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Note to readers: I have so many looking for help for their horse’s injured leg that I’ve updated the info in here. I want all the horses to get better!

When I saw the picture of Eight Belles on the ground, of course I immediately thought of Barbaro. Like so many, I cried when they finally put him down, after real efforts to save him. That’s the first horse with a broken leg I’ve ever read about that anyone tried to save. If only the LA Times had gone a big step further in their Special Report to answer…

Why do they kill a horse with a broken leg?

Black Beauty on Beach

Black Beauty on Beach, from the Animal Liberation Front – bigger photo link below

When I’ve looked online before to find out why they shoot horses, I found answers like, oh, horses just have to be free, they have very delicate bones, they need all 4 legs, etc. These are pretty stupid answers. I read dozens of other answers, including one that said horses are more sensitive to pain than other animals…Oh, really? That makes Mother Nature sound very cruel to our grassland friends. What purpose would that serve them in evolution?

How horses use their legs

But I think I found an answer that I can accept. Here’s the best medical answer, what I believe is the definitive answer from a commenter at Ron Mexico’s blog. And I also need to link to the wonderful commenter himself, who wrote this:

A horse has to stand or they start getting fluid build up in thier lungs (among other complications like kidney failure). They are also dependent on movement to assist in moving food through thier digestive tract. A horse has ove 120 feet of gut so intestinal blockage (severe constipation) is a major – often terminal – thing. So bedrest is out.

They can (and have) cast the leg to prevent it from bending. But the long pastern bone (which is actually analagous to the bone of your middle finger that is nearest your palm) is in over 20 pieces. An average horse weighs in the vicinity of 1000 lbs, Barbaro is probably closer to 1200 lbs. Even with the cast for lateral support, the broken (or shattered) bone still has to have the columnar strength to support 300 or more pounds. Sometimes the solution is to actually build an exoskeleton of steel starting at the shoe and screw it into the upper bones.

Just as you would not likely bleed to death from a severed finger, a horse has somewhat restricted blood supply in the lower part of its legs. With a traumatic ingury the flow is further restricted. One problem this creates is a susceptability to infection or necrosis of the damaged tissues. It is fairly well impossible to keep a horses leg completely sterile, so they are subject to some doosies of antibiotic resistant infections.

Finally she mentioned laminitis. A horse’s hoof is esentially a massive finger nail. They stand on the end of the middle finger with thier weight on the edge of the nail. The nail (called the hoof wall) is attached to the last finger bone (called the coffin bone) by a tissue layer called the lamina. If this layer becomes badly inflamed – and this can be from infection, trauma, systemic toxins, or several other issues not so much related to this case – the hoof wall begins to separate from the coffin bone and the weight of the animal drives the wedge shaped coffin bone through the sole of the foot.

Horses are really quite well designed for thier natuaral state, just as a car is well designed for road travel. Usually when a horse has an injury it is in the nature of a flat tire or even a bad bearing – with proper management they can be treated and fixed (sometimes, like our Miss Blue, they can’t be treated and the horse dies).

Equisearch talks about how horses can sleep standing up, which indicates again that horses do need to be on all four feet most of the time.

Not every horse falls asleep waiting around at a show, but all horses can sleep standing up. Your horse has a sort of internal hammock-a system of tendons and ligaments called the stay apparatus. This system lets him lock his legs in position so (unlike you) he can relax his muscles and doze off without keeling over. Even when he’s not sleeping, he uses the stay apparatus to rest muscles and reduce fatigue. Being able to sleep standing up is a great advantage for a prey animal.

(Birds have the same kind of lock-in, which is why they sleep on one leg, resting the other one.)

Some opinions from veterinarians

I am disgusted by this vet from South Africa, Dr Rob Gatley, who sounds like a happy hangman. He decides within seconds whether a horse should live or die. He shoots it immediately. He doesn’t believe in anesthesia.

And here’s an unfortunate example of why Slate thinks it’s such a great investigative journal, but really isn’t: the author interviewed 2 vets, and yet doesn’t give any explanation at all! One, a vet at Cornell explains: “a horse is not Humpty Dumpty.” There’s some great journalism for you.

