While the majority of what Carolina Equine Hospital sees is average-sized horses, occasionally we get to spend time with pint-sized patients! This success story is about most likely the cutest miniature horse you have ever seen in your life.
Wild Willy is a spunky pinto colored miniature horse foal that knows how to have fun in any environment. Keep reading to hear about how the doctors at CEH were able to help him at the very start of life!
When Willy was born, his owner noticed that his flexor tendons in both front limbs were VERY loose. The owner called to let us know that he was “back at the knees.” Being a new foal that also had some health issues, Dr. Boyer went out to the farm to check on the new foal. Dr. Boyer x-rayed the foal’s legs, and it showed that the cuboidal (square-shaped) bones in each of his knees were very undeveloped.
Usually in utero bones start out as cartilage then ossify (calcify or mineralize) before birth. Occasionally though, some foals have a developmental disorder where the square-shaped bones don’t mineralize before birth. The problem with this is, once the foals learn how to stand and gallop around, putting full weight on those poorly mineralized bones can actually crush them, predisposing them for limb deformities, arthritis and dramatically decreasing the prognosis for being a successful show or performance horse.
After the initial exam on Willy, Dr. Boyer and Willy’s owner decided it was best for both Willy and his mom to stay at CEH for a few days to be cared for and looked over. This foal’s situation was going to be a tricky one, but the doctors were up for the challenge!
What was particularly difficult with this particular foal was that each of his problems (loose tendons and incomplete ossification of his carpal cuboidal bones) are treated in the EXACT opposite manner and treatment of one can sometimes worsen the other. For instance, to tighten the tendons, veterinarians often recommend exercise and strengthening of the muscles of the legs. But exercise is strictly forbidden in foals with poorly mineralized bones in their knees.
Knowing that treating incorrectly could heavily affect the foals future, the doctors at CEH called and consulted with a surgeon at NC State, and together they were able to develop a treatment plan. This plan consisted of a delicate balance of casts and splints (which, in a growing foal, required changing/resetting at least every few days and sometimes daily) to protect his cuboidal bones as they mineralized (and prevent development of other limb deformities) first, then controlled exercise to strengthen his tendons.
After several weeks, Willy’s issues resolved, and you would have no idea that there was ever anything wrong!
Is your mare expecting a foal or has she just given birth? Give us a call to come and give your new foal and mom a checkup! The foal’s first exam is vital to making sure it is healthy, and helping it get what it needs if it’s not! With an emergency vet on call 24/7, there is no need to wait if you think your have an equine emergency on your hands! Calling after hours? Give us a call at 336-349-4080 and press 0 when prompted by the machine to be connected to the emergency doctor!