Vet Calls Theodore O'Connor Euthanasia 'The Right Thing to Do'

"Karen and David (O'Connor) would have done anything to let this little guy have a shot," said Kent Allen, DVM, one of the three veterinarians who attended Theodore O'Connor following the gelding's catastrophic injury this morning and a long-time friend and veterinarian for Team O'Connor. "The right thing to do was euthanize him."

Allen has spent decades attending top-level event horses at home at Virginia Equine Imaging near Middleburg, Va., and he has served at every major equine three-day event in the world. He said Teddy's accident was "a freak thing.

"He spooked at something while being ridden and bolted," described Allen. "The rider came off and the horse ran toward the barn. He got into a freak accident and slid into the side of the barn and lacerated his right hind leg about 4 inches above the fetlock on the back of the leg. It looked like a knife cut it; he severed the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons, ligaments, cut both branches of the arterial blood supply, and nerves.

"My experience with injuries like this are that the chances of reattaching the vascular supply and nerve supply and reattaching the tendons and ligaments is almost zero," said Allen. "The horse was remarkably calm and let me examine him completely.

"Realistically, there was nothing we could do," he concluded.

Allen said even if they had tried something "terribly heroic, it's not usually a good outcome and the horses die a nasty death a week later."

He said there were two other veterinarians in attendance, and all concurred on the decision of euthanasia.

"Even if there has been a 10% chance of us being successful to recover him (from surgery) ... but with the nature of the injury, that wasn't going to happen," said Allen sadly. "Karen would have done anything for that pony."

Thirteen-year-old Theodore O'Connor stood only 14.1 hands. The Shetland/Arabian/Thoroughbred cross gelding was the reigning team and individual Gold Medalist from the 2007 Pan American Games and had top six finishes at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2007 and 2008. He was the 2007 USEF/Farnam Horse of the Year and recently had been named to the USEF Short List for Eventing for the 2008 Olympic Games.

"He was tremendously healthy and had done great at competitions in the spring and was looking forward to the Olympics," said Allen of Teddy. "He was even-tempered and a good guy to work on or with."

Allen said Karen and David were taking this hard, but, "They never have shirked from doing the right thing. The right thing to do was euthanize the horse."

To read more about Theodore O'Connor search his name on TheHorse.com.

The Horse has set up an open blog so that readers can share their thoughts on and memories of Theodore O'Connor. It can be accessed through Memories of Teddy O'Connor.

For more on Allen and his Virginia Equine Imaging see "Beyond the Surface: Imaging Referral Practices."

Theodore O'Connor in stadium jumping at Rolex 2008

Theodore O'Connor in stadium jumping at Rolex 2008.
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About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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