Caitlin cuddling Piglet while on her back

Brink of death pony's incredible recovery

It’s a miracle that Piglet is back on her hooves, let alone being ridden.

The six-year-old pony was in so much pain with a foot condition called laminitis in 2018 that vets were just a week away from recommending euthanasia after exhausting all treatment options.

The skewbald mare had the worst case of the disease that our Burford horse unit in Oxfordshire has ever seen in a pony that has gone on to recover and be successfully backed.

“We have never had a horse suffering so badly with laminitis that has gone onto have such an amazing outcome,” said Clare Bevins, Veterinary and Yard Supervisor.

Rio and Piglet with Ri and Caitlin
Ri Kirk and daughter Caitlin with their ponies Piglet (left) and Rio

She continued: “Piglet was so lucky. She hadn’t made any progress for months and when the vet came to do the visit before Christmas, they said that if she was not off drugs and comfortable by the new year that we should consider putting her to sleep. She was so sore, and nothing seemed to help.

“But literally, the day after Boxing Day, she suddenly showed signs of improvement. We were so relieved.”

Laminitis, which often affects overweight horses, causes devastating inflammation of the foot tissue which leaves horses lame and with potentially irreversible damage that can strip away any quality of life.

In Piglet’s case, X-rays revealed that the pedal bone in both front feet had rotated.

Caitlin riding Piglet
Before and after X-ray of Piglet's feet
Before and after X-rays of one of Piglet's feet

The odds were stacked against her when she arrived back in our care after two months box rest at her previous home, but our team immediately put her on a strict diet alongside specialist vet and farrier treatment.

She shed 21kg in eight weeks, making her an optimum weight. And after her surprise festive turnaround, started to manage short bouts of exercise on soft surfaces wearing special foot pads.

Incredibly, after six months of care at Blue Cross, X-rays showed her foot bones were back to normal.

Things started looking up for Piglet even more when she caught the eye of Ri Kirk, who initially visited our Burford horse unit in June 2019 to meet another prospective companion for her horse, Rio.

Caitlin smiling while with Piglet
Caitlin and Piglet are the best of friends.

Ri knew Piglet was the pony for her family after seeing how gentle she was around her two children Caitlin, five and Nathan, three.

Piglet has continued to thrive since being rehomed and has formed an incredible bond with Caitlin.

“Despite being our perfect pony Piglet does have a never-ending appetite,” said Ri.

She said Piglet’s grazing and feed need to be strictly managed, while encouraging her to self-exercise in her paddock with a maze-like layout so that she has to walk further to get from one end to the other.

Piglet pushing around treat ball

“We soak hay for 12 hours and hang it in a trickle feeder net from a tree, so it takes longer to eat it and entertains her for longer,” Ri continued.

Piglet gets a workout four to five times a week, either with Caitlin in the saddle or hand-led by Ri while she rides Rio.

She also enjoys the odd TREC-style course, which tests a horse's ability on different terrains and around natural obstacles.

“She has even been known to join the odd dog walk just to burn off some calories!” said Ri.

Ri giving Piglet a fuss in the field she lives in
​ Ri says that Piglet is an 'absolute superstar' who has fitted right into the family. ​

“Piglet has fitted right into our little family, she’s a gorgeous little pony with heaps of personality. She is fantastic with the kids around her and never seems to run out of patience for being brushed, washed and plaited.

“Piglet really is an absolute superstar, she’s kind, gentle and has unending patience with her mini humans.”

Clare added: “Piglet was one of the fortunate ones – her laminitis was caught early, and immediate steps taken to treat the disease. But prevention of laminitis is always better than a cure.”

Headshot of pony Piglet
— Page last updated 21/12/2020