Riley: the horse with the prosthetic leg.

For horse lovers whose noble steeds suffer terrible injuries, comes a story of hope: a crippled horse has been successfully given a false leg after a shocking injury threatened to claim her life.

Four years ago at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Riley was brought in with 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.

At the time, veterinarians thought the best option 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.

Eventually, however, the plate became contaminated and an infection developed causing the bone to deteriorate.

Making matters worse, the plate could not be removed as it would have further destabilised the leg.

Ordinarily, in this situation the horse would have to be put down, but Riley’s carers were determined not to let that happen.

They sought the expertise of one of three veterinarians who pioneered a procedure fitting horse amputees with artificial legs.

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, as well as 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.

The vet decided she fitted the bill and agreed to perform the surgery at 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.

Not long after the procedure, she was trotting, running and even playing, as well as easily bearing the weight of the vet’s daughter, whose birthday wish was for Riley to be well enough to ride.

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