New Procedure Gives Race Horses A Second Chance

By: Jordan Shefte Email
By: Jordan Shefte Email

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For a champion race horse, a fractured tendon is typically a devastating and career-ending injury. But a cutting-edge procedure is now available that could possibly get him and other horses back out on the track.

It's called Regenerative Stem Cell Therapy and for horses, it's a very new treatment option, only practiced since 2011.

One Missouri couple traveled six hours to Wichita to see if it would work on their horse, Deal the Aces, a twenty-year-old competitive quarter horse.

"He came in, he could hardly walk," said owner Charles Yates. "In fact, he was a three legged horse when he first came in."

Two months ago, Yates put the horse out for grazing. But Deal the Aces, better known as Ace, returned with a fractured tendon.

"It just tore me up," Yates said.

Yates and his wife Ila were told to put Ace out to pasture, but the couple knew that their champion horse wasn't ready to fold.

"I think the horse has got in him anywhere from two to five years left of barrel racing," Yates said.

They made the trip from Bethany, Missouri to Wichita, where Dr. Preston Hickman had the solution: A one day Adipose Regenerative Stem Cell procedure.

"It actually has the potential to give this guy a career back where it would be career-ending otherwise," Hickman said.

Topeka veterinarian Larry Snyder has seen the positive impact in his small animal practice.

"So far, I can honestly say that one hundred percent of the animals that we've treated have shown some improvement - some more than others," Snyder said.

The surgery is done with liposuction rather than a scalpel, so it's less invasive than older options.

"Considerable less trauma to the patient, less recovery time," Hickman said. "So far we've had great success."

The horse is sedated, fat is extracted and stem cells are separated and digested. Then, the stem cells are injected back into the injured area.

"Basically these are non-differentiated cells, so they have the ability to reproduce and reproduce whatever structure you put them next to," Hickman said.

The Yates are hoping that this procedure will get Ace dealing again.

"It will mean a lot to me," Yates said.

Because the procedure is so minimally-invasive, the Yates were able to head home the same day of the surgery. Vets say that the worst that can happen is nothing.

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