Merry and Pippin

On a visit to the RSPCA I discovered two miniature ponies that had been surrendered. They were part of a large consignment of ponies rescued from a life of neglect that is so often the case with people who buy a couple of small ponies to keep the grass down and end up with too many to deal with. These people often begin with good intentions but it soon gets out of hand if they have no prior experience with pony welfare. They ignore important things such as the basic requirements often just walking away and leaving them to get on with it. There are hundreds of cases reported annually but only a few are lucky enough to be rescued.

Merry and Pippin arrived at the RSPCA as walking skeletons. Pippin was so poor that he had to be helped to his feet after lying down since he had no energy or muscle to aid him to stand. He was so frightened that he desperately tried to get away from any human contact. I was originally attracted to Merry because she had such a positive, delightful nature in spite of all that she had been through. It was suggested that I should also take little Pippin because he had bonded with Merry and when I saw him I was so horrified by his condition and fear responses I couldn't refuse!

The RSPCA had already done a substantial amount of the work on feeding and they had already picked up considerably since the time of their arrival. I'm sure that I would have been appalled if I'd seen their original condition!

Road to Recovery

Merry is a little rascal, full of life, very inquisitive, brave and loving. How she managed to retain such a positive attitude after all she'd been through defies reason. Pippin couldn't be more different, he is frightened of everything reacting with fear and subsequent over adrenalising. This goes some way to explain why he has had such a hard time putting on any weight.

Equines are flight animals and as a result react to frightening situations by running away. During the flight response respiration deepens, the heart rate is raised, blood sugars are re-directed to power the muscles for flight and digestion shuts down. There are a number of problems associated with the flight response, one being the inability to digest properly which gives a clue as to the reason Pippin has been so slow to gain weight.

As I see it, the way to tackle the problem is twofold. Firstly there is the psychological aspect and secondly, the subsequent physiological conditions caused by stress. It's important to gain his trust and to re-establish balance of the physiological processes within his body.

Step one is to establish a routine so that he feels comfortable in knowing what will be happening at any time during the day.

Step two is to address the feeding regime and add some herbal medicine to aid the digestive process and the nervous exhaustion and correct adrenal overload.

Week Two

We have got to the stage where Pippin is happy to be patted and groomed but is still difficult to catch in an open paddock. In the stable he is happy to be caught providing you don't make any sudden moves. The regular routine has proved to be very calming for little Pip and he is now in the right place at the right time having developed an understanding of what will be happening. The establishment of regularity plays an important part in the rehabilitation of traumatized equines. Pippin is also called over in the paddock throughout the day and given a few treats for coming and taking them out of my hand. This will gradually be replaced with pats as we establish our relationship. All of the above has had a positive effect on him and he is gaining confidence and weight daily.

Little Merry is an amazing little soul and very protective of Pippin. In my years of involvement with horses I've been amazed at the loyalty they are capable of demonstrating towards their companions.

Merry has a huge personality and is happy to follow me around and help in any way she can. A particular favorite is to knock over the poo bucket!

A few days after I brought her home, I discovered that she was dragging her hind leg around and seemed to me unable to bend it properly. This is a common ailment in ponies and is referred to as stifle lock. Horses are equipped with a locking system called the Stay Apparatus which keeps the leg straight when sleeping in the standing position. Sometimes the stay apparatus release mechanism does not work effectively creating an inability to bend the leg. There are a lot of theories about this but no-one has managed to discover exactly why this happens. Personally, I think the answer is probably due to a number of factors. Some ponies grow out of the condition but it can be the route for osteoarthritis to develop so it's important to treat for this aspect along with other herbs to balance the body.

Conformation, fitness, neural muscular responses, skeletal alignment and fatty tissue surrounding the muscle all have bearing on the problem. Surgery includes severing ligaments or slicing down through ligaments order to create a thickening with scar tissue, neither of these could be an option as far as I'm concerned. Other options are chiropractic, acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Given Merry's condition when she arrived, it is better to treat the problem using herbal medicine and chiropractic treatment. I've chosen to address her in the following ways:

1) Treatment of the digestive process in order to establish balance so that she can absorb and make use of nutrient intake.
2) Treatment of excretory output in order to help her to eliminate metabolic waste from her body.
3) Treatment to strengthen the circulatory system and cleanse the blood.
4) Treatment of the nervous system in order to improve the neuromuscular response.

I'm also gently massaging the area and taking her for walks to improve her muscle strength and feeding her plenty of roughage to keep her system turning over.

She has also had two chiropractic treatments from Dr Gaynor Ross who found some underlying problems in the sacroiliac area.

Week 5

Today the vet came to geld little Pippin. It all went very well and it wasn't long before he was up and eating the breakfast he had missed out on earlier in the day. The vet was amazed at their change in body condition and general health. She had treated them when they first arrived at the RSPCA.

Week 10

I've now had the ponies for ten weeks and things are getting better for both of them. Pippin has become stronger, fatter and happier and has gained a lot of confidence, so much so that he is able to let me give him pat in the paddock, and Merry appears to be responding to the treatment as her stifle lock hasn't been seen for several weeks now. Both ponies are developing shiny coats, fat tummies and a positive disposition. I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to see them racing around in the paddock with not a care in the world!

Horsetail Herbs will continue to sponsor them for the rest of their lives. How could we possibly let them go anywhere else?