Here’s a great photo of the worst kind of foolishness.From Bestweekever.tv, whatever that is. These animals are natural enemies. The horse looks too small to be carrying anything that size, and the bear is terrified.

Glenn Robertson-Smith, a vet from Australia, has an exceptionally clear explanation, and is much more positive than some of the race track vets.

…more recently metal plates, pins and screws have been used.

These implants can restore strength to the broken bone and allow horses to move about and, to some degree, use a broken limb during the healing process.

In most circumstances, a broken bone will heal and regain its strength in 12-16 weeks, but other variables such as infection or movement can slow or delay healing.

…in practical terms, the surgery or operating time should not exceed three to four hours and immediately after surgery, the horse must wake up from the anaesthetic and be able to use the repaired broken leg to stand and walk.

This requirement puts extraordinary demands on the repair and the implants and all equine surgeons have experienced the frustration and disappointment when, after hours of intricate surgery, the horse smashes its broken leg again and bends the metal implants when struggling to stand after the anaesthetic.

To try to prevent this, strong fibreglass casts are often used to help horses waking up from an anaesthetic. Nonetheless, everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it stands, as one hurdle has been passed.

Wiki is not at all helpful, but adds:

The huge costs involved to surgically repair a fracture and then rehabilitate the horse mean that it is financial suicide to attempt to save a horse with a fracture if you are not extremely wealthy.

That’s the saddest answer of all.

In another article, the Times interviews Dr. Larry Bramlage, who treated all of these (dead) thoroughbreds:

“I think we are approaching crisis on two levels,” he said. “One, a crisis in public confidence in racing. And two, I do believe we’ve disregarded durability long enough that it has become a crisis.” (I love the way he refers to the sport first, and then the horse as a commodity. Would you trust him with your horse?)

“Saving horses to be put in the field is not practical. With horse abuse and . . . human slaughter, there comes a place where you have to say the best alternative is euthanasia. If we save him, there is no one to feed him.” (What the hell is human slaughter? And are we surprised that he mentions money again? Get the hell out of my paper.)

Alternatives to help broken legs heal

To end on a positive note, Horse Health says:

Horses CAN recover from a broken leg. But because of the lack of ability to pull weight off of the leg, it is very difficult.

If you can afford slinging the horse for several months, that is one option.

The second is to basically wrap it and let it heal as is. The school did this with a horse many years ago. Has his hock shattered. They turned the hrose out for a year, brought the horse back in, horse was sound as can be! Vets can pin some fractures back together if you got the funds too.

Biggest thing it boils down to….HOw much money do you got to spend on the horse.

Well, Larry Jones, Eight Belles’ trainer, has $400,000 from her win coming in second at the Derby. Would that have been enough to save her? We’ll never know, will we.

Important books on horses’s legs and treatments

Found some books that might be helpful:

How to Use Leg Wraps, Bandages and Boots: Supportive Leg Care for Your Horse

Seems like this would be worth trying in many cases, doesn’t it?

horses legs book

Understanding the Horse’s Legs The author gives great details on how horses use and depend on their legs.

At the ABA I found a book that is a true story about a pony who lives with an artificial leg. I think it was a children’s book, but the publisher was too cheap, and didn’t send me a review copy of the book, and now I can’t find it.. . Found it, 3 years later! Molly the Pony: A True Story is about a pony with a fake leg, who does quite fine with her new one! I’m going to put this one on my Wish List.

The beautiful photo above of the horse on the beach is from the Animal Liberation Front, who has this photo in a much bigger format, and many more, from Hedweb.

86 Responses to “Why do they kill horses with a broken leg?”

  1. Taylor and Autumn says:

    We absolutely loved your wonderful photo of the bear and the horse!!!!! we couldn’t stop laughing :D it is FUNNY :D Where did you find the photo and how the heck bear get on the horse???!!!!! :)

  2. Taylor and Autumn says:


  3. Taylor and Autumn says:

    We are so sorry! WE were messing around on the typing area and we accidentily typed that. By the way love horses i have 5 of them right now

  4. mckayla says:

    why are people so cruel cant there be a law about hurting horse

  5. Good point, HorseExpert.

  6. KERRY says:

    Not all horses are put down because of a broken leg. I read an article that said if the fracture is not straight across i.e. a spiral fracture like in skiing, there is bone on each side to pin to the overlapping other side. Straight across fractures are unpromising. It will heal in approximately six weeks and then you need to recondition the animal’s muscles and re-stretch the tendons via use just like a human.

