Category Archives: Medical

MORE Animal Prosthetics and Prosthesises: Bald Eagle, Dolphin, Elephant, Turtle, Dog…

I find the argument on whether one should or shouldn’t help an animal with a prosthetic device (or prosthesis) very interesting.

Many people think we should do what we can if we want to do it.

Others think that spending that kind of money on any one animal takes away from other animals who may benefit from that same money.  Or they think that the animal is suffering,  so just put it down already.

For me, I think donating, helping, volunteering, planning aid or whatever – are personal decisions.  To each his own.  Do what resonates with you.

But I gotta tell you… no matter what the nay sayers purport… no one can debate the power of these ‘humans helping animal’ stories.  The nay sayers may think that the animal is better off dead, or that it would be better to help more than just the one – but to me, by telling these incredible stories, they are helping more than just the one…!  These animals are ambassadors.

For example, Molly the pony and Midnite the Mini both made national news for their prosthetic stories.   Molly has a book deal.

Heck, an entire movie was made about Winter the dolphin who lost her tail in a fishing net.

We’ve all read the story about the young elephant who was given a new foot…

These kinds of stories circulate the world and have the ‘feel good attaboys slap each other on the backs and wipe away the tears’ kind of effect on us humans.

So I ask you… is that a bad thing?

Are all the humans who swoon over these stories secretly wishing that this miracle device or renewed limb had not been created so that other, less damaged animals could be helped.

Maybe… but I doubt it.

Most of us are high-fiving each other and feeling proud of the human do-gooders.  Most of us are enthralled with the stories of how the family dentist ended up creating a beak for Beauty the Bald Eagle.  Or we sit amazed as we watch Midnight run for the first time in his life via a prosthetic created by a company devoted to human athletes.  I know we all cheered in the Winter movie when the dolphin learned to swim again… I went to the movie and I cheered, too!

Most of us humans love to help.  We band together and jump in when the chips are down.  We love to help the needy.  We love to help the helpless.

And sometimes, the helpless are animals.

So, I’m guessing that the stories below will create a bit of that awe.

And that awe, that pride – that wonder of human engineering created solely for a helpless being – is what keeps the humans humane.


This video was emailed to me today.  (Thank you.)

The story linked here from the Raptor Center Blog, tells of an 8 year old Bald Eagle who was found wandering in a garbage dump, emaciated and dying.  She couldn’t eat, drink properly or preen herself because a poacher had shot off her upper beak.

Beauty, before and after.

She was brought to a wildlife rehab facility where she was cared for and brought back to heath… however, she needed a beak to take care of herself.  She needed a beak to maintain her feathers, drink and eat.  This is where the family dentist came in.

Watch this video to see the process and the results!

Click image to watch the video!


MORE… (from the WebEcoist)

CLICK image to read the original story from WebEcoist

Whether getting attacked by a larger predator, being harmed by man, suffering from disease or simply being injured on accident, there are many different ways in which animals can get hurt in the wild. While many animals are resilient following injury, the odds of survival certainly improve when researchers are able to help out. Take animal prosthetics and artificial limbs as an example. From artificial turtle flippers to new beaks for bald eagles to replacement dolphin tails, the development of animal prosthetics has come a long way in recent years, with the noble goals of determining the best ways to save injured animals and allowing them to regain as much functionality as possible.

Click image to read the original story


Recently in Japan, a 20-year-old loggerhead turtle named Yu Chan was discovered entangled in fishing nets, with several of her limbs apparently bitten off by a shark. Rather than releasing the turtle into the wild, researchers have been working to attach artificial flippers made of soft plastic (polypropylene) and stainless steel supports to replace the missing limbs. At this point, figuring out how to construct durable turtle flippers has been the biggest obstacle, with one of the replacements falling off the turtle several times. Still, the ultimate goal is to move from these trials in the next couple of years with a proven, artificial flipper design that can be attached via surgery on Yu Chan and other injured turtles in the future.

