Suffolk foal who broke leg in multiple places recovers thanks to vet’s skill

  • A Suffolk foal who broke his leg in multiple places at two weeks old is back in his field with a bright future ahead thanks to his surgeon’s expertise.

    Rancher is cantering about on a leg containing two metal plates and 20 screws, and vets hope he will enjoy a normal life.

    Owners Eugenie and Randy Hiscock, of Donhead Hall Stud in Dorset, have no idea what caused the injury, which occurred in March while Rancher and his dam Montana were waiting to come in from the field.

    “We caught and led in the other horses first, and only left Rancher and Montana for a few minutes, but as soon as we got back to the paddock, I could tell something was terribly wrong,” Mrs Hiscock said.

    “The lower half of Rancher’s leg was swinging, and it was absolutely horrific. I can only imagine that he twisted round suddenly causing the leg to snap.

    “We were straight on the phone to our vet and I stood with Rancher while we waited for them to arrive. I felt so sick.”

    A vet from Damory Equine Clinic in Blandford Forum applied a plaster cast but X-rays showed the fractures were not healing, so the Hiscocks made the trip to Liphook Equine Hospital in Hampshire.

    Liphook vet Russell Parker, a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and European specialist in equine surgery, operated on Rancher. He believed that despite the severity of the injury, the colt had a “fighting chance”, owing to his size and age.

    Mr Parker said: “Rancher’s fracture wasn’t straightforward because the leg was broken in more than two places and the bones were displaced, but foals are relatively light and their bones heal more quickly than adult horses, making fracture repair an option. It also helped that there was no wound associated with the injury.

    “The operation took 2.5 hours and involved using metal plates and screws to realign and fix the broken bones. The modern implants we use today help us create a more stable repair because the screws lock into the plates as well as the bone.”

    Russell added that there is always a risk of complications following this type of surgery.

    He said: “Our first challenge was to make sure that Rancher got safely to his feet as he came round from the anaesthetic, and we gave him a helping hand to avoid him accidentally damaging the repair.

    “Also, there is a risk of the incision getting infected or the implants breaking, but Rancher made excellent progress over the next few days. In fact, he felt so well in himself, he became very boisterous in the stable, but luckily his mum did a great job of keeping him calm.”

    After three weeks at Liphook, Rancher was able to go home, where he spent six weeks on box rest in a barn.

    In early June, he was allowed back out in the field, and Mrs Hiscock said it has been “wonderful” to watch him enjoying the sun.

    “We can’t thank Russell and the team at Liphook enough for saving Rancher and giving him the best care possible,” she said. “As well as the Suffolk being an extremely rare breed that needs its numbers boosting, Rancher was the first foal we had bred in four years, so he is very special to us. He is such a lovely, bonny foal and it would have been devastating to lose him.”

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    The couple own 12 adult Suffolks, and four other 2021 foals. Some of the horses work on the farm, and take part in shows and displays, and they have a team of mares who pull the Badger Brewery dray.

    Mrs Hiscock said: “We may keep Rancher entire so he can breed his own foals in the future, or he could be used as a driving horse. On the day his accident happened I really thought we were going to lose him, so it is lovely to think that he has an exciting future ahead of him.”

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