Many horses are euthanized because of a broken leg. It was said that they couldn’t be healed properly and veterinarians used to give very low odds on recovery after operations on broken bones.
The horses had to have a very high value, in general for their pedigree, genetics and past performances to be saved with the hope that they would become very pricey for reproduction. Usually, their career as sports horse was over.
That is without taking into consideration the very close relationship between horse and owner. Your everyday backyard horse!
More often than not, most owners were pushed into having the horse shot on the basis that they were very selfish as the horse’s life would be a nightmare.
But there is a growing number of people who dedicate their career to helping horses recover from injuries that would have been considered as fatal in the past.
Among them Ronnie Graves, who runs the VIP veterinary inclusive prosthetics and orthotics in Florida.
Graves, who wears a prosthetic limb himself (he lost his left leg in a factory accident about 40 years ago), didn’t always work with horses. He began by making prosthetics for humans, even inventing a waterproof “sleeve” that makes the devices look more lifelike. But in 1997, a neighbor who knew about Graves’ work with humans asked him to take a look at her horse Scarlett.
Scarlett had torn her knee apart stepping in a hole. Her owner had been advised to euthanize her.
“She refused and instead had her in a sling, chiropractic care, acupuncture, for a year,” said Graves, who agreed to make Scarlett a knee brace.
And then Grave’s unconventional approach started to be better known.
It has been estimated that probably 2000 race horses die in the US every year, racing or training and that probably 80% died because of a leg injury.
It is probable that racehorse trainers do not even know that horses can get prosthetics.
More vets have been working on rehabilitating horses with broken legs.
But many people have the feeling that it is not worth it because these horses cannot be riden anymore and because there are lots of other horses around. So what’s the point apart from the fact that horses like to be alive ?
But Graves, Grant and Vlahos are slowly changing minds. Niki Marie Hansen ,a veterinary prosthetist who is finishing up her Ph.D. in veterinary science at Louisiana State University, hopes to follow their lead.
Asked how many horses that now would be euthanized due to leg injuries she thinks she could save, Hansen said, “I’d like to say all of them, but that’s the dreamer in me talking.”
Many horses live a happy, quiet and long life, thankful that their owners managed to let them live after a bad accident. Many owners too are grateful to have these extra years with their horses. Grateful that there are some people like Graves who live to give them a chance when the other ones would have given up.
Graves has a profoundly simple response: “I can’t imagine if someone had suggested shooting me because I lost my leg.”
“The animals I work on talk to me in their body language and their eyes. They plead with me to help,” he said.
“Then when I make something that helps them, I always get a very good feeling from them. They don’t have to be able to speak the words in English to say ‘thank you for caring,'” Graves said. “I feel it from them.”
You can read the whole story at They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Not If These Equine Innovators Can Help It
Suggestive photo of a horse fall taken by Mike LaChance on Flickr