They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Not If These Equine Innovators Can Help It

Four years ago, Phil Yarbrough’s horse Mercedes broke her leg and ripped apart her knee while running in her pasture outside Atlanta.

“She went over a hill, and she did not come back up,” Yarbrough said.

Conventional wisdom suggests that horses with broken legs can’t be saved. Hundreds of racehorses with injured limbs are euthanized each year. In June, a horse named Helwan was euthanized after he broke a bone on the same track where, hours later, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown

But Yarbrough wasn’t willing to consider this fate for his horse.

“She’s like a kid to me,” he said.

Veterinarians at the University of Georgia operated on Mercedes’ leg. Yarbrough remembers that the doctors gave the Arabian horse a 30 percent chance of recovery before the operation to put titanium plates in her shattered appendage. A little way into the nine-hour procedure, the surgeon came out to say that the odds might be even lower.

Yarbrough was asked if he wanted to euthanize Mercedes. He recalls being worried that keeping her alive might be “selfish.” Still, he opted to go on with the surgery.

For the next year, Mercedes was in and out of the hospital, recovering from the surgery and then dealing with hard-to-treat infections and a couple of bouts with a serious inflammatory disease called laminitis.

Yarbrough and his wife Christine came to visit, bringing their horse bags of clover.

Before Mercedes’ release, Yarbrough was concerned that her leg hadn’t yet completely healed and that it would be prone to another injury unless she was essentially confined to a stall for the rest of her life.

Yarbrough wasn’t willing to consider confinement. So he went looking for another option. That’s how he met Ronnie Graves.

Graves, who runs VIP Veterinary Inclusive Prosthetics and Orthotics in Florida, is among a growing —> Read More