Horse people nationwide watch ex race horse after pioneering surgery

'Olivia' working out after pioneering surgery to ease arthritis in her spine

An ex-race horse, rehabbing after spine surgery, may offer hope--and new careers--for lots of horses who suffer from a painful back condition.

Kissing Spine is pressure on vertebrae that are touching, a form of arthritis that can hurt so much, horses cannot be ridden. A veterinarian from Ithaca, Dr. Christy Cable of Early Winter Equine Medicine, has done surgery on Olivia, a six year old Thoroughbred who raced under the name Heartly Smart.

It's the first time Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy been done in the United States, though the technique has been used in England on 35 horses, with a 95% success rate.

After the mid-February surgery, Olivia had two weeks of stall rest and is now doing every other day rehab work on long lines, with Sue Swart, director ofReRun's New York chapter, working the mare. After warming her back, she's put on long lines, with a stretchy, the kind used in human rehap, wrapped around her belly to make her raise her back.

Getting Olivia ready to work is the tough part right now. Kissing Spine 'usually creates bad issues before the surgery, which you have to overcome,' says Swart. 'And there's a pretty extensive rehab process. It's not difficult, but you really need a good team to be involved. You have a lot of baggage, some physical and some mental.'

Olivia gets a new set of x rays next week. "Now, with pretty affordable surgery there's hope," says Swart. Not for profit adoption groups like hers cannot afford to carry pasture-only horses, and neither can riding owners with horses that cannot be saddled. "Anytime we can rehab a horse and make it into a riding horse, chances of being adopted go sky-high.

The 'experiment' in Fulton is being watched by horse groups around the country, with several nationwide publications planning stories on Olivia in the coming months.

(for more on Kissing Spine, ISLD, search Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy and see what horse groups around the world are saying about it)

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