the patient closely and if their demeanor, behavior, intellect, and strength or will to live is apparent and the owner is truly prepared for the cost and daily commitment to care for the horse for the rest of their life, then it is certainly worth considering” he said.
So, Molly had her surgery, which was paid for by Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States and was fitted with a prosthetic limb.
“From the surgery, she rolled right up and got off on her cast right away. It was just amazing,” Harris said.
It took Molly a few days to get the hang of the prosthetic, but Harris says she was given the freedom to figure how to maneuver on her new leg.
“The reason this pony is here today is because she wasn’t coddled and put up in a stall. She was free to figure it out on her own,” Harris said. “It’s sort of like having a disabled person. You don’t coddle them so they can’t do anything for themselves yet you do make certain concessions to allow them to maneuver and get around,” Harris said.
It’s also up to Molly if she even wants to wear the device.
“If for some reason she’s sore or she doesn’t want it she will hobble away from you three-legged or she will just lift her little stump and say ‘no I don’t want it’ then I don’t put it on,” Harris said. “At some point during the day, sometimes she’ll look at you and you’ll walk up to her with the leg, she’ll stand there like ‘ok, I want it now’”.
Now Molly spends her time visiting organizations such hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and army bases all around the country. She also helps bring awareness to “Kids and Ponies – Molly’s Foundation”, which supports Molly’s work and raises funds for other retired or rescued ponies.
“Most people are amazed and it fills them with hope that something that shouldn’t be done can be done and that this amazing little spirit in front of them is saying ‘hey, you can do it’,” Harris said.
For more information about Molly, visit her website at http://www.mollythepony.com.