Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Molly the Pony, Equine Amputee and Katrina Survivor, Romps to a New Role in Life…on Three Legs

 Hurricane and amputation survivor, Molly the Pony, photo © Pam Kaster
MOLLY THE PONY BOOK UPDATE: Ten years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Molly continues to be in great health.

Meet Molly. She’s a gray-speckled pony who was left behind 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 being cared for. While there, she was attacked by a rescued pit bull terrier, and almost died. Molly's gnawed right front leg became badly infected and her vet went to the equine hospital at Louisiana State University (LSU) for help. But LSU was overwhelmed, and this pony was an equine refugee. No American Express card dangled from her frayed halter. If you've ever had an animal in need of major surgery, you know what the criteria is.

But after the local veterinarian persisted, LSU surgeon Rustin Moore agreed to meet Molly face to face, and that meeting 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 raw, infected limb. When she stood up, she protected her injured leg. She constantly shifted her weight, and didn’t overload her good leg. She was a smart pony with a serious survival ethic.

Dr. Moore agreed to remove her leg below the knee in a very special surgical procedure and a temporary artificial limb was built. The Humane Society of the United States and Lifesavers Inc. (an animal-angel arm of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in California) provided the funds for the operation. Molly walked out of the clinic and her story really begins there.
Here's Molly having a clean sock put over the stump of her leg before the leather sleeve of her prosthesis is strapped on. 

“This was the right horse and the right owner," Moore insists. “Molly happened to be a one-in-a-million patient. She’s 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. For the rest of her life, Molly will be at risk for the terrible disease called laminitis, which often affects horses who bear unequal weight on their legs and makes amputation a controversial option for many horses. But expert care has kept Molly free of laminitis.

Molly’s story has turned 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.
This is Molly's most recent prosthesis. The bottom photo shows the ground surface that she stands on, which has a smiley face embossed in it. Wherever Molly goes, she leaves a smiley hoof print behind! (Photos © Kaye Harris)
Most important of all, Molly has a job now. Kaye, the shelter farm owner, started taking Molly to shelters, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers--anywhere she thought that people needed hope after losing so much in the storm. Wherever Molly went, she showed people her pluck. She inspired people. And she had a good time doing it.

“It’s 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 month, Molly the Pony, a children’s book about the pony who has already inspired thousands of people around New Orleans, has been published.

It’s not a book about amputation or prosthetics, it’s a book about people and a pony. But the photos you see here are a few of the great ones from the book.

Maybe Molly won’t 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, here’s a book that can do that. And a lot more.

The book Molly the Pony has been awarded the 2008 Henry Bergh Award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for children's books about animals.

Molly the Pony is no longer available from Hoofcare Publishing. We prefer that you order it directly from so that the proceeds can go to help pay her vet bills.

You will LOVE this book--and Molly!

PS Many, many thanks to all the people who are forwarding the link to this story around the web--and around the world. This has been the most popular story ever posted on this blog, and deservedly so.

Interesting to note: almost everyone who has called was ordering as a gift for a child with some sort of a hurdle to overcome. It is the perfect gift for that...and I am so moved by the stories that callers have told me. Thank you, everyone. This is truly a "grassroots" effort since neither the university nor I has the funds to properly promote Molly and her story. She's an underground classic!

To forward this blog article, just click on the little envelope icon at the end of this story, if there is one, or copy and paste the address from the browser window.

Here's Molly at her new job! In the book you will see her with children in wheelchairs. She's just the right height to look them in the eye! As a matter of fact, Molly looks everyone in the eye, no matter how tall they are! (Photo © Pam Kaster)

All HoofBlog text and images © Hoofcare Publishing 2008 unless otherwise noted. Molly's photos from the book MOLLY THE PONY by Pam Kaster. Most photos of Molly are © Pam Kaster.

Contact Hoofcare Publishing anytime: tel 978 281 3222 email