By: Korie Marshall

Dandy is a little pony with a lot of heart.

“Heza Dandy” is a registered miniature hourse, not much bigger than a large dog. Jackilyn Lussier (nee Kunka) got him when she was 13, and he used to run free in her parents’ yard, but one day about 10 years ago, he decided to chase cars. Lussier could not get him back in the yard, and he got hit by a car, tearing the hoof off his back right leg.

For nine months, Lussier would go out to his little barn twice a day and sit on a small stool.

Dandy would back into her and sit on her lap, so that she could replace the dressing on his hoof, a trick that would come in handy years later.

Lussier says the hoof grew in more like a horn, curving from the back and growing much longer out in front than it should have, and Dandy started having problems putting weight on that hoof.

For 10 years, Lussier has been having Dandy’s hoofs trimmed regularly, trying to get it back in shape, but he continued to walk on three hoofs. The strain of compensating started to damage his other back hoof, as well as throwing his hip and knee joints out of place.

Lussier says Emelia Cinnamon helped regularly with trying to get Dandy’s joints straightened out, but in the past few months, Dandy was getting worse. Lussier was coming to grips that she might have to put him down, because he could no longer walk.

But Dandy wasn’t laying down either.

Cinnamon recommended that Lussier give Shalia Keith a call. Keith is new to Valemount, and a trained ferrier from Montana State University’s College of Agriculture. Lussier agreed to give it a shot, but was still thinking she’d have to make the decision to put Dandy down.

“She asked me if Dandy had ever foundered, a condition that causes a horse’s feet to swell and can cause the bones in the hoofs to shift and grow weirdly,” says Lussier. If it had happened to Dandy, there was a chance that he could have bone inside his malformed horn-hoof. Lussier wasn’t sure, but thought it was worth a shot to do what Keith was suggesting – cut the horn right back and into something more like a regular hoof shape again.

But four women – Lussier, Cinnamon, Keith and a neighbour of Lussier’s – could not get Dandy to lay down so Keith could work on his hoof. Finally, Lussier suggested her old trick of getting Dandy to sit in her lap, and sure enough, as soon as she sat down behind him on a stool he sat down in her lap.

“I didn’t do anything special, just a correct, balanced trim to the anatomy of that particular horse,” says Keith. When he got up, Dandy was running for the first time in 10 years. Lussier says they couldn’t get him to stop.

Dandy still needed help with his other back hoof though; it had actually split from so much strain, and from Dandy’s odd habit of spinning around on that one back hoof. And his leg was still twisted and turned in from overcompensating for the hoof he hadn’t been able to stand on for 10 years.

“I built a shoe from glue to help stabilize the foot so the bones can realign and he can go back to normal,” says Keith. That hoof has to be covered with duct tape for a while, to keep the moisture out.

Dandy is certainly a tough little pony. In May 2010, he fought off an attack by a cougar, sustaining puncture wounds in his face and scratches that just missed damaging one of his eyes.

Dandy’s barn is at Lussier’s parents’ house on Highway 5, just south of Valemount.

Lussier now lives north of town, and moved Dandy out to her house last year, after building a new barn and fenced area. Dandy has lived mostly with dogs around, but now he has a new horse friend – Lussier recently rescued another pony, this one slightly larger than Dandy. She’s not sure if it’s because of having another horse around, or just exuberance about being able to run, but Dandy is trying to buck.

“That is not something you’d normally encourage in a horse, but he is trying to show me what he can do,” says Lussier. “I am just so happy he can do it.”

Heza Dandy has definitely lived up to his registered name, says Lussier.