A miniature horse in Colorado is standing on his own feet again. Or most of his own feet. Tiny “Shine” left one of his feet behind at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, where he underwent surgery to amputate his left hind leg. Shine has now been fitted with a boot-type prosthesis for the missing limb, and has learned to walk and even trot with it.
Shine joins a very small and very exclusive club of horses who have survived amputation surgery. After suffering a vicious dog attack that mangled a hoof and led to infection, Shine needed surgical amputation of his lower-left hind leg in order to survive. His owners, Jacque Corsentino and Lee Vigil, asked veterinarians at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital to ‘do whatever it takes’ to give the 3-year-old horse a chance at a normal life on their ranch.
In mid-March, Dr. Laurie Goodrich, an associate professor of equine orthopaedics, led a two-hour surgery to remove Shine’s infected hoof and distal limb below the fetlock, the hinge joint of the lower leg. She placed two stainless steel pins through the cannon bone to help support Shine’s leg while the wound healed.
Goodrich then used measurements from her patient’s radiographs and a 3-D printer to build an exact replica of his hoof, which helped Shine stay balanced while he healed.
Shine has spent the past month at CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital charming veterinary students while recuperating in a stall alongside full-size horses that seem like giants next to the 30-inch-high, 150-pound mini.
Full-sized horses weigh between 800 and 2,000 pounds, typically making it impossible to outfit a severely injured horse with an artificial limb that will successfully carry the load. Horses in Shine’s condition – with broken bones and dangerous infections – are usually euthanized when treatment fails.
But his small size made Shine a good candidate for amputation and prosthesis. It’s an uncommon approach, even for Goodrich, a practicing veterinarian for 25 years.
‘It’s the first one I’ve done, but I’ve always wanted to try,’ said Goodrich, who specializes in equine orthopaedic surgery. ‘We had no way of preserving that limb. So we had to take it off, and this was the only option to preserve his life.’
The last CSU equine case involving amputation surgery, followed by a prosthetic fitting, occurred in 1998. That’s when Dr. Gayle Trotter performed surgery on a burro named Primrose, whose likeness is reflected in a bronze sculpture outside the hospital.
Shine had been treated at home for two months by his owner and their veterinarian, Dr. Britt Stubblefield, a CSU alumnus who owns Rocky Top Veterinary Service in southern Colorado. Radiographs revealed fractures in Shine’s coffin bone and lower pastern bone, the small but critical bones extending from the lower leg into the hoof.
After Stubblefield consulted with Goodrich at CSU, the owners made the four hour trip to the vet school with tiny horse. Goodrich quickly determined that the hoof had to be amputated.
One month after the surgery, Shine was fitted with an artificial hoof from OrthoPets, a company in Westminster, Colo., that specializes in animal prostheses. Founder Martin Kaufmann has worked with CSU on other cases, including that of Brutus, the famed Rottweiler with four prosthetic paws.
Shine is the fourth miniature horse to receive an OrthoPets hoof, which looks like a narrow ski boot with a foam liner and bike-tire treads.
Materials provided by CSU, inclding video and photographs, enhanced our ability to share Shine’s success story.