Success stories for horses with fractured legs? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 05:09 AM Thread Starter
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Success stories for horses with fractured legs?

Hey!
Does anyone has success stories of horses with fractured/broken legs that was impossible to surgically repair?
My horse suffered a fracture to his tibia almost 2 weeks ago - there is a large piece of bone that is completely off and the whole bone has a circulatory fracture line but it is not dislocated and is holding together. On top of that - there is open wound to the bone.
He is living in University clinic (we took him there instantly after the accident) and the prognosis is grim, because the damage is too serious and the wound is posing too big risk for infection to surgically repair the bone and take out or put screws in the piece that is broken off. Our last hope is that the fracture line will heal, the bone piece will move further the bone as a fistula (like when we get a splint and our organism is pushing it out with puss) and it can be taken out on a standing procedure and that there won`t be infection in the bone that would compromise the healing.
The good part of the story is that the horse is feeling very good - he is putting weight on the broken leg, even resting his healthy leg on regular basis (he is on pain medication, but not THAT strong, he still feels that the leg is broken), no signs of laminitis, his heart rate is normal, he is eating, drinking and in all other aspects being his normal, happy horse that is a bit ****ed that he has to be in a sling and that he can`t nap and go outside. This gives us hope, that he will be ok and live the rest of his life happily in the meadow. Next week he`ll get new x-rays that will basically decide his faith, so I`m freaking out.

So - maybe anyone has had a similar diagnosis and has some positive success stories while I wait for the new x-rays? There MUST BE some similar stories with happy endings. If not, I hope that his will be the first.
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post #2 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 09:48 AM
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You'll hear of no success stories from me I'm afraid.

With such a severe injury, the horse would probably be best served being put out of it's misery. I understand that you must love and adore this animal a great deal, but you've said it yourself- The outlook is grim and there are complications preventing surgery. The horse may not appear to be in "much" pain, but you also say that he's unhappy about being in a sling and that he can't even sleep in it!

This injury -If it does by some miracle heal- will entail a long recovery period, which will mean that your horse will be in that sling for months and will be stuck indoors virtually the entire time.... I'm so sorry that this happened, but that is no life for a horse. It's about as unnatural of a life as a horse can have! He will suffer because of that, even with the pain kept at bay, boredom and anxiety will come and grow steadily worse. He may even re-injury himself out of frustration! In fact, I'd consider that outcome quite likely.

You and your horse have my upmost sympathies, but do please have a good, long think about whether you believe it's fair on him to make him go through all of that even if he "recovers" afterwards. Sometimes the treatment is much worse then the actual injury/illness.

I can only say that if this were my horse, I would put him down and try to prevent this tragic situation from ever occurring again.

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post #3 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 10:28 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Carrier View Post
You'll hear of no success stories from me I'm afraid.

With such a severe injury, the horse would probably be best served being put out of it's misery. I understand that you must love and adore this animal a great deal, but you've said it yourself- The outlook is grim and there are complications preventing surgery. The horse may not appear to be in "much" pain, but you also say that he's unhappy about being in a sling and that he can't even sleep in it!

This injury -If it does by some miracle heal- will entail a long recovery period, which will mean that your horse will be in that sling for months and will be stuck indoors virtually the entire time.... I'm so sorry that this happened, but that is no life for a horse. It's about as unnatural of a life as a horse can have! He will suffer because of that, even with the pain kept at bay, boredom and anxiety will come and grow steadily worse. He may even re-injury himself out of frustration! In fact, I'd consider that outcome quite likely.

You and your horse have my upmost sympathies, but do please have a good, long think about whether you believe it's fair on him to make him go through all of that even if he "recovers" afterwards. Sometimes the treatment is much worse then the actual injury/illness.

