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OTTB with Ankle Screws

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  • OTTB with Ankle Screws

    Hi! I've tried to look this up, but I can't find any information about a general long-term soundness expectancy for a 9 y/o OTTB (ie, 2003 model) that has ankle screws. The rescue that has him says "he had screws put in his ankles in 2007, then raced for three more years before retiring. He has no soundness issues and is a very tough, athletic horse". I'd like to do mid-level dressage and long trail rides (some on paved surfaces, like Acadia national park). Does anyone have any long-term experience with ankle screwed horses? Thanks!

  • #2
    It really depends on the actual horse and screws. I've seen it go both ways. the big question is why did it break that he needed screws. The worry is, will the work you do encounter the same problem?

    It sounds like you're going to be working him fairly lightly so it might be ok but I would want a vet to give his opinion on the particular horse and the particular screw placement.


    • #3
      If he raced for a few years after, retired sound and is currently sound IN WORK (as per a vet exam, not just the rescue's word), then I'd think his chances were pretty good.

      But I'd def get a good vet check with xrays of the ankle, that's the only way to really see what you're dealing with. Does the rescue have resent xrays that they could send to your vet as a start ?

      Big issue is if the horse is not in the same type of work now that you want to do with him. He may be okay now but once he gets more work he may be sore. But that can also happen with any horse.


      • #4
        The more important question is what is the JOINT like. A midshaft fracture with a screw is going to be just as strong, if not stronger, than the other leg. Depending on the location of the fracture however, if its very distal/proximal there could be a higher chance of the development of new bone and arthritis near the joint. Midshaft fractures rarely cause enough new bone growth to affect the joint. Id get a radiograph of that leg to look at the joint, but I wouldnt worry about the actual screw in the leg!


        • #5
          There was a young OTTB stallion I looked at buying years ago that moved and jumped a 10+++

          Got xrays done on him and was horrified at how many screws he had in one front ankle. It was a lot!

          I passed on him as I wanted to geld him and turn him into a hunter.

          Someone else bought him, used him as a dressage horse and a breeding stallion and he was successfully campaigned for years and died of old age before the ankle did him in

          Good luck

          True Colours Farm on Facebook


          • #6
            Depends on what was done - my guess with that history (surgery, then raced 3 more years) is a lateral condylar fracture. Shouldn't affect long term soundness IF they got good alignment/compression and there isn't much arthritis in the joint. Simple, non-displaced lateral condylar fractures will do just fine.


            • #7
              I would be concerned about arthritis. I would get a reputable specialist to do a pre-puchase exam with digital radiographs. Then you can always forward those radiographs to an equine surgeon or talk to the surgeon whom put the original screw in.


              • #8
                I had a TB mare MANY years ago that was about 5 or 6yrs old. I bought her to use as my riding horse and future breeding mare. She was mostly sound but every so often you would see a step that just seemed NQR. So I took her to the vets to have x-rays done as she also had a slight thickening of her pastern area and I wanted to make sure there wasn't something hereditry going on before I bred her. The next thing I hear chuckling in the back room from my vet and he comes out and says "I think I know what the problem is". Holds up the x-ray and she had 3 screws in her pastern! I was pretty shocked as I had never been told this and was just a teenage kid buying a horse to have fun and play around with. Well she never did really come lame on it ever but I did quit riding her after that and got a few nice foals out of her. However, I do think if I had ridden her hard it could have caused her problems down the road.
                Cindy's Warmbloods
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                • #9
                  My OTTB had a condylar fracture when he was 3 or 4, he has 3 pins in his ankle. Vetted and bought to be my low level event horse, I was 14 and he was 9. He competed at prelim/intermediate for 3 years, did some CCIs.

                  He never has had a problem with the ankle, its been x-rayed on a semi regular basis, mostly if we were doing other x-rays the vets would take a couple shots free of charge because they were curious to see what it looked like.

                  I don't know much about them, but vets who I have talked to about the injury said it all depends how they heal, and one said that the success rate is good for them to continue racing at least.


                  • #10
                    I have had screws in my ankle and the top of my tibia. The screws drove me nuts. They made my leg very sore. It would ache in the spots where the screws were. I finally had them removed. The pain went away pretty much immediately after they were removed. Screws can start to back out of the bone. If the heads of the screws are recessed or not, they were painful. I had some below the bone and above the bone.

                    I know I am not a horse.

                    Just saying.

                    Also if the bone breaks, the screws will help it break at that point(s).

                    My surgery and recovery was ideal / perfect, I had no infections. Just the screws drove me nuts. You would just have to have some to know what they felt like.


