A crippled horse has been given a false leg in a pioneering operation to stop her being put down after suffering an awful injury.
These amazing pictures show how technology has given the lame horse a new lease of life rather than face the prospect of being put down.
Now this mare Riley will spend the rest of her days in an animal sanctuary.
Road to recovery: Riley takes a walk with her new leg at an animal sanctuary
Walking miracle: Staff at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Wyoming feared the worst for Riley when she was brought in four years ago with what was describes as ¿an awful¿ hind leg injury
Thanks to the artificial leg, she is able to trot around her paddock and graze normally with her pony friends.
And the vet who treated her believes the surgery will be able to prevent many more otherwise healthy animals being destroyed because of broken or infected limbs.
Staff at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Wyoming feared the worst for Riley when she was brought in four years ago with what was describes as ‘an awful’ hind leg injury.
The buckskin horse had a severe cut on her left hind leg. Scar tissue formed, causing her tendons to contract to such an extent that her fetlock (or ankle) was pulled out of place.
The best option at the time was to surgically insert a metal plate into her leg to fuse the fetlock and straighten the leg.
For a few years, the plate helped Riley lead a decent life.
But despite the best treatment, the plate became contaminated and an infection developed around it, causing the bone to deteriorate.
Removing the plate and putting in a new one wasn’t feasible because it would entail removing bone that had grown around the plate, which would have destabilised the leg even more.
New life: After being amputated below the knee Riley had a titanium limb fitted
Normally in such a situation, the horse would be put down but sanctuary manager Jen Reid and the centre’s veterinarian Dr Tara Timpson were determined not to let that happen.
Then one day two volunteer workers at the sanctuary in Utah mentioned Vet Ted Vlahos in Wyoming, who had successfully fitted horse amputees with artificial legs.
He was one of three veterinarians who pioneered the procedure and came to assess whether Riley would be a good candidate for a prosthetic limb.
To endure recovery and get accustomed to an artificial leg, a horse must have a calm temperament because post-op rehabilitation involves spending a good deal of time hoisted in a sling.
If the horse is prone to anxiety, the stress incurred while in the sling could lead to colic.
Breaking new ground: Riley with vet Ted Vlahos who carried out the surgery and is a pioneer of the procedure for horses
The horse also needs to have a strong opposing leg - in Riley’s case, a strong right rear leg - because she would be bearing much of her weight on that leg until she adjusted to the prosthesis.
He decided she fitted the bill and agreed to perform the surgery a discounted rate while a generous benefactor met the cost of the treatment.
The vet transported Riley to his clinic where he amputated her leg just below her knee and fitted her with a temporary prosthetic limb.
Five months ago Dr Vlahos loaded Riley into his horse trailer and transported her to his clinic where he fitted the first of three titanium limbs she will receive while the swelling in her stump heals.
Not long after the procedure, she was trotting, running and even playing, as well as easily bearing the weight of Dr Vlahos’s daughter, whose birthday wish was for Riley to be well enough to ride.
Loving hug: Riley gets a cuddle fas she prepares to leave Best Friends animal sanctuary earlier this year to have her hind leg amputated
Then last month Riley returned home to Best Friends.
Though stiff from the long ride, she now wanders her pasture grazing, trotting and flirting.
Jen Reid said: ‘She’s eating great. She takes lots of naps. She likes to flirt over the fence with her male neighbour.
‘She’s doing everything a normal horse would.’
Best Friends spokeswoman Barbara Williamson said:
‘Each year, thousands of horses are put down for reasons very similar to those that necessitated the amputation of Riley’s leg.
‘Nowhere has that fact been more apparent than at the racetrack, where countless thoroughbreds have been destroyed after breaking a leg.
‘Riley now shows that horses’ lives don’t have to end that way, thanks to this advance in equine medicine.’
Equine pals: Riley on the road to recovery with one of her friends at the Best Friends animal sanctuary
She added: ‘This procedure isn’t for every horse with a broken or severely infected leg, but many horses can be saved from a death sentence if people simply knew that having a prosthetic limb fitted is an option.’
Tara Timpson who is now taking daily care of Riley said: ‘She has always been an amazing patient.
‘We knew we needed a horse like that to be a good candidate for this procedure.’
Dr Vlahos said the ideal candidate for the procedure was a thoroughbred racehorse because they are incredibly fit.
He added: ‘We really feel that its old school to quit on these horses.’
He stressed it isnt for every horse with a broken or severely infected leg, but feels many horses can be saved from a death sentence if people simply know about this option.
Currently, two other veterinarians, Dr Barrie Grant of California and Dr Rick Redden of Kentucky, perform the procedure.
Dr Vlahos believes that eventually the prosthesis option will become a common practice.
He went on: ‘We’re hopeful that horses like Riley will get the word out that we don’t always need to kill them.
‘We have thousands of guys who come back from Iraq with amputated limbs. We don’t throw them away, and nor should we with horses
Riley the crippled horse is saved from slaughter after vet fits false leg | Mail Online