Now hear this: Horses can and do survive on three legs. Most will survive amputation surgery. Prosthetic limbs can be built and fitted for a horse's leg. Owners and caretakers are capable of removing and re-attaching the device.
But it's not something you hear about every day.
If Dr. Ted Vlahos has his way, that's all about to change.
Following the success of the #1 best-selling children's book, Molly the Pony, this summer, many people shook their heads in wonderment and said, "Amazing!" "A miracle!" "What a breakthrough!"
But to a group of hard-working veterinarians who have been perfecting the procedure of equine limb amputation and prosthetic therapy, Molly wasn't as much a miracle as she was the poster child that they needed to make the veterinary world take a second look at amputation as a viable alternative for salvaging injured horses who might otherwise be euthanized.
Molly the Pony isn't alone in the spotlight anymore. This week, the well-known Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah unveiled their new resident, a three-legged buckskin Quarter horse mare named Riley. When Riley hobbled into Best Friends last spring, she was knuckling over on one hind leg, and the shelter opted for fusion surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful and the mare suffered from infection.
Enter Dr. Ted Vlahos of Sheridan Equine Hospital in Wyoming. For years, he has been working on amputation cases with Dr. Barrie Grant in California and Dr. Ric Redden in Kentucky. Together, they could fill a stable with their successful cases. Vlahos had the mare sent to Wyoming, where he performed the amputation surgery and tended to the mare's recovery.
On Tuesday of this week, Riley returned to the Best Friends horse facility with her new leg and her new outlook on life. Dr. Vlahos instructed the staff on how to care for her and the prosthetic limb.
Riley will live out the rest of her days at the Sanctuary, where she will be treated, for the most part, like any other horse, albeit one who requires a few extra steps in her stable routine. The Sanctuary hopes that Riley's good health and mobility will be a feather in Vlahos's cap, and encourage more veterinarians to seek amputation options for horses who might otherwise have only one option.
Note: If the name of Best Friends sounds familiar, there's a reason. They are certainly a high-profile animal sanctuary organization in their own right, but they were in the news this summer for successfully rehabilitating 22 of the pit bulls confiscated in a dog fighting raid at the home of football star Michael Vick.