    The temperament is important. Some horses will tolerate a sling during initial healing, others go crazy although many are kept drugged to keep them calm until they learn.

    The horse is strong and healthy when it happened so he is less likely to colic.

    The owner has the money and access to a hospital or has someone to help with home care while the horse is suspended from a very strong barn beam with the proper sling in a stall.

    And Japanese researchers have discovered that injecting specially designed “microspheres” containing basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) directly into the fetlock joints of horses with defects in their distal cannon bones results in enhanced bone regeneration and healing. The microspheres served as biodegradable drug carriers, designed to continuously release bFGF, which is known to enhance bone metabolism and induce vascularization and bone regeneration.” the healing time might be even shorter.

    The vet actually knows this has been done already.

  7. KERRY says:

    P.S. Turns out even the horizontal fractures can now be fixed by putting an internal stabilizing into the bone such as a rod until the bone knits again. Amazing.

  8. Press says:

    Eight Belles couldn’t be saved. She broke BOTH of her front legs.

  9. Welcome says:

    I just ran across the photo of the bear on the back of the horse while searching for something horse related. I just wanted to point out that if you look closely to the bear you will see that there is a large “piercing” in its nose as well as a rope hanging from it. Also, all teeth are missing from the bears mouth. All this is done when the bear is young and taken from the mother. A hot poker is rammed through the bears nostril and all the teeth are ripped from its mouth with no sort of anesthesia. Also, often times there nails/claws are removed (also done with no anesthesia). Bears are then used for horrific “entertainment” such as the picture you have posted as well as a practice called “bear dancing” which is when the rope is pulled and causes discomfort and therefore makes the bear standup. This practice is generally done in villages in India. Another practice that is done in Pakistan to these helpless bears is called “bear baiting” where the bears are tethered to the ground and trained fighting dogs are unleashed to attack and mutilate the bears as hundreds of people stand around to watch.
    As an animal lover and extreme horse enthusiast myself, it absolutely appalls me that there would be such action that is done (bear on horses back) in this day and age, but it tears at my heart to know what is done to the bears. I’m sure this is a picture that was derived from Pakistan but to know that people look at this picture and think “oh, that’s hilarious!” or “that’s cool” is pretty sad.

  10. Kym Lee says:

    I appreciated your blog comments. The equine industry is so vast and amazing, and yet the animal is often misunderstood. It walks the line between domesticated pet and livestock – and not many realize the differences. There are good products that support the hoof capsule almost as an external fixator, that can allow a horse to bear weight on the foot while a leg is being treated. The horse needs to bear weight so the foot can act as a necessary pump to restore blood flow up the leg. There is a good animated video on the website for the Nolan Hoof Plate called “Why It Works” that explains how the hoof functions in a healthy and unhealthy state, and how the external fixation the product provides can help – non-invasively. If there was more awareness of a product like this Barbaro might still be with us!

  11. Welcome, thank you for that info on bears. I did a bear cartoon about how they keep bears in cages in China for their WHOLE LIFE, with a shunt permanently inserted into its belly for this useless Chinese pretent medicine. The bear groans as the bile is pulled out. Will post a link here when I upload it.

    No, I don’t think it’s hilarious or cool. I didn’t notice what you did, but thought it was a terrible example of 2 enemies together.

  12. Kym, Thanks, will check that out. How wonderful that people are still working on this problem.

  13. Raptor says:

    Since dogs can survive with 3 legs, why not horses?