They made a movie from this story…

Click image to watch Winter’s video…


Back in 2005, a bottlenose dolphin named Winter became entangled in a crab-trap line near Cape Canaveral, ultimately causing her to lose her tail and several vertebrae. While rehabilitating in Clearwater, Florida, Winter was fitted with an artificial tail that attaches to her body via a gel sleeve. The dolphin quickly learned how to swim and splash around with the prosthesis at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she has become a popular attraction. Just how popular? Winter the Dolphin even has her own Nintendo DS game, which includes various interactive features built around her amazing story.

Beauty, again.


In 2005, the chances of surviving didn’t look good for a bald eagle named Beauty, which was found wandering a landfill in Alaska with no means to feed itself. Sadly, the bald eagle had its beak shot off by a hunter. When recovered, Beauty struggled to rehabilitate, having to be force-fed food. Fortunately for the bald eagle, she was able to benefit from some compassion as opposed to the cruelty that injured her in the first place. A titanium, lifelike beak was designed for and fitted on the eagle, which was able to regain its ability to drink and feed itself. While the beak is not strong enough for the bald eagle to return to the wild and tear at prey, it at least allows Beauty to function better and regain her natural appearance while now living a safe life free of hunters.



A couple of years ago in Cambodia, a young, male elephant named Chhouk was found with a severely infected, left front foot. Apparently, the foot was shot by a poacher. With not only his foot but his life in jeopardy, the elephant was rushed to a wildlife rescue center some 26 hours away, where a prosthesis was eventually attached to replace 12 centimeters of its injured limb. While the elephant prosthesis was originally too tight for Chhouk, it was quickly modified, now allowing the healthy elephant to carry out normal activities. It is believed that Chhouk is just the second elephant to receive an artificial limb.


Incredible, really.


Other animals have benefited greatly from prosthetic devices, including some technologies that even fuse to original bone. In March of this year, a male German shepherd received an osseointegrated prosthetic (or fused limb) for a defective, hind leg during a revolutionary surgery performed at North Carolina State University. In 2008, a goat in Washington State had a similar limb attached to a front leg that was caught and broken in a rope. Related to but not specifically the leg, a young horse received a fake, glass eye after its mother accidentally kicked it in the face shortly after birth. Currently, researchers are conducting further research in the development of future animal prosthetics, including studying how cheetah legs are able to go from 0 to 65 mph in seconds with the goal of dealing better with lameness in animals, improving tracks for greyhounds and other animals that run often, and of course developing more effective artificial limbs.


I don’t know the moral of the story other than to say that if someone feels like doing a good thing in an ethical way, let the humans spread the love.

Love, in whatever form suits your fancy,  is all we have to give that needs no translation.


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!


Click image to learn about Star and her need for a prosthetic or prosthesis – being determined today by her specialist. August Bucket Fund.








Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Supporting The Bucket Fund through Amazon Smile
Please choose HORSE AND MAN, INC when you shop via Amazon Smile through this link.

Riding Warehouse
Your purchase with Riding Warehouse through this link helps the Bucket Fund!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

Equine Prosthetics

Monday, August 13th, 2012 | Filed under Medical

Hello all!

Many of you have had much to say about- and many questions pertaining to – equine prosthetics, prosthesises and Star.   (Star is our August Bucket Fund mare and you can read her story here.)

Since I have already written a blog post about equine prosthetics and prosthesises, I thought I’d repost it today to hopefully answer questions.

But first, our update!


Star has been living comfortably at HOPE EQUINE RESCUE as she awaits the final decisions regarding the proper procedures for her long term recovery.

In fact, she has an appointment with Dr Graves of Equine Orthotics  & Prosthetics on Wednesday!  There is hope that they may be able to help her without amputation.  A prosthetic would be the best of all outcomes!  So, we will see.

Right now, Star is in a temporary splint prosthetic that seems to really be helping.  Yay!

The other fun news is that a professional photographer who is a friend of the Hope Equine Rescue, was coming out today (Sunday) to take photos of Star.  Unfortunately, it rained all day so they postponed her photo shoot.  However, Star was already freshly bathed and dolled-up, so the volunteers took some shots to send to us.

