When the Bone Breaks

Fracture repair is a field that has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, and new research is improving the prognosis for horses every day. The best part is that these injuries, which once were death sentences for a horse, now are routinely repaired, saving careers and lives.
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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

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Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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