                    • #11
                      rmh - how interesting!

                      So - not hurting enough to make you "lame", but sort of like a thorn inbedded somewhere that always niggles at you, you know its there and it drives you nutty until it comes out?

                      True Colours Farm on Facebook


                      • #12
                        Yes. Sometimes it bothered me sometimes not. Yes, like a thorn. It just got to the point it drove me nuts because it would throb, be hot. Yes, I was lame at times. But only a step or three. Low level pain, sometimes high level. I could just sit or stand it and would hurt. But not enough for me to complain, or show on a flexion test, or vet check. ;-|

                        I was very much so cautioned about having hardware in my leg and never getting into a situation where it would get broken again. I still have a long rod in my leg. My leg was messed up enough they wanted it to stay in. It would be too overly involved to remove it. Screws came out easy.

                        To this DAY. The screw holes will ache for no reason at all. It has been almost 10 years now. It has no bearing on weather, sometimes on exercise, but I could just be sitting here, and the areas will "ping" with a pain. I do have scar tissue over where the screws were. One tendon was moved to put a screw in. They moved then tendon put a screw, moved the tendon over the screw. To remove, they did the same.


                        • #13
                          Just happened to read up on Personal Ensign yesterday. I totally forgot that at the end of her 2yo year (before the Breeder's Cup) she fractured her pastern - had to have 5 screws. Returned to racing at the end of her 3yo year.

                          Retired unbeaten, winnning 13 of 13, including the exciting win against Derby winner Winning Colors.

                          Would guess it definitely depends on the location and the repair, but don't believe you can unilaterally dismiss a horse because of it. And flat racing is by far the hardest undertaking for a horse - would think that with the history of a successful repair, forgoing any other soundness issues, that you may be fine for your intended pursuits? If everything else seems right, I'd consider, and get the PPE.

                          But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson


                          • #14
                            i think id pass. There are so many other horses out there....

                            My heart horse had a bone plate screwed in her pasturn. She was OK for many many years afterwards until one day the plate and the screws weakened and then eventually slipped. Terrible experience. No thanks


                            • #15
                              Actually a repaired condylar fracture (with good alignment and minimal arthritis) would NOT cause me to pass on a horse - I would have NO hesitation about taking one with screws in its ankle. (Especially if he raced for three YEARS on it. That's never gonna bother him IMO - but definitely get some films.)

                              Chips in joints that haven't been removed (especially knees) - especially if they were injected and raced on - would DEFINITELY make me pass. All that banging around just priming for arthritis.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by ActNatural View Post
                                i think id pass. There are so many other horses out there....

                                My heart horse had a bone plate screwed in her pasturn. She was OK for many many years afterwards until one day the plate and the screws weakened and then eventually slipped. Terrible experience. No thanks
                                But a plate is very different than the screws required to fix a condylar fracture. Plates can bend, the small screws can come loose. To remove the hardware, a full surgery is needed.

                                Condylar fractures are often fixed by 1 to 4 screws, with no plate involvement. If a single screw should come loose (which is usually doesnt if there is no plate between the bone and screw head), it can often be taken out with just a local and sedation, no major surgery.


                                • #17
                                  My OTTB has 2 screws in his ankles too. They were put in when he was 3 and he raced on them until 6. I just retired him last year at 26. I evented him at the lower levels for a few years (my vet Oked jumping him first) and then changed to dressage as I was getting concerned about jumping bigger fences with him.

                                  He never had a lame day on the ankle with the screws. He actually has more arthritis in his other ankle.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks all!
                                    No, the rescue doesn't have any recent x-rays. But he looked to me and a trainer close to the horse's location (not my usual trainer, but a friend of my usual trainer that I cliniced with once) to be sound, just out of shape. My vet that I trust is in ME, and the horse is in NH. They've offered to have him x-rayed by a local vet down in NH at my expense (he's free, so there's no way to deduct it from the purchase price). I may do that, and send them to my local vet and see what he thinks. Or see if they'll let me foster-to-own and get it done by my vet. The biggest worrier in this is my husband; he seems to think that I'm only pretending to do lower level dressage and am actually an advanced eventer, so I know he'd be most comfortable if my vet whom he has complete confidence in could do the x-rays.
                                    This free gelding has a beautiful conformation, a shiny, sparkly coat, and a very interactive personality that seems like he'd be a lot of fun to work with, but I can't get sucked in by that. I'll have him x-rayed one way or the other and hope there's nothing amiss. Thanks again!