(If you would like to DONATE to her cause, please click here!)

From this (May 8th, 2012):

This is Star’s face the day she was rescued. She had fly eggs all over her and maggots in her eyes…

TO THIS (photo taken yesterday)!

This is Star, all dolled-up for the photo shoot yesterday that had to be postponed due to weather. Clearly purple is her color. And, you can see that she is standing comfortably on her temporary splint. So far, so good.

Here is Star getting her bucket of grain after being such a good girl during her grooming session.  She likes to eat.

 EQUINE PROSTHETICS (Originally posted 3/28/11)


I’m sure many of you read this story about Midnite the pony, who received a prosthetic leg.  He was all over the news and I even saw a clip on! If you missed it, in short, below is his story.  And, you can watch the video or go to this link and read more…




A new life for Midnite at Ranch Hand Rescue

Midnite was born with no hoof and no coffin bone.  I cannot imagine what that looks like… or feels for the horse.  Ouch.

I’m hoping to procure more detailed photos of his deformed foot from the Rescue that saved him, Ranch Hand Rescue. (They have been inundated with media calls since the various news casts so it may be a while…)

Anyway, poor little Midnite was born without his left rear hoof and coffin bone.  Evidently, he got around on 3 legs but wherever he was living previously, they didn’t treat him well.  He was skinny and depressed.  He had a difficult time getting up and laying down.

Animal Control stepped in and seized Midnight which is how he ended up at Ranch Hand Rescue.

Ranch Hand Rescue thought that this little guy deserved a full life (Midnite is only 4).  The owner of the Rescue thought about human prosthetics and wondered if it could happen for an equine. Yes!  was the answer.

Upon consultation with vets, the first thing was to get a boot which would help Midnite learn how to reposition his weight so he could gain muscle in his atrophied hip and leg.

Soft Ride donated a used boot. I didn’t know about Soft Ride (and you would think I should with all the feet issues we had with Norma…) so I’m showing you a photo which is linked to the website.

Soft Ride boots

Here an excerpt from the website describing this process:

The process was lengthy, as we had to tape the boot on each morning and remove it each night. In addition MidniteÕs leg needed to be massage and powdered every evening. As he got used to the boot, he learned how to redistribute his weight. This was important because as Midnite got healthy and came up to his normal weight our Vets were concerned he would break his hip and most likely his good rear leg. These injuries in a horse like Midnite are life threatening.


Once Midnite was strong enough, the Humane Society of North Texas went about procuring a true prosthetic.

The prosthetic device for Midnite



Prostheticare, Fort Worth LP took on the challenge. We met with their representatives, our Vets & staff and concluded it was possible. The process has taken a couple of months because we had to do several fittings. The Prosthetic is made of Carbon Graphite and nyglass Stockinette with Acrylic resin. The liner is made of a foam called pelite with a leather soft distell end which conforms perfectly to his leg. It’s bottom has been designed to look like a hoof.



Well, the first day the new prosthetic was velcro’d on, Midnite took off running!  Incredible, really.  If you watch the video, there won’t be a dry eye in the house!

The goal of the Rescue now is to raise enough donations to purchase a special trailer for Midnite to go on the road to spread his message of hope and confidence!

Here is the video (get a tissue!).

Midnite RUNNING! Click to watch this tear-jerking video!



I think you have all read about Molly.  She’s the pony who was rescued during Hurricane Katrina only to lose her leg to a dog mauling.

As the story goes, Molly was taken to Louisiana State University for care.  But, since she was a welfare case and a hurricane had just come through… she wasn’t a priority.  So, she sat, stalled.

While she was stewing at LSU, one of the surgeons noticed that Molly was very careful of her injury and her well-being.  She was very careful laying down and getting up.  While standing, she always shifted her weight so as not to strain any of her other legs…  This impressed him.

So, Dr. Rustin Moore agreed to do the surgery on Molly.