  14. Kym Lee says:

    I found your blog while stubling through google images last summer and replied to a post back in August. Since then, you along with a few of our customers, have inspired me to give back, so we started an equine rescue donation program to help save the 28,000+ horses that are euthanized each year in the US alone due to a condition of the hoof called laminitis. It is the ultimate killer of Barbaro. Once a horse gets laminitis in the hoof, they cannot bear weight and have to transfer the heavy load disporportionately to the other feet. This causes the delicate internal structures of the hoof to be disrupted, the coffin bone to rotate and the horse to no longer be able to stand (hence why you can’t have a three legged horse!). I hope you will share this video with your audience and encourage them to visit our rescue program under Nolan Hoof Plate on facebook. http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheNolanHoofPlate?sk=app_214914035235331

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Micah says:

    Obviously you are just a bunch of tree huggers and no nothing about horses. It is much to expensive to TRY and save a horse with a broken leg. Even if it can be fixed they will never be the same. Stick to things you know about.

  16. Jabert says:

    Completely agree with Micah there. Seriously I thought I was reading a 12-year horse lover kid whining who would sacrifice half the world’s starving human population to save any cute animal from dying and would believe it’s the right thing to do to torture an animal for years by making it hobble around injured in pain because someone think it’s too cute to be put out of its misery after a serious injury.

  17. Emma C. says:

    All of the information is totally helpful. I new that horses needed to stand but what I didn’t know was the certain reason and you just told me right here. About the fluid build up in the lungs and the kidney failure too.

  18. There will always be people like Micah, who say it’s too expensive. What is the cutoff amount, Micah? Do you pay anything to buy your horse, or do you steal it? Do you only give him a little bit to eat, because it costs too much?

  19. Jabert, what does cute have to do with it? You adopt an animal, you better as hell be responsible for its health, and LIFE.

    Also, if you had a broken leg, would you be in pain for the rest of your life? Or should we just execute you?

  20. Bill Frich says:


    Since people can survive with no legs, why not horses?

  21. Realist says:

    Been around many horses that have suffered the fractures which shatter their legs, lady?

    Do you understand AT ALL the pain that these animals go through between the time when the joints within their limbs are destroyed almost completely and the time when they are put out of their misery?

    Go and hunt down a few genuine scans of legs that belong to those animals whose owners, or scumbag benefactors, actually DID try, out of stupidity, misplaced affection for their ‘pet’, or predatory financial concern over their expensive investment, to save – and i use the term for want of something better – the horse in question.

    If you were genuinely capable of comprehending the suffering they endure after the violence and destruction which ensues both during and after a breakage, you would remove not only most of the drivel you have written heretofore but would, as someone who may, and again i must use the term loosely, MAY, then be considered to be a genuine lover of animals and horses in particular.

    I very much doubt this, to be quite frank, as you sound like some kind of moron. May God save horses from humans, but moreover, may he or she rescue them from misinformed idiots such as you.

  22. Taylor and Autumn are Retards says:

    You can tell from the way they talk and spam.

    why can’t we kill these morons instead of the innocent horses? there’d at least be less dumbasses in the world…

  23. Cellie says:

    Cost: $5000 for surgery, $5000 for aftercare for a major break.

    Yes, it’s possible horses can go back even to full work after a fracture. A full break is a lot more difficult and painful. There are great drugs to help with the pain. There are even artificial limbs for horses, but there are many factors to consider, including the temperment and size of the horse, as well as where the break is (must be lower limb).

    The only real answer is there are no simple answers.

  24. Sanam.hoese says:

    Hi I love horses and im fram iran-tehran

    I heit kill horses

  25. Sanam.horse says:

    I love horses and i heit killllll horses vely

    Im fram teran- iran

  26. Sanam.horse says:

    Why they kill horses its toooo sade poor horses

  27. anyone says:

    Too me it depends on what the owner of the horse wants to do with THERE animal if they want to fix the injury they can fix it if they want to put it out of it’s misery they can. The people who want to put the animal out of it’s misery might no want to take created if the horse is in pain all the time and a horse on drugs to stop the pain isn’t normal for it’s life and they might not want to live with a horse that is always in pain or needs drugs regularly. They also might not have 10,000 dollars just laying around to save there horse witch is completely fine because NOT every one is made out of money, and yes it’s very sad that the horse has to be put down but some times it’s for the best.

