It’s a practice so common in the horse world that it’s become a given: if a horse breaks or develops an infection in his leg, there’s nothing to be done other than put him down. That conventional wisdom, however, is being challenged by Riley, a female buckskin quarter horse living at Horse Haven at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Riley came to Best Friends with an awful hind leg injury; to treat her, specialists had to re-align her ankle joint and fuse her bones together with metal plates and screws. Eventually her body rejected the plates and she developed a severe infection. She needed a new solution and Best Friends’ was lucky enough to find a veterinarian with the answer: Dr. Ted Vlahos. In May, 2008, Dr. Ted transported Riley to his clinic in Sheridan, Wyoming, where he amputated Riley’s leg just below her knee and fitted her with a temporary prosthesis. Now, Riley has returned home to Best Friends, once again able to trot and wander the pasture.
Each year, thousands of horses are euthanized for reasons very similar to those that necessitated the amputation of Riley’s leg. Nowhere has that fact been more apparent than at the racetrack, where Eight Belles, Barbaro and countless other thoroughbreds have been put down after breaking a leg. Riley now shows that horses’ lives don’t have to end that way, thanks to this advance in equine medicine.
This procedure isn’t for every horse with a broken or severely infected leg, but many horses can be saved from a death sentence if people simply knew that the prosthesis is an option. Dr. Vlahos and two other veterinarians, Dr. Barrie Grant of California and Dr. Rick Redden of Kentucky, pioneered the procedure. For more information, please visit: http://www.bestfriends.org.