Doolittle stood next to a Blue Cross groom who is kneeling on ground

Struggling foal now walks with ease

Miniature Shetland pony Doolittle arrived in need of surgery to correct problems with his leg joints… 

Tiny foal Doolittle loved to frolic in the field, but defects with his leg joints were holding him back. 

The miniature Shetland arrived in our care in November last year with his mum Princess, who was rescued by the RSPCA from bad conditions shortly before he was born.

It soon became clear to our Burford horse team in Oxfordshire that the playful youngster’s stifle joints in both back legs kept locking. 

The stifles are the equivalent of a human’s knee joint, connecting three bones at the top of a horse or pony’s hind limbs.

And because Doolittle had been bred to be so tiny, these joints hadn’t properly developed. 

Jess Hall, Horse Welfare Assistant, explains: “When Doolittle first arrived, we noticed that he was struggling with movement and thought it was likely to be his stifles. 

“The ligament which usually releases as the horse moves its leg was getting stuck on the patella, so his legs would get stuck in place. 

“It wasn’t painful for him, but it wasn’t very comfortable either. 

Doolittle walking around his field

“Sadly, this is quite common in the tiny Shetlands, due to the bad breeding that often happens.” 

Doolittle needed an operation to correct the problem and allow him to move with ease. 

And, after a delay caused by a nasty respiratory infection, the surgery was a great success. 

Two weeks of box rest and a further fortnight on soft woodchip followed, but he was soon back to prancing about his paddock. 

Doolittle and Ghost with groom
Doolittle with his paddock friend, Ghost

As Doolittle’s mum wasn’t keen on playing much with the cheeky little foal, the team decided it was best to match him with a group of young likeminded ponies to give him the interaction he craved. 

“It wasn’t working for him just being with his mum after he was weaned, which isn’t really unusual,” explains Jess. 

“He’s always been a confident little guy, but we were quite worried about introducing him to other ponies as he is so small. 

Doolittle stood next to his friend Ghost

“We took it slowly and introduced him to some slightly bigger horses with his mum and he took it all in his stride, so we knew he was ready to find a new gang of his own.” 

The team buddied Doolittle up with two cobs of a similar age – Ghost, who had also come from an RSPCA rescue and Brook, who had come from another home. The trio were soon inseparable. 

“Doolittle really came into his own when he was paired with Brook and Ghost and relaxed so much more,” adds Jess. 

Doolittle looking into the distance
Doolittle now walks with ease, thanks to Blue Cross

Our handlers continued to work on the ponies’ socialisation, which includes introducing novel objects to their field for them to explore and practicing farrier handling. 

Once he was ready, Doolittle was put up for rehoming and it wasn’t long before the fluffy foal caught the eye of a new family. 

After 173 days in our care, he went off to his new home where he joined another Shetland pony and continues to thrive.

Doolittle walking next to groom in distance
— Page last updated 28/09/2021