They shoot horses, don’t they? We all know about the rather depressing traditional “cure” for a horse with a broken leg. But there’s good news–they “shoot” them a lot less often these days. The reason is that remarkable advances in equine fracture repair now mean that many horses which in years past could not have been saved, are not only recovering from their injuries, but are going on to successful performance careers, even on the racetrack.

Alicia Bertone, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS, an equine orthopedic surgeon at The Ohio State University, attributes the change in prognosis for fracture patients to a combination of factors.

“Certainly,” she says, “the equipment we’re using has improved, and we have more accredited surgeons now who are better trained in the techniques needed for fracture repair. But we also have better anesthesia techniques and recovery facilities. It’s the assembly of the team for managing these injuries that has improved so much.

“As owners become more aware that many fractures are now repairable, they’re requiring their veterinarians to become more educated as to how to manage a fracture injury and get the horse to a surgical center in better condition. The cleaner and more immobile the fracture site when the horse arrives, the easier it is to repair the damage.”

Most racetracks now have equine ambulances and trained emergency technicians equipped with sedatives and commercially available splints like the Kimzey leg saver (designed specifically for catastrophic injuries of the fetlock) and the Farley boot (which resembles a ski boot). Equipment like this can be a tremendous boon in immobilizing a fractured limb before the horse does further damage to the ends of the bone, the skin, and the surrounding blood vessels, and can vastly improve his chances for recovery.

“A fracture is a catastrophic injury