Millionaire Pacer Sharky Spur Recovering From Training Injury

The Standardbred racing industry was rocked when one of their superstars, millionaire pacer Sharky Spur, suffered a career-ending injury when a training accident June 6 left the long pastern bone of his right front leg shattered.

With an injury reminiscent of the Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro, Sharky Spur's owners, Buddy Stillings and his wife, Christine MacIsaac, along with trainers and fans, waited to hear if the horse's fate would be the same.

Yvonne Elce, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, equine orthopedic surgeon at the Galbreath Equine Center at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, repaired the injury with screws and a transfixation cast, a splintlike device with stainless steel pins that stabilizes the fracture.

While Sharky Spur and Barbaro's cases might have looked similar, what occurred within the horses' legs was the crucial difference--Sharky Spur had a severely comminuted (shattered) fracture of his first phalanx, whereas Barbaro's adjacent bones were also severely fractured.

Elce said that because of the difference in the injuries, treatments used for each cannot be compared. During his recovery, Sharky Spur sustained only a few cast sores and a loosening of the transfixation pins. Within nine weeks of the injury, the stallion had healed enough to go home to Pennsylvania.

"Sharky Spur is currently doing well," said Elce. "He is back at his own stable and is currently being maintained in a light cast for another two weeks before being transitioned into a bandage. His owners and referring veterinarian report his attitude is good. He has always maintained an excellent attitude and great spirit whilst being a very co-operative patient." The stallion will require another month of stall rest, followed by two months of stall rest with light hand walking. Following a total recuperation of six months he will then be cleared for pasture turn-out if healing is complete.

"The goal has always been to save him for a comfortable life at pasture and breeding," Elce said. "The severity of his original injury precludes any return to athletic function. Almost four months after injury, Sharky Spur's prognosis for being pasture-sound and able to breed is reported as good, likely around 70-80%. At the time of the original injury veterinarians at OSU reported a 50-60% prognosis for survival.

"The initial concern was principally due to the predisposition of horses with severe orthopedic injuries to develop laminitis/founder in the opposite limb due to overload or excessive weight bearing," said Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor and chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at OSU. "The key was to get him comfortable as soon as possible so he would distribute weight to the affected and non-affected leg. Also, Sharky was a very intelligent horse and took care of himself well."

About the Author

Sharon Biggs Waller

Sharon Biggs Waller is a freelance writer for equine ­science and human interest publications. Her work has appeared in several publications and on several websites, and she is a classical dressage instructor.

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