The thought of a horse or pony suffering a broken leg is enough to instill dread in any owner. But a team of veterinarians at Texas A&M University have been working on surgical technology that can restore hope and positive outcomes in animals who suffer such an injury that often results in euthanasia.

The team at Texas A&M Large Animal Teaching Hospital (LATH) celebrated one such success story. When Tink the donkey was a foal, he was kicked by an adult donkey, and it was clear to owner Anna Elby that he had a broken leg. Elby runs Blue Moon Sanctuary which rescues equines of all varieties, and after the incident she rushed Tink to her vet, who referred her to LATH. It proved to be a wise move.

Before-and-after x-rays of Tink's injury.

Before-and-after x-rays of Tink’s injury. (LATH photo)

At LATH, Drs. Jeffery Watkins and Kati Glass have focused their careers on developing surgical solutions to fractures, including implants. Once at their facility they assessed Tink as having a long spiral fracture of the femur in his right hind leg.

According to LATH’s website, Watkins and Glass felt that Tink was a good candidate for the use of an intramedullary interlocking nail implant that was designed by Watkins for use in fractures of the humerus and femur. It’s an implant that the team at LATH has used successfully to repair fractures in foals and calves up to 500 pounds, and even in an adult polar bear!

After recovering at the university, Tink was able to return to the sanctuary where he is now fully grown and healthy.
“A lot of people have heard and may even say that if a horse breaks its leg, you can’t fix it. Many times, however, there are options,” Glass told the University newsletter. “While we can’t fix all broken bones yet, we are constantly improving our knowledge, techniques, and implants. Thankfully, because of this, and an owner committed to his care, that old adage was not true for this donkey. It has been exciting to watch Tink grow into a donkey who you’d never know had this issue as a foal.”