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Petoot in braces

PERSONAL PONIES usually chooses one of the children participating in our program as Poster "Child" of the Year, but this year we are VERY pleased to have chosen a most special pony for this role.

We think after you read PETOOT's story (written by his PPL "mom," Gail Schumann, State Director of New Hampshire), that you will agree that PETOOT is a most special pony and an example for us all...


Gail's story ...

Both my husband and I work full time jobs off the farm, but luckily I am only five minutes away and my father-in-law, Bernie, comes in at mid-day to check on everyone, do any needed feeding and watering, and in general make sure that all is well.

On the day PETOOT was born, Bernie came as usual—but there was nothing "usual" about the phone call I received from him telling me that RAINIE had had her foal, that both of his front legs looked like they were broken, and that he could not stand. Alarmed, I immediately left work and came home to try to get the foal to stand and nurse, but Bernie was right: this little colt could not stand on his front legs. They didn't seem broken to me, but they looked like they had been "put on" sideways.

Of course, I immediately called my vet who was amazed by the foal's unusual "conformation" and who said she had never seen anything like it. At that point we had no idea if we could save this little colt, but we decided to take one step at a time and see what could be done for him. Thus our first job was to get colostrum from his dam and tube that into his stomach. We also decided to give him some IV tetracycline for safety. But as we worked with PETOOT and talked about his chances, PETOOT kept doggedly TRYING to get up and walk! Impressed with his heart, we decided to give him a few days and see what happened.

Petoot with Rainie

But in order to live, PETOOT had to eat and as he couldn't stand to nurse, I milked the mare and started feeding him with a baby bottle every 4 hours. He was great about drinking and the more milk he got, the more DETERMINED he got that he was going to GET UP AND WALK. On the fourth day when I went in to milk the mare, I was dismayed to discover that she had no milk. Discouraged, I sat in the stall and watched for a bit only to discover that PETOOT had figured out how to get himself up and drink! His little legs weren't very strong and they still turned out, but HE GOT UP! It was also easy to see that this little colt was proud as a peacock to have conquered this critical skill.

Lots of people have asked me if I ever thought about putting PETOOT down in these early days when his condition looked so hopeless. Of course, it was something that my vet and I discussed, but it was really PETOOT's stamina, his willingness to keep trying, and his will to live that kept us from it. My vet even said that she simply could not, in good faith, destroy a creature with that much heart and spirit unless his physical condition became grave. Thus, PETOOT himself determined his own future.

By the end of the first week, my vet and I decided that we needed to do more for PETOOT—we needed to figure out what to do with his legs. Our first plan was braces to help support his legs, but while I left them on at night, I was afraid to keep them on during the day for fear he might get stuck on something. But even with this limited support for his legs, each day PETOOT got stronger, ate more, and got more of the "I CAN BE JUST LIKE VERYONE ELSE" attitude. He tried HARD at everything, especially at trying to run and jump like other foals.

Spurred by his continuing courage, I contacted several equine clinics, but the responses were discouraging and NO ONE thought that a little pony like PETOOT was important enough to work with. What was there to do but decide that between me and PETOOT we could make this work! Thus PETOOT and I began his physical therapy together...

I didn't really "KNOW" what I was doing, but it made sense to me that PETOOT needed help in teaching his front legs what to do—so I started "being" his front legs for him by holding them and moving them in the way they need to go in order for PETOOT to walk. Then I got a FAX from Gunvor Schoch in Sweden that detailed massage techniques and therapies to try on his legs. So now I also became PETOOT's massage therapist and faithfully administered the massages, linaments and warm soaks Gunvor recommended. And each day, PETOOT's attitude said to me, "LOOK AT ME! I CAN WALK AND RUN IF I WANT AND I REALLY NEED TO STAY ALIVE!

Petoot - Reindeer

PETOOT is now 6 months old and his ATTITUDE and DESIRE TO LIVE are the reasons he is still here. He has never once given up. NOT ONCE! His feet are trimmed every 3 1/2 weeks to help him with his walk and today his front right leg looks almost normal, though his left leg is still seriously turned out. BUT this foal does run with the other horses, eats with them and believes he is ten feet tall instead of the 18" high he really is!

PETOOT is the foal that can make anyone believe that ANYTHING NIS POSSIBLE. He has the desire to liive and the heart to say, "OK, I AM DIFFERENT BUT I CAN AND WILL LIVE A GOOD LIFE." And he certainly made me realize how much love and heart a child with disabilities really has.

Most of all, though, he is a constant reminder to me of how wonderful life really is, no matter what problems you or your children may have.


Petoot Update - July 2001

Petoot just had his firth birthday and we thought you might like to see how he has thrived in the past year despite his difficult start in life.

Gail says that Petoot's right leg has straightened substantially, but that his left is still very crooked. Doesn't seem to bother this pony a bit though as you can see from the new pictures! Gail also reports that Petoot seems to know his limitations, but really enjoys rollicking with his best friend, the young PPL stallion, SCHUMANN'S RAZZMATAZZ. They are best buddies and the cutest (and most diminutive) pair you can imagine as they stand side-by-side at the full height of about 22"!

Petoot Update - Age 16

Petoot - Age 16