I can only say that if this were my horse, I would put him down and try to prevent this tragic situation from ever occurring again.
I do understand Your point and I would never torture my horse only because I can`t let him go when the time comes. And You are right about his recovery period in stall rest - it is going to be long time in confinement. But that alone is not a reason for such drastic measures. I am talking with the vet team daily, his orthopedists has contacted and consulted some of the best equine orthopedic surgeons in Europe and while the surgery is not really an option, all of those people are giving him a hope of being pasture sound and comfortable IF there are no complications. If this would be a 100% pts case, I know for sure that vets would have said it and would never let a horse be tortured.

About being in the sling - he won`t be in a sling for months. The initial thought was to keep him there for a month, if all goes well. After that it`s just box rest, after that hand walking etc until he can come home and live 24/7 outside with his other friends. And of course box rest is hard for both - the owner and the horse. But there are so many horses that live inside the box for all of their lives and somehow for many people that seems ok. It`s also not like this horse was living 24/7 outside and now suddenly he is confined - he was a competing showjumper and he is used to spending at least 16 hours in his box daily. He has been in the clinic for 2 weeks now and is acting very sane and polite. He is still happy about life, he has a "outside box" - the one that he can look outside all the time at the students that are passing by and all the other people walking around the University. I am keeping him company every day for around 4-8 hours. He really is quite ok with all of this situation. Of course he is not super happy about not being able to lay down, but that is temporary.

I agree with some of Your thoughts, but this is not the case he should be put down without trying to save him. If the new x-rays will show that there is infection, that he is not healing etc, then yes, I will make the decision if there will be no options left. But putting a horse down only because he has to be on a box rest when after the recovery he`ll spend many, many years happily in the countryside? No, that I will never understand. Thankfully neither does my veterinarians, which is also a thing to keep in mind - no one has suggested me to put him to sleep just yet. As I said, it`s not just me being a selfish owner that can`t let go of their horse, there is a reasonable hope to save him, it`s just very risky and with many possible complications.
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post #4 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carrier View Post
You'll hear of no success stories from me I'm afraid.

With such a severe injury, the horse would probably be best served being put out of it's misery. I understand that you must love and adore this animal a great deal, but you've said it yourself- The outlook is grim and there are complications preventing surgery. The horse may not appear to be in "much" pain, but you also say that he's unhappy about being in a sling and that he can't even sleep in it!

This injury -If it does by some miracle heal- will entail a long recovery period, which will mean that your horse will be in that sling for months and will be stuck indoors virtually the entire time.... I'm so sorry that this happened, but that is no life for a horse. It's about as unnatural of a life as a horse can have! He will suffer because of that, even with the pain kept at bay, boredom and anxiety will come and grow steadily worse. He may even re-injury himself out of frustration! In fact, I'd consider that outcome quite likely.

You and your horse have my upmost sympathies, but do please have a good, long think about whether you believe it's fair on him to make him go through all of that even if he "recovers" afterwards. Sometimes the treatment is much worse then the actual injury/illness.

I can only say that if this were my horse, I would put him down and try to prevent this tragic situation from ever occurring again.
I should probably add that the horse is seven years old. That also explains why we have to try - he is so young and has so many years ahead of him.
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post #5 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 10:47 AM
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This is a really tuff call. I think that you can only make decisions based on what you are seeing at the moment. Try to keep in mind of all the complications that can occur for preventative but try not to worry about it too much. I think right now all you can do is take one day at a time and see how he is healing or not. For now, if he is doing ok, acting ok, and no complications in other ways, just go with it. If it turns for the worse, then that will be what you have to face when the time comes. Just always keep in mind his quality of life and you will know what to do.

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post #6 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smaile View Post
I do understand Your point and I would never torture my horse only because I can`t let him go when the time comes. And You are right about his recovery period in stall rest - it is going to be long time in confinement.
I am relieved to hear that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smaile View Post
But that alone is not a reason for such drastic measures. I am talking with the vet team daily, his orthopedists has contacted and consulted some of the best equine orthopedic surgeons in Europe and while the surgery is not really an option, all of those people are giving him a hope of being pasture sound and comfortable IF there are no complications.
Your veterinarians work for a University. While University vets provide excellent care -Often for a reduced price-, Universities also place enormous empathize on new and experimental treatments. Obviously as a result, vets who teach at Universities will often go much further pursuing treatment when typical vets in private practice would recommend discounting treatment and euthanizing the afflicted animal.