    Now the people who want to save there horse that is also fine i mean they love there horse and horses can be pets too. If they have the money to pay for the horse to get fixed then they can i mean they can work something out for paying off the money. I guess what i’m trying to say is the owner can fix the horses leg or they can put it down it’s there chose. We can say way did you put down your horse you could have fixed it’s leg or You have to put it down because it’s got a broken leg. Say as much as it you like. but it’s there life and there horse.

  28. We also have the choice to put down people who spend their lives on meds or have broken legs. Most of the time we choose not to. Choice should be ethical, not based on ignorance or cheapness.

  29. Mokrane says:

    Very nice.


  30. Horse rider for life says:

    I don’t get why people are soooooo cruel it makes me mad that people would do that to the horses…. I have 2 horses and don’t think I would be anywhere without them they are my whole world!!!

  31. roslyne wyllie says:

    Not a reply but as you have such wonderful horse photos I just wanted to ask:
    I’m an artist who loves painting horse.

    Can I paint your black beauty please….. I feel I need permission for this and would appreciate it.

    Thank you

    Kind regards

  32. Horse Owner says:

    I realize this may not be popular knowledge but when we had a sick foal, just ill, no broken bones, it would have been $7,500 for 10 days of hospital care. We got it down to $5,000 because we did the 24 hour care with him. Removing and reataching his oxygen and IV. when needed and syringe feeding him.

    This wasn’t cheap but we love our horses so we did it.

    Now a broken leg? For a foal the prognosise is possible because of the lighter weight but you are still looking at maybe $5,000 surgery then hospital time. This could be many weeks, say it was by some miracle without complications? I saw somewhere about 14 to 16 weeks to heal, we bring the weekly rate down to $2,500 X 10 weeks till we can take him home, $25,000, plus atibiotics, pain killers and vet care, say another $10,000 in that time.

    $40,000 dollars is a low estimate with no complications. The horse will have to stand on it’s broken leg the entire time and at the end there is no guaruntee it will survive.

    I don’t honestly know what I would do in this situation if I had a vet telling me the horse would be suffering in great pain and probably die anyway, I love my horses and it would be a terrible choice to make.

    As a last thing, for the horse to have the weight off the foot on one side it has to have the weight on the other, I challenge you to stand with your weight on the one leg for a few hours and then think about doing that for weeks.

  33. Absolutely, Roz! And if you’d like, I’ll include it in this post, when you’re done.

  34. Thanks for this, horse owner. I’m going to write a new post: Horse owners aren’t always horse lovers. I’ve seen a lot of what you say on Facebook. But everyone knows vets cost a lot – I’m sure you thought about that when you bought each of your horses.

    Of course, the treatment would have to be carefully considered, as well as the price – you’re right, some treatments don’t seem to have good recovery at all. Others are better.

    Btw, I’m not a horse. Think about a bird on 2 legs for its whole life, except for a few minutes of flying. It sleeps on one leg. Many animals stand all day long – makes me tired just thinking about it. And the loss of one leg temporarily to a 4 legged animal would be different than one to a 2-legged – math, and all that.

  35. Romosmummy9 says:

    I was faced with the decision of what to do with my horse last year when he fractured his pastern bone. He was a 2 year old TB who just had a “Bad step” when he was galloping out after his timed work. He was bred and raised to be a racehorse, and in one unlucky moment his life, let alone his career, was suddenly in serious danger. I had a 50% partner at the time, and the email I received that day (I was out of town on a vacation when his injury occurred) basically said “Vet’s say prognosis for recovery is poor even with surgery. Best thing is to put him down now rather than just having to put him down after the surgery.”

    Needless to say that was a heartless and devastating message to receive for someone as emotional and quick to get attached to animals as I tend to be. This injury came two months into a very uncomfortable situation with the partner that was initiated by their absolutely horrible unethical action regarding another horse they owned in partnership with a very good friend of mine. They tried to remove our co-owned horse from his trainer’s barn without my knowledge or consent, and this was just days after asking me to give them a buyout offer for their share. I had no intention of letting my horse go, and so I dug in my heels and kept him where he was, safe as he could possibly have been. Now he was injured in a no-fault bad luck accident.

