Although veterinary treatments have made significant progress in recent years, there’s still some ailments that vets are unable to fully deal with. So when one miniature horse’s leg was severely injured in a suspected dog attack, it was likely he’d be put down. Fortunately for the equine, though, no one was willing to give up on him so easily.
In December 2015 Shine the miniature horse was living with two other miniature horses and his owners Jacque Corsentino and Lee Vigil at their ranch in Florence, Colorado. And since Shine was always happy to see his human companions, they knew something was wrong when he failed to greet them one day.
Recalling that fateful winter day, Corsentino said that she had gone outside to give the three miniature horses their morning feed. “[Shine] didn’t meet me at the gate like he always does, and he was standing funny,” she remembered to Colorado State University. “I shined the flashlight on him, and he was covered in blood.”
Upon further inspection, a concerned Corsentino discovered that the injured horse had a number of facial wounds, a bust lip, gashes on his knees and bleeding leg. And although she couldn’t be sure exactly what happened to Shine, Corsentino suspected he’d been savagely attacked by dogs. At this point, moreover, his owner had no idea if Shine would even live.
Fortunately, a local vet managed to treat most of Shine’s injuries, but the wound to his rear leg was so severe that experts feared it would have a long-term impact on the horse. Indeed, though the equine was able to regain some mobility after two months, he was a far cry from being capable of cantering as usual.
That’s when Corsentino decided to get another opinion and contacted Dr. Britt Stubblefield from Rocky Top Veterinary Service in south Colorado. The vet was an expert in equines and therefore seemed to be Shine’s best hope for recovery.
But after examining the miniature horse, the vet realized that Shine’s injuries were much worse than he originally thought. Specifically, poor Shine had fractured his lower pastern bone and coffin bone – and although they are small, these bones are crucial in the working order of his hoof and lower leg.
As a result, Dr. Stubblefield decided to contact his colleague from Colorado State University, Dr. Laurie Goodrich. “Dr. Stubblefield called Dr. Goodrich from my barn, and then at least we knew we had some options other than sending him to heaven,” Corsentino explained to Colorado State University. However, after a four-hour journey to meet Dr. Goodrich, it wasn’t good news.
The vet concluded, in fact, that Shine would still need his hind hoof amputated. However, as an equine orthopedics specialist, she had yet another idea: although she’d never completed the procedure before, Dr. Goodrich thought there was a good chance Shine could be fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic hoof.
Horses with injuries like Shine’s are usually euthanized when their treatment doesn’t work. For full-sized horses, for example, their chances of being able to have a prosthetic limb successfully fitted are slim, as the prosthetic simply cannot bear the load. However, thanks to his tiny stature, Shine could be saved if a new hoof could be fitted.
“It’s the first one I’ve done, but I’ve always wanted to try,” Dr. Goodrich confessed to Colorado State. “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.”
As a consequence, a local prosthetics company was contacted to make Shine a new, custom-made hoof. The business, named OrthoPets, had previously worked with the university to provide a rottweiler named Brutas with four prosthetic limbs. What’s more, the company had also made three prosthetic miniature horses’ hooves, meaning that Shine was in the very best hands.
The new hoof, which has tire-like treads, was fitted one month after Shine’s amputation. And it wasn’t long before the miniature horse was back on his feet. From his very first steps on his prosthetic leg, in fact, Shine was like a completely new animal.
Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital resident Dr. Ellison Aldrich added that Shine’s amazing transformation was down to his resilient personality. “He’s very sweet, laid-back, easy to deal with,” she said. “His favorite food is gobstoppers. He’s so cute and people love to feed them to him. But he also loves apples and carrots.”
Then, four months after his hospitalization, Corsentino and Vigil were finally able to bring Shine home. “We’ve come a long way since that horrible bloody morning when I found Shine standing in a pool of blood after being attacked,” they wrote on Facebook. “It’s been a long journey. Shine never gave up and neither could we.”
“This afternoon [we] will travel to CSU Vet Hospital to bring our baby home,” their heartfelt post continued. “We’ve missed him being on the ranch so very much. It was so worth the wait.”
And although Shine was originally being lined up to be a show horse, following his injury Corsentino found another calling for her adorable little survivor. Upon seeing his placid and calm personality even during times of immense stress, his owner thought instead that Shine would make a great therapy animal.
“He’s so comforting. You know when you have horrible days? Shine is my therapy,” she explained to Colorado State University. “I think he would make an amazing therapy horse for wounded warriors or kids with disabilities.”
It’s expected that Shine and Corsentino will be ready to share their inspiring story across the country in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, though, the little horse is continuing to build up his strength and get used to his new foot. And according to Corsentino, the beautiful animal is her “miracle boy.”
It’s hard to think, then, that if Shine’s owners had given up on him, he probably wouldn’t be here today. But thanks to their dedication and the amazing talents of the staff of the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the miniature horse will shine on and inspire others to do the same.