Something to keep in mind.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
If this would be a 100% pts case, I know for sure that vets would have said it and would never let a horse be tortured.
I'm not so certain about that. I would like to point out that what I said above is why owners who would otherwise never part with their animals willingly are often happy to donate their terminally ill pets/livestock or those that will require specific lifelong care to Universities. There are many more failures involved in experimental treatment then there are successes.

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About being in the sling - he won`t be in a sling for months. The initial thought was to keep him there for a month, if all goes well.
If is the keyword there. Their is a strong possibility is that he will need to be in that sling for much longer than a month given the severity of his injury. Not to mention, placing an animal that has evolved to constantly be on the move and can only achieve REM sleep laying down in a device that prevents both of those natural behaviors.... It's just not something I would choose to do. It's too hard on them.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
After that it`s just box rest, after that hand walking etc until he can come home and live 24/7 outside with his other friends.
Assuming he is actually capable of healing himself without surgery, somehow manages to avoid the many complications that he faces due to the nature of his injury and retains his sanity and good temper after this whole incident is over. That's a heck of a lot of unknowns.

Plus you'd still be looking at anywhere from a six month to a year long recovery in all. Again, one has to think long and hard if the recovery isn't worse then the injury itself is.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
And of course box rest is hard for both - the owner and the horse. But there are so many horses that live inside the box for all of their lives and somehow for many people that seems ok.
That is something I vehemently disagree with and am not shy about letting others know about. Taking away an animals' ability to express natural behaviors is a genuine welfare concern and fundamentally wrong.

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It`s also not like this horse was living 24/7 outside and now suddenly he is confined - he was a competing showjumper and he is used to spending at least 16 hours in his box daily.
I believe you probably know what my response to that would be, so I will refrain from saying it.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
He has been in the clinic for 2 weeks now and is acting very sane and polite. He is still happy about life, he has a "outside box" - the one that he can look outside all the time at the students that are passing by and all the other people walking around the University.
Prey animals are masters at hiding their pain and stress. After all, the one who appears weak in the herd is liable to be driven out and thus eaten by a predator. Domestication has absolutely not changed that in horses.

You would need to have his blood drawn and put through a complete blood chemistry analysis to get an actual reading on his pain and stress levels.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
I am keeping him company every day for around 4-8 hours.
Human company is lovely, but the company of other equines is best of all.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
He really is quite ok with all of this situation. Of course he is not super happy about not being able to lay down, but that is temporary.
As I said before, you can't really judge entirely off on his good manners. The inability to achieve restful sleep is not something that I would be comfortable putting a horse through, even if it were only "temporary".

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
I agree with some of Your thoughts, but this is not the case he should be put down without trying to save him.
I'm afraid I disagree with that.

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Originally Posted by smaile View Post
If the new x-rays will show that there is infection, that he is not healing etc, then yes, I will make the decision if there will be no options left.
Be aware that University vets often have "another option" on the backlog.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smaile View Post
But putting a horse down only because he has to be on a box rest when after the recovery he`ll spend many, many years happily in the countryside?
Yes, that is what I would do, as there are no guarantees that he will recovery. I've been through this before with my own horse, I put my much loved gelding through a long, lengthy recovery in the hope of giving him a happy retirement afterwards.

The results of that well intended experiment were so horrific that after the burial I swore to my boy and myself that I would never put another horse through that ever again and would never ever counsel somebody to put their horse through that either. As you can see, I'm good at keeping my promises.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smaile View Post
No, that I will never understand. Thankfully neither does my veterinarians, which is also a thing to keep in mind - no one has suggested me to put him to sleep just yet.
As far as I'm concerned, your vets have given you false hope because they want to discover some brand new "miracle" treatment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smaile View Post
As I said, it`s not just me being a selfish owner that can`t let go of their horse, there is a reasonable hope to save him, it`s just very risky and with many possible complications.
The "very risky and many possible complications" part would be more than enough reason for me to put an animal down, even if there were "hope".

