“Diamond Night” better known as The Black Stallion broke his leg in several places and most veterinarians would have put him to sleep. Dr. Bullock, saved his life with a daring surgery and used Pulsating Electro Magnetic Field Therapy which completely healed his leg in record time. When a horse breaks a leg, the usual treatment is termination. But when that horse is a well trained movie star, a few more doors are open.
Diamond Night, one of three horses who played the title role in the film The Black Stallion, was given new life through the fast action of his trainer, Corky Randall and Dr. James E. Bullock. This five-year-old Arabian stallion was training on Tuesday, June 29 for an upcoming movie. According to trainers, he went up into the air and came down again, losing his footing and continuing to fall onto his right shoulder. They heard a loud crack resembling a rifle shot. When Diamond Night stood up his left front leg was dangling. The Black stallion’s trainer immediately called his veterinarian Bullock’s veterinary hospital in Newhall, CA. “When I arrived, he (Diamond Night) was standing in a round pen where he had been training,” said Dr. Bullock. “X-rays revealed that the leg was shattered at the distal section – a transverse fracture at the distal aspect and numerous pieces at the proximal aspect. The ulna was broken – a transverse fracture through the ulna.” After examining the x-rays, Dr. Bullock decided to go ahead and do the surgery. “We knew a bone plate wouldn’t work,” he said. “The horse had not made any type of the compound fracture through the skin, so we still had a chance as far as infection goes.
We stabilized the horse and put a temporary support splint and cast on him and spun the horse up so that he wouldn’t put any weight on the leg.” This particular spot couldn’t be cast because the fracture was about three inches below the elbow, explained Dr. Bullock. He said in order to cast it, one would have to place a joint below the fracture. In this case, he said it would merely act as a fulcrum and that different breaks would usually occur after that. “This is why this type of fracture is rarely attempted,” he said. “Also, most horses will not tolerate a sling. Diamond Night is an extremely intelligent horse and did very well in a sling. He used it to rest in and when he was not tired, he stood.
We anticipated he would be in a sling for a minimum of six weeks.” Dr. Bullock spent all Tuesday night with the owner of a machine shop trying to design the type of apparatus they would need to accomplish the surgery. Assembly of the equipment started at 7:30 Wednesday morning and at 3 o’clock that afternoon, surgery began. The stallion was down for 5 1/2 hours plus a recovery of 2 1/2 hours. “We applied a Kirschner apparatus to the radius to stabilize the fracture,” he said. “This may have been done before, but it hadn’t been published, so we didn’t have a lot to go on.” “For the first two days he had the support cast. After that, we just left it open.” On Friday, Dr. Bullock started the PEMF therapy.
He explained that Diamond Night got two, 30 minute sessions per day. He slid a coil up over the fracture. The magnetic field surrounding the fracture is increased, along with circulation and oxygenation. “PEMF therapy increases oxygenation of the tissue and increases ionic exchange of the bone which potentiates healing.” said Dr. Bullock. “The horse has no feeling or sensation of the therapy. But the pain goes away and the fracture can heal. PEMF therapy reduced the time the horse had to spend in a sling.” Arrangements were also made with a certified welder to develop a walker for Diamond Night. Dr. Bullock said they walked him while he was still in a sling to prevent problems occurring with the other legs and muscles and subsequent pneumonia. As of July 22nd, X-rays showed the bones healing and that Diamond Night was doing very well.