INDUSTRY — Angel Marie, a miniature horse born on June 8 at the Double B Equine Rescue, is doing very well despite a rough start. Co-owners Brenda and Linwood “Lennie” Green have received support from near and far to help create as normal a life as possible for the young filly.
Angel Marie’s mother stepped on the filly’s leg when she was 2 days old. Dr. Robert Patterson of Clearwater Veterinary Hospital tried to save the leg, but the damage was too severe. The right foreleg was amputated in June and a second, smaller surgery was needed early in August.
Shortly after the first surgery, Angel Marie was placed in a sling for part of each day. The sling helped support the filly’s weight while standing.
When staff at Maine Orthotic and Prosthetic Rehab Services in Portland learned of the filly’s plight, Gail Fitzmaurice and Bob Gallagher, with help from others at the center, created a simple substitute limb for Angel Marie to use in the sling. A more complex leg is also being created.
Kelly Nichols, veterinary nurse at Clearwater Veterinary Hospital, said that because the filly can’t stand and move around like most newborns do, her tendons and muscles are underdeveloped. Water therapy sessions to strengthen her legs will help.
The first sessions were held in a 100-gallon livestock watering tub at the farm, according to Brenda Green. A few weeks ago, the sessions were moved to the boat launch dock at Clearwater Lake. Exercising in the water offers a low impact way to get the foal to move her legs while keeping the foal’s full weight off her legs, Nichols said.
“She’s a tough little horse,” Nichols said. Angel Marie loves being in the water and often lays her head back and goes to sleep, Nichols said, and does move her legs after being roused from naps.
Lennie Green transports Angel Marie in the back of a van and a special life jacket is put on the filly before he carries her to the dock where she is placed in the water. A handle on the top of the jacket is used to help support and guide the filly.
When Nichols is busy at the hospital, Jan Truman guides Angel Marie during the sessions. Truman is Brenda Green’s daughter and is often found working at the rescue facility. “Angel Marie is stronger than you think. I can’t wait to see her go, go, go,” Truman said.
Last week, another tool was obtained to help Angel Marie adapt to life with three legs. Ruff Rollin’ Wheelchairs For Dogs, a company in Bozeman, Mont., built a wheelchair for the horse, the first of its kind the company has built.
The wheelchair was paid for by Mango’s Freedom Wheels, a New Mexico-based organization that helps pay for wheelchairs or carts for animals in need.
According to Brenda Green, if Angel Marie outgrows this wheelchair and needs another one, the equine rescue facility will need to pay for it. She estimates the cost to be about $1,000.
The adjustable wheelchair is lightweight and features large tires on the front and smaller ones on the rear. A nylon harness holds Angel Marie in place. Like the water therapy, the chair supports most of Angel Marie’s weight while providing her with freedom of movement.
Standing in a sling and water therapy sessions have helped Angel Marie to build strength, but haven’t taught her much about where to place her legs while walking on land. Adapting to the wheelchair and learning how to use it will take a bit of practice, according to her handlers.
Angel Marie spent about two hours in the chair one morning last week. After some time, she was able to move around the yard on her own.
“I’m happy to see her strengthening her hind feet and moving like a horse,” Green said.
In the afternoon, Angel Marie was in the chair again. She was more interested in nibbling on grass than walking around. Lennie Green said it was the first time she had eaten grass and is another important step in her development.
By Saturday morning, Angel Marie was more familiar with the wheelchair. In addition to making her way down slight inclines on the uneven lawn, the filly could also make her way back up small rises.
Angel Marie even kicked out her hind legs and bucked several times like most young foals often do. The difference just a few days have made is very encouraging to the Greens.
On Sunday morning, Angel Marie traveled to Portland for a fitting on her second prosthesis. Brenda Green hopes the new prosthetic leg will help the filly learn to stand with her weight distributed more evenly.
Angel Marie has her own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AngelMarieTheMini where she has more than 1,600 likes and messages from people all over the world.
For more information about Double B Equine Rescue, including how to make a donation, call 778-6479 or visit www.mainehorserescue.com.