Just remember one last thing, the dead don't suffer.
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post #7 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 11:31 AM
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I should probably add that the horse is seven years old. That also explains why we have to try - he is so young and has so many years ahead of him.
Age should play little to no role in treatment of a grim prognosis.

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post #8 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 12:23 PM
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Age does play a factor. The younger the animal the better they can heal. As with most living things, when you age, you can't heal as fast. OP, I am so sorry this happened to your horse! Unfortunately I know of no success stories. I know of several attempts, such as yours, most lasted two weeks to a month. I always look at it this way, a horse does not plan for the future, they only live in the present.
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post #9 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Carrier, we will simply have to agree to disagree.

I really don`t know what horrific experience You have with University clinics, maybe they really are as untrustworthy where You live, but this is not the case. No one is experimenting with my horse and no one is trying to find some miracle method to treat him by giving me discounts and offering to donate my horse to them for further experiments.
First of all - I am a student at the same University and I know how high on their priority list is welfare of animals and how they value ethical treatment over all.
Also, as a student I have seen many pts cases there - if a horse has no hope, they strictly recommend to put the horse to sleep right away. Never have I seen them trying to save a horse that has no hope of a normal life.
Another thing - no reduced prices, no possibilities to "donate" animals for University. Prices at that clinic is quite high and You can`t donate an animal to University for some teaching/learning purposes, because the law here is very strict about experimenting or studying/learning on animals. As I said, at least in this field animal welfare is top level here.
I know these vets quite well as they also have private practices and I`ve been using them for years. There are no hidden agenda, no ambition about discovering new methods on healing bones. This is actually a very standart conservative approach in healing horses with broken legs and has been used for quite a while worldwide, hence my question about success stories. :)

You are also right about horses hiding their pain well. But they can`t lie to stethoscope. As i said before, his heart rate is normal - if a horse is in pain, his heart rate rises, always - this is because of the hormones produced as You described already, so heart rate is as important and trustworthy indicator of pain as is blood analyses. And his temperature, heart rate, digital pulse etcetc is taken 2x a day. All normal. So, no, he is not suffering and not because of some super strong pain medication, he is getting only bute. I haven`t seen a horse that suddenly doesn`t feel any pain because of bute, at least not in my experience.

I also think that You misunderstood - his prognosis is grim only in case he has complications like laminitis, colic or bone infection. This is why his age plays a huge role - chance for a 20 year old horse to heal successfully, not getting infected or colicky is MUCH more slim than for a healthy young horse. If none of those things happen, he has a good chance of living a good life. To take it away only because I think that it will be too hard for him to be on a box rest? Would You pts all of the other box rest cases, like after colic surgery, ligament/tendon injuries, eye injuries etc etc?
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post #10 of 33 Old 09-12-2020, 12:34 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Carrier View Post
Age should play little to no role in treatment of a grim prognosis.
Also, would You really expect me to go to the clinic right now and ask them to put my horse to sleep because someone on the internet, who hasn`t seen his x-rays, hasn`t seen the horse and has no veterinary education said so? I value Your opinion, and as I said, if the time comes when there is no hope left or if my horse will start to suffer, I will make the decision. But pressuring such a serious and irreversible thing on a horse You haven`t seen is not smart and totally unnecessary.

All I wanted to hear are some stories about horses that has recovered to make my time until the next x-rays in few days easier. In those new x-rays we will see if everything goes according to plan or if the infection has set in the bone, if he has displaced something or if the bone fragment is not in the place it needs to be. If anything will be wrong with these x-rays, the vets WILL say that I have to put him down, they have made that very clear to me - we have a chance now, but if anything goes south, there is nothing they can do. So You can imagine how hard it is for me these days, just waiting and not knowing if my horse will live. This is why I need at least some success stories to keep my mind at ease until those dreadful x-rays.
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Last edited by smaile; 09-12-2020 at 12:40 PM.
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