The rest, so they say, is history.  Molly has been on television and in several newspapers.  If you google, ‘Molly the horse’ or ‘Molly the pony’, lots of stories will appear.  She travels to sick children and Prosthetic institutions where the residents need a lift…

My favorite little tidbit of this story is that the people who created the prosthetic put a smiley face stamp on the bottom of the foot.  So, everywhere Molly goes, she leaves a smile… nice!  Oh, and Molly has her own book...

Here is a link to the video or you can click on the photo below.

Click to watch the video of Molly and her smiley face prosthesis



My general understand of horses’ legs was if a leg had a huge problem, like a severe injury, that was the end of the horse.

But, it appears that if you have the funds, there are opportunities in equine prosthetics!

Now, what surprised me was that the first equine prosthetic limb was fitted in 1970.  That’s a long time to make improvements.  And the good news is that equine prosthetics are based on human prosthetics so many of the advancements in human prosthetics can benefit equine prosthetics.

This is Riley and her prosthesis at Sheridan and Cody Equine hospital


Well, it isn’t cheap (but you knew that..).  The  fees run around $12,000 – $15,000 for surgery, the prosthetic and the after care (2 months of hospitalization).

Since there are few general funds for research, vets/hospitals have to decide to ‘take on’ an amputation/prosthetic case.   Or the owners have to pay high dollar to allow for all the time, care, research and the prosthetic.

The hope in this industry is that once this procedure ‘catches on’, there will be more endowments for research and development as well as more surgeries performed (experience) and surgery centers.

Upside:  There are many happy endings!

The smiley face on the bottom of Molly’s prosthetic limb


I found this list on… (Sushil Dulai Wenholz)

–Traumatic loss of limb below the knee or hock;

–Compound comminuted fractures of the distal limb;

–Septic arthritis

–Cellulitis in the distal limb that has not responded to aggressive therapy.

Other injury-related points to consider:

• Hind limbs are preferable, since they bear less weight than forelimbs and usually let the horse retain a more normal gait.

• Amputations lower on the leg–but ideally no closer than six to eight inches from the ground–generally require less complex, and therefore less costly, prostheses. Not having the knee or hock encased in the device also allows the horse to lie down and rise more easily. Amputations above the knee or hock present a difficulty: Without the bulbous joint protrusion to provide a “catching” place, it’s hard to keep the artificial limb in place. Redden has used a girdle-like harness for the purpose, but with limited success. Vacuum or pneumonic-style devices that work well in humans aren’t effective for horses.

• A horse crippled from an injury or disease that occurred months or years earlier, who is healthy and has learned to adapt to the disability, is not a candidate. “If the horse is happy, we don’t take the leg off just to try and make him happier,”.

In all the articles I read, all the vets said that the most important ingredient is the horse’s will to live – through the pain.

This is Thor at a show, telling his story…


Since I’m not a vet, I cut and pasted this from Dr. Vlahos from Sheridan and Cody Equine Hospitals (Wyoming).  Dr. Vlahos has performed over 28 of these surgeries.  He says that he, and others, have offered the surgery to all sorts of horses and many of them have gone on to be breeding stallions or broodmare, pasture pals, lead line horses (although he discourages using amputees as riding horses) and beloved pets.

Click to go to this site. Dr. Vlahos

Here is how he describes it: (via Gayle Smith Gering)

“In fracture cases that can not be repaired with traditional plates and screws, or in severe bone or tendon infections, or loss of blood supply to a leg, amputation is a very viable option”.

Most of the horses recuperate well from the surgery. I know of one case in Kentucky that happened 17 years ago, and she is still a successful broodmare.

The process of performing an amputation involves removing the diseased limb just a couple inches above the unhealthy tissue. “We utilize one of two techniques,” he explained. “We close the stump, but in the cases of the lower leg from the fetlock or lower, we usually place two large pins in the horse’s cannon bone. When we incorporate the pins with a transfixation cast, it allows the horse to fully bear weight on it immediately after surgery, without putting weight on the stump, so that the stump has time to heal.

