August 11, 2017

Purdue University Large Animal Hospital helps baby horse learn to walk

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When “Chalee’s Dream Jet,” just Jet for short, was born without complication at the Purdue University Large Animal Hospital, everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief, if only for a minute. As time passed, it was apparent that Jet was having trouble standing and walking.

Josie, Jet’s mother, is an 18-year-old mare that was brought to the hospital as a precaution. She had an ovarian tumor removed by doctors at Purdue in 2013 and the family trusted the team to make sure Jet, her first foal, arrived safely.

The reddish brown foal was born in May and would spend the first three months of his life at Purdue learning how to walk properly, says Dr. Gillian Haanen, resident specializing in large animal internal medicine.

“Unfortunately, when Jet came out, his hind limbs were a bit malformed. He had flexural limb deformity,” Haanen says.

This was causing Jet to walk on the backs of his hind legs instead of standing on his hooves. Doctors at Purdue fitted him with special shoes that propped him up and helped strengthen the ligaments in his legs.

Soon, he was walking fairly normally and growing stronger, Haanen says. After months of treatment, Jet was able to go home on Aug. 6.

This, indeed, is a special horse for the family. It was Susan and Robert Gilliland’s daughter’s dream – for Josie to have a baby – one she never got to see. Chalee, 11, passed away on Sept. 22, 2012, from complications caused by cystic fibrosis.

“Horses and barrel racing were her physical therapy and life support,” Susan Gilliland said. “They set her free.”

Josie belonged to Chalee. They raced and grew together, Susan said.

“Josie has a history at Purdue,” Susan says. “She had an ovarian tumor removed at the hospital and we knew that if there were any complications with the birth, Purdue was the only place able to do a cesarean section.”

He will never be ridden, but the Gillilands don’t mind. They are just happy Jet is with them.

“We don’t mind that Jet isn’t a barrel racer,” Susan says. “This is what Chalee would have wanted. Jet is a blessing.”

Chalee’s parents founded the Chalee Gilliland Foundation to “inspire and empower individuals with cystic fibrosis by providing financial and emotional support to them, the barrel racing community, and animal organizations,” according to their website.

“We founded the Chalee Gilliland Foundation after Chalee passed away to carry on her giving nature and to be able to help others with cystic fibrosis,” Susan says. “We had met a dear friend who also had CF. He rode horses, too. He needed a lung transplant and had to come up with $30,000. We decided to put on a charity barrel race for him, and the foundation was born.”

To learn more about the Gilliland’s and their foundation go to

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325, 

Sources: Dr. Gillian Haanen,

Susan Gilliland,

Note to Journalists: Video of Jet and Josie is available at

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