AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Superpony has been training at Auburn University’s veterinary school this summer, and it doesn’t seem there’s any kryptonite that can harm him.
Pogo, a miniature horse, had three legs when an animal rescue group contacted the university earlier this summer and asked what could be done to help him. Wednesday, Pogo pranced around Bartlett Arena at the College of Veterinary Medicine, with the aid of a prosthetic leg, covered with a Superman cast.
“I chose that pattern because he’s a super pony,” said Shelley Jones, executive director of Healthy Horses Alabama. “He has unbelievable power and a will to survive. The plan is to make him a cape, too.”
Jones first met Pogo when she was contacted by a Bibb County school bus driver in May, who said a co-worker told her she had seen a three-legged mini horse on a rural road on her route.
“So I contacted the school bus driver and I said, ‘You didn’t see a three-legged horse. There are no three-legged horses. That just doesn’t happen,’” Jones recalled. “She said, ‘I really think you should come and see about it.’ So I did. We were able to get legal ownership and bring him back to our facility to assess his injury. He was indeed a three-legged horse.”
Jones said she was told that Pogo was in a pen with two other horses in December when they were attacked by dogs. The other two horses died as a result of the incident, and Pogo had part of his hind leg ripped off.
“Initially, when I first saw him and smelled him, I thought, ‘There is no way that we can save this animal,’ because he had such a great big injury,” Jones said. “After we had him, we brought him home and cleaned him up, like we always do with an animal. He bonded with us immediately, and we saw him ambulate on three legs in an amazing way.”
A local equine veterinarian evaluated Pogo’s injury and advised Jones to try to save him. So she called Auburn and spoke with Dr. Lindsey Boone, assistant professor of equine surgery and sports medicine.
Boone suggested taking an unusual route: essentially re-amputating the leg and fitting Pogo for a prosthetic one.
“Horses do not handle being on three legs very well, because they really need that other limb to help support their weight,” she said. “A prosthesis is not an often done procedure with horses.”
Multiple factors influenced Boone’s decision to try the prosthetic leg on Pogo: His will to survive, the fact that he had survived about six months on his own between the injury and being rescued by Healthy Horses Alabama, and his size.
Boone and the Auburn staff operated on Pogo’s leg, and Opelika-based Hanger Clinic fitted the mini horse with a temporary prosthetic leg. After the surgical wound healed, Hanger again evaluated his leg and fitted him with the Superman-clad leg he has now. Pogo has been wearing that prosthetic for about a month, Boone said.
Auburn veterinary staff and students have been conducting physical therapy with the horse each day, getting him used to treating the prosthesis as an actual limb.
“He has had an intensive physical therapy regime, which has included acupuncture, chiropractic, therapeutic laser and other therapy,” Boone said. “Now, he has muscle in that leg and he uses it. He wants to trot. He’s happy and healthy and really, ready to go home.”
After his two-month stint at Auburn, Pogo is returning to Healthy Horses Alabama, where Jones will take care of him and has big plans for his future.
“My idea is for him to be able to go live in a therapeutic riding facility and work with children and adults with special needs,” said Jones, who also works as a speech language pathologist with special needs students. “My hope is that he goes on to serve a bigger purpose, and that they can see how he has overcome such a traumatic life start and injury, and be able to get some inspiration from that.
“I do feel like he has superpowers. He’s a super pony that has just a huge, huge personality in such a little package. I think he certainly fits the persona of being Superpony.”
Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/