Gabriel, Grills & Associates

The caring compassionate Veterinary practice serving the South Hams

Horses can recover form serious breaks

Sarah's horse 'Brother'

Brother recovers, with love

In June of last year, I (Sarah) purchased a 6 year old racehorse by the name of Little Englander, (Brother). He had top bloodlines and an illustrious early career in Lambourne, but had become lackadaisical about his job, was jumping too high and losing time in the air, and finally after a severe laceration to a hind limb he was offered to me to recover and use for eventing.

One month later, on the 11th of August, I flew to the USA on the day of the terrorist scare, arrived exhausted by delays, switched my phone on and found a message saying Brother had been kicked in the pasture and had broken his leg at the elbow joint. In my absence, the kind efforts of several nearby farmers extricated him from his moorland field with 4x4's and a trailer, and he was ensconced in a stable near the surgery and put on pain medication to await my return. I decided even before arriving that I would send him for surgery, repairing the olecranon fracture with a metal plate down the back. It would mean 4 months of box rest for Brother, but he's a laid back guy and he in fact adored the attention, making funny faces at all his visitors. The olecranon and its associated joint don't bear weight in horses, and if the operation was successful he could carry on at any athletic level.

I travelled with him and helped with the surgery at Willesley Equine Referral Center. The most critical and nerve-wracking moment was when he stood up after anaesthesia. Lurching up and staggering around the padded recovery stall was the most stress the plate would take, and would dictate whether the operation was a success. He fell several times but eventually stood and walked quietly back to his stall.

He came home a week later, and with the plate stabilizing the fracture he should have been sound. He was still 3-legged lame 2.5 weeks later, however, with lots of heat and swelling, and we realized he had a deep infection from the surgery. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight, his bones were protruding and his coat was flat and staring due to all he was going through. I gave him a very strong combination of antibiotics for 2 weeks, and sutured in a rubber tubing to encourage the infected material to drain.

He came sound by one month after the surgery, but the infection had set him way back in terms of bone union. By two months after the surgery, he had no evidence of bone union on xrays and had shown lysis, or bone breakdown, in areas around the metal implant. At this point I decided to use a new drug which had come up at the World Equine Veterinarians Conference I attended in Morocco this year. This drug was developed originally for osteoporosis in women, and works by inhibiting bone breakdown and stimulating buildup of bone density. It is unregistered as yet in England, so I sent for it on special permission from France, and injected it over 10 days. One month later Brother started to show some slight signs of closure across the fracture, and by the middle of February I was able to saddle him up for the first time and go for a controlled walk. Even after SIX MONTHS of box rest, he was immaculately behaved and it was an absolute joy to be up on his back and looking forward to a summer of riding out together!

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