An unlikely inspiration

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2013

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – At the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center in LaPlace, the usual modus operandus is “horses helping people,” but last week a visit from Molly the Pony put a new twist on that concept.
Molly was rescued during Hurricane Katrina by Kaye and Glenn Harris, who also rescued scores of other abandoned and distressed animals during that chaotic time. One of the other rescues, a pit bull, attacked Molly and left her lame.
Unlike most horses and ponies in similar situations, however, Molly had a champion in the Harrises, who fought to honor the battles Molly had been through by keeping her alive. So instead of putting her down, Molly’s leg was amputated.
That’s where Dwayne Mara of Bayou Prosthetics came in. The man, who is usually creates prosthetic limbs for humans, decided to help the Harrises and Molly by designing a prosthetic leg for the pony.
“They had five or six people in the right place at the right time,” said Glenn Harris.
The process took a bit of trial and error, as there was little precedent to base the work on. Glenn Harris said Mara initially designed a leg much like one for a human, but the design was too hot for Molly. The design was accordingly scaled back to something acceptable to both horse and human, and Molly now boasts a collection of both articulated and non-articulated limbs. The limbs, said Glenn Harris, still need frequent readjustment, however.
And whether articulated or not, the limbs do have one consistent feature—a smiling face imprinted on the “hoof” so Molly truly does leave smiles wherever she goes.
According to Kaye Harris, Molly owes her very life to the people of the region, so she spends much of her time giving back by going to schools and other facilities where her unique gifts might come in handy. So last week, Molly made the trip from her home in St. Rose to the tucked-away LaPlace pastures of the GNOTRC, much to the delight of the handful of riders waiting there.
Although the sight of a pony with a prosthetic leg made some of the children uneasy, their fears were quickly wiped away as Kaye Harris explained the animal’s remarkable journey.
“Molly has taught me to be braver,” said Kaye Harris to the gathered children.
As the children, some of them with walkers or braces on their legs, brushed Molly, the anxiety melted away as they realized Molly was no different from other ponies they had encountered.
“She really is an inspiration to people with disabilities,” said Anita Hefler, GNOTRC executive director, who added that she would like to figure out a way to incorporate Molly’s visits into the work of the riding center.  
There were other special visitors to the riding center that day, too. A film crew from PBS was following Molly around for a nature special to air sometime in early 2014.
Molly will be back in the area on Sept. 24 when she visits the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve.
For more information, including how to donate to Molly’s foundation, visit