Three-year-old miniature horse gets second chance at life with prosthetic leg from Colorado State University | TheFencePost.com

Three-year-old miniature horse gets second chance at life with prosthetic leg from Colorado State University

Jacque Corsentino rode her share of horses throughout her life, always hoping one of them would be that one-in-a-million animal she'd heard people talk about.

Then, after she got bucked off one too many times by a full-sized horse, she switched to owning miniature horses. That's when Shine pranced into her life on short, little legs, black bangs flopping in front of long-lashed eyes.

He was 150 pounds and less than 3 feet tall, but his size didn't matter. She found her one in a million.

And then, she thought she'd lost him.

“He was a fighter, though. We knew we had to do whatever we could.”

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THE INJURY

Corsentino went to the barn at 6 a.m., like she always does, to feed her four miniature horses. That morning, Shine didn't come to greet her.

She turned on her phone's flashlight, scanning the barn, until she saw Shine covered in blood. It looked like a dog attack. They roam freely near where she lives in Florence, Colo.

Shine had wounds all over his body, but the worst were on his leg. The lacerations were deep and his hoof was nearly severed from the leg.

A local veterinarian gave Corsentino and her family medicine and treatment advice, then sent him home for further nursing. They watched for nearly two months, hoping for the new tissue growth that they were told might happen, but saw nothing. The outlook was grim.

"He was a fighter, though," Corsentino said. "We knew we had to do whatever we could."

Corsentino didn't want to lose her special little guy, so she sought a second opinion, and another veterinarian recommended Dr. Laurie Goodrich at Colorado State University.

It only took Goodrich one look at Shine's leg to know the horse only had two options left: amputation or euthanasia. For Corsentino, that meant there was really only one option left.

THE SURGERY

Typically, horses and other large animals aren't ideal candidates for amputation, because their size and weight makes it difficult to outfit them with a prosthetic limb that can support their weight. A normal horse weighs anywhere from 800-1200 pounds, according to a release from Colorado State University, but since miniatures are so much smaller than that, sometimes prosthetics legs can work.

But it's about more than size. An animal's attitude plays a huge role in whether or not it will accept the limb. Goodrich was inspired by Shine's docile, friendly demeanor. Even though he was in great pain, he was sweet. She knew that even though she'd never performed the surgeries necessary to outfit a miniature horse with a prosthetic, for Shine, she had to try. The limb would mean his life.

His back left leg had to be amputated below the fetlock — think ankle joint — and then two pins had to be inserted into the bone to support his leg while the wound healed. Then, using exact measurements from Shine's leg and a 3D printer, Goodrich built a replica hoof that served as a cast so he could walk and stay balanced until his leg was healed enough to fit him with the prosthetic.

Through the entire process, Shine's happy demeanor stayed the same.

"He's been great," Goodrich said. "He has been just effervescent almost. I think they detect how much you care."

Shine is the fourth miniature horse to get a prosthetic hoof, which looks like a small ski boot with mountain bike tread on the bottom. The company that makes the hoof, OrthoPets, is based in Westminster, Colo. Though he's the first animal Goodrich performed this surgery on, he wasn't the first for Colorado State University. In 1998, Dr. Gayle Trotter outfitted a burro named Primrose with a prosthetic, according to the release. A bronze statue of the burro is outside the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU.

On April 19, Goodrich and her team put the prosthetic on Shine for the first time.

He was trotting around the grass near the Equine Hospital at CSU later that day. The next day, his family got to come see him, complete with four intact legs for the first time in months.

THE RECOVERY

On April 20, Corsentino got to take Shine home from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU, where the miniature horse has been for more than a month. Of course, before they signed the discharge papers, there were some snuggles and practice walks, and Corsentino showered Shine with love and some of his favorite treats — Gobstoppers.

Shine eagerly lipped the colorful candies out of any hand — family, veterinary student or stranger — that offered the treat.

Though Shine's taken, well, a shine to his new prosthetic, his body still has to get used to the new limb and he has to adapt to walking, trotting and running on it. Goodrich is hopeful, though, that he has a normal life ahead of him.

Shine's pedigree was ideal for a show horse. His father was an award winner, and Corsentino was hoping his little hooves would follow suit. Now, that might not be in Shine's future.

Through all his injuries, Shine kept a calm, sweet attitude, something Corsentino said was therapeutic for her. Since he's been through a trauma of his own, she wants to train him to work with veterans, or perhaps abused or disabled children, to show them that no matter how bad things look, there's always hope.

"He will be a therapy horse as soon as he is able to get around better," Corsentino said. "I think Shine can leave his mark in other ways." ❖

Help Shine and his family

Shine’s injuries, medications and surgeries have been expensive for Jacque Corsentino and Shine’s other owner, Lee Vigil. They set up a crowdfunding page through PetChance.org to help with the veterinary expenses with a goal of raising $8,021.39. To donate to help Shine and his family, go to https://www.petchance.org/chances/2492.