The incredible survival story of Faith the Pony
Little Faith was found beside a Spanish farmhouse, her foreleg deeply wounded from being badly entangled for days in a rope used to tie her to a tree.
We brought her back to our rescue centre in 2010 but, despite months of intensive treatment, her mutilated foreleg was unable to be saved. Faith then became the first pony in Spain to be fitted with an artificial leg after her front foreleg was amputated in a life-saving operation.
Faith lived happily for five years at the Equihealth Veterinarios clinic in Barcelona, under the supervision of skilled veterinarians. She had companionship, mobility and lived pain-free in five-star accommodation. She really did have the best of everything – as any little pony who has endured such suffering should.
This daring and difficult rescue attracted significant media attention and pushed animal welfare into the public spotlight in Spain.
Faith's journey inspired Sue to write a series of children's books telling the stories of our rescued horses, aiming to raise awareness about animal abuse while generating additional funds to cover the centre's hefty running costs. The first children’s book, Faith: Diary of a Heroic Horse, is now available during our monthly open days.
Faith passed away on October 29, 2015.
"Maybe you can't change the world by saving one horse, but you can change the whole world for the horse that you save." – Sue Weeding, Easy Horse Care co-founder.
The full story of Faith's rescue and pioneering surgery
It was in the summer of 2010 that we found Faith in a dusty yard beside a Spanish farmhouse. A wide red gash cut deep across her lower right foreleg, evidence that she had remained cruelly ensnared for days in a rope used to tie her to a tree.
The rope had wound so tightly around Faith’s leg that blood ceased to circulate, causing lacerations to run so deep that bone was visible. Our veterinarian Dorothea Dudli von Dewitz believed she would die from infection within two days if left untreated.
On August 27, 2010, we brought Fatih back to our rescue centre and began our battle to save her life.
Each day, we would remove her plaster cast, inspect the leg, inject antibiotics, clean the wound, bandage it up, apply another plaster cast and dry it with a hairdryer.
We tried to speed up the healing process with an experimental homemade stem-cell treatment Dorothea whipped up herself. Twice a week she would draw a little of Faith’s blood, take it home, spin out the stem cells in a centrifugal machine, extract the healing cells and create an ointment to daub across the wound.
It seemed to be working. Faith’s wound almost completely healed over.
Then, just before Christmas 2010, Dorothea noticed the skin was healing over, then perishing, healing over, then perishing. Our worst fears were coming true – Faith was developing bone disease.
We had only two options: put her to sleep immediately, or attempt amputation. The latter had never before been done in Spain.
Saving Faith's life with pioneering surgery
On February 28, 2011, Faith underwent pioneering surgery at Equihealth Veterinarios in Barcelona. Two surgeons, along with an anesthetist and a nurse, worked meticulously for five hours to sever her right foreleg 7.5cm below the knee.
We were worried about how Faith would wake from the surgery, how she would react to her bandaged stump and her new temporary plaster cast leg, with its rough chunk of wood fixed to the bottom.
But Faith took to it immediately, actually walked out of the surgery theatre with the leg on. We were just absolutely amazed. She was such a determined and strong little pony.
For a while, we struggled to find Faith a proper prosthetic leg, because nothing of the kind existed in Spain. For a while, she walked atop a very basic artificial leg made with fiberglass and Velcro and leg components from kitchen cupboards.
Eventually, we made a call to America, to Dwayne Mara of the Bayou Orthotic and Prosthetic Centre in New Orleans – the skilled prosthetist who made an 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.
It took months of back-and-forth discussions between America and Spain, and lots of trial and error, before Dwayne finally created the perfect leg for Faith.
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.
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 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.
In October, 2015, Gasper told us that Faith’s good front leg – previously weakened by a severe case of laminitis suffered before her rescue – had began to fail.
On October 29, 2015, we followed the advice of specialist veterinarians and made the heartbreaking decision to have Faith put down.
We believe that every animal that comes to us, because of the pain and suffering they’ve endured, deserves a second chance at life. That's why we decided 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 truly has changed all of us a little bit.
Faith’s artificial leg is now helping another amputee pony in France
In December, 2015, Faith's prosthesis was sent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Lyon, where veterinarian Michael Schramme began fitting it for a 10-year-old Shetland pony named Iris.
Iris had been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her foot and, like Faith, amputation was the only chance of saving her.
Iris’s leg was amputated on November 20, 2015. At first, Iris, too, walked atop a very basic artificial leg made from two pieces of PVC drainage pipe joined together.
When Iris’s owner contacted us, we knew we had to help, and immediately donated Faith’s professionally made prostheses.
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.
We must extend a huge thanks to everyone who supported Faith over the years. Your donations, support and love for this little pony helped us through many tough times.
She will be greatly missed.