Once the stump has healed, which is typically 30-45 days after surgery,  they fit the horse with a prosthesis. We have a human prosthesist manufacture a new leg for us. The leg is typically made of graphite, fiberglass, and titanium. It is extremely durable, and we expect it to last for several years.

Once the horse has recovered from the amputation, and they have fitted the prosthesis, they monitor its leg for pressure sores and make any adjustments necessary. After it is fitted with a prosthesis, the horse wears a wool sock that has to be changed every day or every other day, depending upon the weather and how sweaty or wet the sock gets.


This is Gideon without his prosthetic leg



There is so much information out there regarding equine prosthetics, I thought maybe the best way to relate some of it would be through stories…  So, here are three stories with happy endings.

Gideon has been breeding for over 14 years…


Gideon is a Missouri Fox Trotter stallion who is standing at stud at Serenity Equine, and Equine Podiatry Center.  He has had his prosthetic leg for over 14 years and breeds often – WOW!  14 years and he is totally healthy and happy!

An awesome detail about Gideon is that his stud fees are donated to the Cashvan Family Memorial Fund.

What is the Cashvan Family Memorial Fund?  Gideon’s prosthesis was funded by the Cashvan Family Memorial Equine Fund which is a non-profit foundation providing research for equine amputations and prosthetics.  So, now that Gideon has survived because of the Fund, he is giving back through his stud fees.  Nice!  (Great idea for an endowment or trust, eh?)

Here is an excerpt from Gideon (I think someone else wrote this for him…)

I caught my cannon bone in a high tensile fence when I was a three year old. I tore all the nerves, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments off my leg. My owners wanted to save my life, so they took me to see Dr. Ric Redden who gave me a new leg. A few years after that, I came to live at Serenity Equine. I like it here. I finally had the confidence to breed some pretty mares naturally. I have a daughter and a son. I have been in a prosthesis now for 14 years, they told me that is a record.

Handsome Gideon, 14 years after his surgery!


Cheyenne is a mare who lives in Colorado.

Poor girl had a severe leg injury which led to laminitis and a bone infection.  Yikes.  Most of us would see the final curtain here.

But, not for Cheyenne’s owners…  They brought her to Dr. Vlahos in Wyoming.  There, the vet team successfully amputated her leg and fitted her with a prosthesis.

This is incredible news for those who have horses with similar misfortune.

Cheyenne, pretty girl…


Here is a great article on Thor, another horse with injuries that normally would be fatal.

Thor, at the time of his surgery, was a 16 year old Thoroughbred (16′).  He had been neglected at a floundering equine rescue facility where he mangled his right rear leg in wire fencing.

He suffered trauma that severed his deep and superficial flexor tendons, his lateral suspensory, and broke his lateral splint bone. The first attempt to correct this condition resulted in his P-3 breaking and his hoof capsule being shed.

Yikes.  Most people would quit at this point…

The wonderful people at Equine Prosthetics stepped in to save him.  Here is what they had to say:

Although his residual limb is not ideal, Thor now wears the same type devise that the athletes in the Para-Olympic Games wear. He goes outside, bucks and plays and grazes. He is a very gentle horse and a wonderful ambassador. He regularly travels to events such as the Adventure camp for amputee children, benefits for the Christopher Reeves Paralysis Foundation, and to a local Disability Awareness Day. Through his example, these children can see that anything is possible!

You can read Thor’s story here.

Thor, happy and healthy!



Here is a great story about Riley the horse that was saved from slaughter but had a horrible wound… This beautiful girl was saved by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Dr. Vlahos did the successful surgery.  Now, she is an ambassador!

You can read Riley’s story by clicking this photo


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!

Click here to learn about Star and donate to her continued care! Our August Bucket Fund mare!



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Supporting The Bucket Fund through Amazon Smile
Please choose HORSE AND MAN, INC when you shop via Amazon Smile through this link.

Riding Warehouse
Your purchase with Riding Warehouse through this link helps the Bucket Fund!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!