The first pony in Spain to be fitted with an artificial leg has passed away, five years after her mutilated front foreleg was amputated in a life-saving operation. Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre co-founders Sue and Rod Weeding, who rescued the badly injured pony in 2010, said they made the heartbreaking decision to have Faith put down on the advice of specialist veterinarians.
Faith had lived happily for years at the Equihealth Veterinarios clinic in Barcelona, under the supervision of skilled Dutch vet Gasper Castelijins, who served Spain’s 2012 equestrian Olympic team.
But last October, Gasper reported that Faith’s good front leg – previously weakened by a severe case of laminitis suffered before her rescue – had began to fail. “No expense was ever spared on Faith and she absolutely loved her prosthetic leg because it gave her freedom. The amputation was the right thing to do ¬– it gave her a wonderful five years. She had companionship, mobility and lived pain-free in five-star accommodation,” Sue said.
“But it’s all about knowing when to let go. 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.”
Faith had been found in a dusty yard beside a Spanish farmhouse in 2010, her right front foreleg deeply wounded after being entangled for days in a rope used to tie her to a tree.
She underwent months of intensive treatment at the Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre, near Rojales in the Alicante province, but her mutilated foreleg was unable to be saved. In February, 2011, Faith underwent pioneering surgery at Equihealth Veterinarios in Barcelona, where two surgeons worked for five hours to sever her right foreleg 7.5cm below the knee.
Faith was then fitted with a prosthetic leg specially made in the United States by Dwayne Mara of the Bayou Orthotic and Prosthetic Centre in New Orleans – the same skilled prosthetist who made the artificial leg that in 2006 saved the life of a famous American pony named Molly, a casualty of Hurricane Katrina, who was later attacked by a dog and lost her leg.
“We believe that every animal that comes to us, because of the pain and suffering they’ve endured, deserves a second chance at life,” Sue said of the decision 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 has changed all of us a little bit.”
Faith was put to sleep on October 29, 2015.
“Faith’s death has been incredibly sad for us and we needed some time to privately come to terms with this loss before making the news public,” Sue said.
“Faith was such a special little pony who touched so many lives and of course we wanted to keep everyone who loved her updated on her case. We would like to thank our supporters for understanding our decision to take a few weeks to privately grieve before publicly announcing Faith’s death.”
Now Faith’s artificial leg is set to help another amputee pony in France.
The prosthesis has been sent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Lyon, where veterinarian Michael Schramme is fitting it for a 10-year-old Shetland pony named Iris.
“Iris had been diagnosed and treated for a chronic foot infection for several years by the time she came to see us in October of last year,” Michael said. “Our investigations showed she had a malignant tumour in the foot and that the only chance of saving her would be to amputate the limb above the tumour.” Iris’s leg was amputated on October 30 last year, but a second amputation had to be performed slightly higher up the limb on November 20 after the wound became infected. “Iris returned home for Christmas on December 20. During this time, we constructed a bandage splint from two pieces of PVC drainage pipe that we attached together as a splint to replace the missing part of the limb,” Michael said.
He said the Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre’s kind decision to donate Faith’s professionally made prostheses “will most certainly help” Iris regain her mobility. Said Sue: “We are so happy that Faith’s prosthetic legs are going to help another little pony and that she and Molly the Pony have inspired other surgeons to continue this work to help others out there.”
The Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre relies entirely on donations to fund its important animal welfare work, including the feeding and care of the centre’s more than 90 horses, ponies and donkeys rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment.
Anyone interested in making a donation, becoming a long-term sponsor, or volunteering at the rescue centre or in its network of eight charity shops can call Sue on 652 021 980.
The Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre, located just outside Rojales at Partido Lo Garriga, 59, opens to the public on the first Sunday of every month between 1pm and 4pm. Free horse tours run throughout the afternoon and refreshments are available in the café. For more details and directions, please visit www.easyhorsecare.net.