    Fortunately I had already heard the news of the injury in a much kinder way when my friend who trained and groomed him had called me to inform me. I spoke to her, I spoke to the vets, and I shed many tears trying to come to the decision that would be right for the horse. Yes, the prognosis was poor, he may not survive surgery, he may panic when he work from the anesthetic and re-injure himself, meaning he’d end up being euthanized anyway, he may live his days in pain, leading me to have to make a choice later on whether his quality of life was worth continuing. There were many things that could happen that would be bad, and a few that would be good, but the likelihood of his being a riding horse let alone a racehorse was in serious doubt. Still I knew he was young, he was strong, and he had the potential to live three decades of life. I didn’t feel like I could live with myself if I didn’t at least try to give him that. I had taken the responsibility of his life and welfare, and I didn’t feel like I would have done right by him just to not even try.

    He was shipped out to the Equine Veterinarian that day, and several Vets, including one of the track Vets, performed the surgery to insert three screws into the fractured bone. I later went in and got a digital copy of the xrays from before, during and after the surgery and learned that it had actually been a double fracture. One was a hairline fracture down the centre of the pastern bone, the other was an angled full break that went almost to the edge of the bone. He came within less than an inch of having that wedge-shaped chunk of bone separate from the rest. I don’t know what could have been done had it separated completely, but I am most thankful it didn’t.

    After having the surgery done he spent the next 5 days at the Veterinary barn being monitored 24 hours a day. When I visited him on the Monday after his injury (which had occurred on a Wednesday) he was already able to lie down and stand up. The next day he went to my friend`s home to spend the next several months recovering. After about 10 days the track Vet came to remove the cast and check the leg. He said he wouldn’t have believed the horse had suffered the injury he had if he hadn’t seen it himself. He advised that after about 2-3 months of absolute stall rest we could allow turnout in a small paddock.

    It was about 2 months before he was first allowed any real freedom from his stall. My friend took the extra precaution of spending the next month walking him by hand in a small paddock. She wanted to ensure that he was kept safe and didn’t go too crazy with his first taste of freedom after spending two months bored in his stall. The vet kind of laughed and rolled his eyes when he heard what she’d done, but at the end of month three he again commented how amazingly well the horse was progressing and said he should be put in another stall with a small narrow paddock and he should have the freedom to come and go from his stall as he chose.

    Watching him jumping, bucking, kicking and squealing was enough to make my heart stop on several occasions. I was so terrified he would have another misstep, or slip, or do something to reinjure himself. But he (and I) managed to survive and continue to improve over the next several months. The magic number we were told by the vet would be six months. At that point we could re-X-ray and figure out how he’d healed and what his future would hold.

    It actually ended up being more like 8 months before we got the vet out again to check on our boy. He came out, did the x-rays, and delivered the results to the trainer the next morning. The X-rays were absolutely clear, with no sign of either fracture, no joint issues, no arthritis, and the only way to know anything had happened was the presence of the screws. We put the horse in for training/conditioning with a woman who had worked with several other racehorses, and then a bit over a month later he was back at the track. This was around Mid-May.

    He’s been back at the track now for about six weeks, and he is absolutely thriving. He loves having a “job” again, and he is just thrilled to be able to get out there and run. He has done several official works now, and on the last two he had the fastest recorded time. He went in company and left the other horses behind with little to no effort. He is extremely proud of himself, and thinks he’s got to be about the best boy ever.

    Now we’re not talking about some million dollar stud, or even a one-hundred thousand dollar bloodline. He was bought for $2000 at the yearling sale, and he was gelded about two months before his injury. (Which is actually what set off the drama and bs with the other owner) He was just my baby. The personable little gelding who worked his way into my heart and made me defy reason, logic, and probably common sense just to give him a chance to live. I stood up to the pressure of his other owners when they tried to manipulate me into selling him to them. I stood in the face of their rudeness, arrogance, and condescension, and I dug in my heels and refused to let them win. Whether they stayed as half-owners or eventually gave into me and sold their share, I refused to let them beat me. And I refused to let the reality of what often happens to injured horses stop me from following my heart and taking a chance.

