BERLIN, Conn. (AP) – Equine dentist Joe Wysocki got the call when Thumbelina, the world’s smallest horse and touring celebrity, blew into Connecticut in her special RV and needed a checkup.

The retired New Britain firefighter, who started his business a few years ago after studying at the Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho, made a house call Tuesday morning to the Farmington driveway where the horse’s two handlers – former Midwestern rock circuit managers – had parked the Thumbymobile.

It’s a big RV, complete with a small stall, used to drive the 17.5-inch, 59-pound Thumbelina from her Missouri farm to appearances across the country at pediatric cancer units, burn centers, treatment centers and the occasional mall, museum or private party.

Ramona Dimatteo, the homeowner whose cousin used to help drive the Thumbymobile, welcomed the rig in her family’s driveway after the horse’s May 19 gig visiting children at the Klingberg Family Center in nearby New Britain.

A night at a suburban house was a welcome break for horse and crew, who travel harder than most headline rock bands. In May alone, Thumbelina has 26 gigs in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Michigan. Then there’s the media, including TV stations from Japan and newspapers from China.

Most nights, the Thumbymobile is at an RV camp or parked at a Wal-Mart – a business that handler Mike Goessling says is “RV-friendly” and pretty safe because of parking lot security cameras.

When Goessling told Dimatteo that 7-year-old Thumbelina needed a routine dental check, she recommended Wysocki, the Berlin-based dentist she uses for her own quarter horse.

“Fate sent Joe to me,” she said as Wysocki got down to business with the dwarf miniature, certified by Guinness World Records two years ago as the world’s smallest horse.

Wysocki used a small scrub brush to wash Thumbelina’s mouth with an antibiotic solution before he began filing down points and other dental irregularities that hindered the horse’s ability to properly chew her food.

“There’s not a lot of room to work inside its mouth,” said Wysocki, one of a handful of equine dentists in Connecticut.

“I’m using tools made for regular miniature horses, but even these are a little big.”

He’d file for a bit, then wait as the quiet, but obviously nervous, Thumbelina regained her composure, hiding behind her plastic “dogloo” inside the stall section of the RV.

“She sleeps in her dog house,” said Goessling, a former St. Louis rock club owner who gave up that life two years ago to bring Thumbelina from his parent’s farm to the 200 or so appearances she has yearly. “She’s only half the size of the regular miniature horses we raise on our farm. She’s a dwarf miniature. The people at the American Museum of Natural History in New York say she’s the smallest adult horse to walk on earth in 55 million years since Eohippus.”

Thumbelina is a lot easier to tour with than rock musicians, said Goessling’s helper and longtime friend, Will Porter, who’s out for the latest three-week leg of Thumbelina’s 2008 U.S. tour.

“This is much easier,” Porter said. “Still, I never thought it would be him and me, touring with the world’s smallest horse.”

Unruly fans – almost always adults – are about the only problem they encounter on the road these days. The ill-mannered grandparents who rushed Thumbelina’s pen during an appearance outside the American Museum in New York City last weekend were, in Porter’s words, “just about the worst display of adults I’ve seen. I was just amazed by it.”

A few feet away, Wysocki resumed gently filing down Thumbelina’s molars to balance her bite.

“I’ve been around horses all my life,” he said. “Right now, I have a big mule and a Tennessee walker.”

As he neared the end of a 32-year career in the fire department, Wysocki said he wanted to do something different after years of rushing to fires and accidents and seeing many dismal situations. He decided to work with horses.

“I knew how important it is for horses to have good dental care,” he said. “If their bite is off, they can’t chew and digest their food. Horses get gingivitis and periodontal disease, just like people. I’ve seen the results. A horse spits out its food and drops grain. You help fix that, and a horse that couldn’t eat will put 150 pounds back on.”

AP-ES-06-01-08 1444EDT

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