About This Project

An unacceptable number of otherwise healthy horses are euthanized each year from lower limb ailments for which there is no satisfactory treatment. Amputation and prosthetic use is becoming available in small animals but this option remains elusive for horses. By biomechanically testing prosthetic implants for horses, we will be taking the first step towards developing new treatments for what is currently not treatable.

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What is the context of this research?

Since the days of Neanderthals, prosthetics have been used to compensate for limb loss. As time wore on, technology became more advanced. So did prosthetics. Materials became lighter and stronger; advances in surgery enabled better amputations; and a surge in electronics has enabled bionic body parts.

Animals have benefited from prosthetic advancement over the years as well. Cats, dogs, sheep, goats, turtles, dolphins and on and on have all been fit with prostheses. However, larger animals such as the horse pose more of a challenge for prosthetic intervention due to their sheer size and often unruly temperament.

I believe that a prosthetic leg attached by insertion into the bone will circumvent many of the problems that face the horse with regards to amputation and prosthetic intervention.

What is the significance of this project?

Every year thousands of horses die due to trauma or disease of the lower limb for which there is no available treatment. Amputation and the successful use of prosthetics are becoming more widely available in small companion animals, but this option remains largely elusive for the horse. Until now, equine amputation and prosthetic development has been in a state of rare and often short-term successes at the expense of well-intentioned owners.

I'm conducting this research to realize a dream of not only saving horses, but helping to develop a technology that will translate across a spectrum of research fields and clinical settings. This project will be the first in a series that will bring the equine industry one step closer to a novel, new and innovative technology that will save lives!

What are the goals of the project?

I will be biomechanically testing custom fabricated titanium PerFitZ implants to see how strong they are in equine cadaver bones. I will gather data such as how the bone/implant construct breaks, where it breaks, if it breaks, how long it took to break and at what force did it break at.

Currently, there is no hard data available about the viability, durability and longevity of prosthetic implants in horses. There needs to be an incremental approach to show the veterinary community how long these implants will last and how strong they are. That is what I aim to do with this study.


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Now for the fun part! Custom PerFiTz implants and associated installation gadgets are expensive. We have the bones, we have the facilities AND equipment to test the bone/implant construct...but don't have the implants! It sucks not having the ONE THING you really need to complete a project!

In order to make a custom anything, you need to know what that "anything" looks like so that it will fit just right. In this case, that "anything" is a custom implant made just for one specific bone in a horse's leg. How do we know what that bone looks like in 3D? We take a CT scan of it! We will need one CT scan for each bone.

I wouldn't be here asking if I wasn't scrappy. That's why I already added in the 8% fees that Experiment will take out. I get it...they have to make some money too so that us wacky researchers can continue to seek answers to crazy questions and keep this silly world on a path of enlightenment...and in my case keep some pretty horses from imminent death.

Endorsed by

While I unfortunately cannot comment on the science behind Niki's project, I can comment on her tenacity and ability to see this project complete! Before she was a Ph.D. student, before she had her second Bachelor's in Molecular Biology, and before she knew how she was going to do it, she told me that this project was what she wanted to achieve. By contributing to her project, you are ensuring Niki's success and that the results of this promising research project--and a host of future applications--are available to the world!

Meet the Team

Niki Marie H
Niki Marie H

Team Bio

As a kid I knew I wanted to work in the veterinary field, so I got a degree in music. Never really good at science or math I conceded defeat until 2005 when my life changed forever. I "woke up" when my beloved golden retriever of 13 years died with his head in my hands. The next week I applied to go back to school and then fate had its way with me. Wanting to be a veterinarian I applied to and was rejected from 10 vet schools.

Determined to work in the veterinary field, I went the route of PhD and prosthetist. I did this because I knew I'd never be bored, every patient would present a new challenge and I already knew I didn't like selling cars or working in retail management. Most importantly I thought (still do) it would be fun. I believe you shouldn't do it if it isn't fun and if you have to do it, then make it fun. A lot of people think that I'm crazy...but isn't it the crazies that do great things? If you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to get it. That's why I'm here.

Additional Information

My LinkedIn page so you really know I'm for real!

* Cited references and boring scientific jargon available upon request! (I have lots.)

Here are some fun pictures of my work in prosthetics!

Here are a few other animals with prosthetics that I did not treat:

Project Backers

  • 73Backers
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