    It just so happens that in this situation I won. Or perhaps I should say *he* won. He had the strength to survive and endure, and even thrive. He is more mature, and I believe much stronger than he was last year, both physically and mentally. Because of the work of the vets, and of my friends and everyone involved in the barn, he was given the chance to make it. And make it he has. Now the possibility of a race in a month or two is there. We always said we were not going to rush him, we were going to give him as much time as he ended up needing to get him back safely and with as much strength and as much of a chance of being successful as we could give him. Turns out he didn’t need as much time as we thought he might.

    I’m not offering this up saying every injured horse, or even every injured racehorse, should be given the same chance. There are so many variables to every situation, and each one has to be taken individually.

    With Barbaro his people did so much to try to save his life, and in the end they had to make the horrible decision to end it when his quality of life was declining. With Eight Belles suffering such severe injury to both her legs it would likely have been extremely painful and cruel to put her through surgery and attempt to keep her alive.

    In 1975 an amazing three year old filly named Ruffian suffered an injury to her right leg. From Wikipedia – “Ruffian was in front by half a length when both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped. Vasquez tried to pull her up, but the filly wouldn’t stop. She went on running, pulverizing her sesamoids, ripping the skin of her fetlock and tearing her ligaments until her hoof was flopping uselessly. Vasquez said it was impossible for him to stop her. She still tried to run and finish the race.” She was immediately tended by vet staff, they performed the surgery to repair her leg, and put on a cast to protect it. When she woke from the anesthetic she thrashed around on the floor in a panicked state, as prey animals often do, and ended up shattering her other “elbow” as well as reinjuring the right leg. (Full description is on her Wiki page, but it is quite graphic and disturbing.)

    So even when horses are not immediately “destroyed” after suffering a leg break there are so many dangers in the situation that it is hard to make the choice to attempt to save, or to end their suffering quickly. There are people out there at every level of racing, and in every type of horse ownership, from pleasure, to racing, to show, and so on, that do everything and anything they can to preserve a horse’s life if it is at all possible. But when they make the horrible, difficult choice to end a life I can assure you that it is not likely a choice they made lightly. And even if it may seem like they look, say “broken leg, kill it”, and move on, that is really not likely the case.

    The opinions of Micah and Jabert are disturbing to me. To reduce the value of an animal to strictly dollars and cents is unthinkable to me. I accept that it’s done, but I believe it is to the detriment of people with that attitude. Animals in general are so much more than what they can give you financially. Pets give us nothing but bills, so if we’re talking about cost vs. payoff, I guess nobody should have dogs, cats, or any strict pet, as it’s too costly to care for them through their lives with no chance of payback? I hope I never come to think that way…. And no, of course nobody wants to put their horse through pain and suffering, hobbling around, and so on. But the mindset of “it’s a broken leg, there’s nothing you can do it’ll never be pain free again” is wildly inaccurate. I believe it’s also what the author of this article was trying to speak against.

    Although I guess I do have to admit that Micah was right. My boy is not the same as he was pre-injury. He’s better. He came through an awful situation and is stronger mentally than he was before. He endured a lot of turmoil, but he has overcome his challenge and is now happy, healthy, and absolutely pain-free. He was bored and impatient when he was going through his recovery. He wanted to be doing *something*, and once he finally had a “job” to do he blossomed and is just thrilled with his life, and thrilled with himself.

    I do apologize for going on so long here. I just wanted to share my personal story, show that not everyone is all about business in the racing world in particular, even when the horse isn’t some million dollar champion. And to offer my opinion that even when it may seem like people make “rash” decisions or give up too soon, it may just be that they are more informed of the details of the injury, the nature of their particular horse, and the risks of pursuing the option to save than an outsider. Thanks for the article Donna. :)

  36. Wow, what an incredible success story, Romosmummy9! I love it! Thank you so much for sharing!
    It took courage, patience, and trust in God to let this horse heal.