So why the long tongue? Horse has pioneering surgery to remove melon-sized tumour on her jaw

By Anna Edwards

A horse has been saved by pioneering surgery which removed her jaw to cut out a rare melon-sized tumour.

Paul Newby, 33, was devastated when he discovered his beloved six-year-old horse Star had the rare form of cancer in her mouth.

After taking her for a series of tests, he was told the showjumping champion had ameloblastoma of the mandible - a rare tumour in her bottom jaw.

What a Star! The horse's life was saved by pioneering surgery after owner Paul Newby discovered a melon-sized tumour on her jaw

Determined not to give up hope on his steed, Paul’s vet Kathy Uprichard of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, contacted surgeons at Glasgow University who offered to carry out a delicate and dangerous operation to remove Star’s bottom jaw and take out the tumour.

The horse spent two weeks being looked after by the surgeons at Glasgow University where the pioneering operation was carried out.

Paul, of Sunderland, said in January he started noticing a swelling around her mouth but thought it was an abscess or a bruise, but it soon swelled to the size of an apple.

Vets took a biopsy and discovered it was cancer.

'I was convinced I was going to lose her,' Paul said.

'I was told I had two choices. I could either leave it, but I was told her days would be numbered, or go to Glasgow and have the operation.

'It was a gamble because there was still a massive risk with the operation because she might not have pulled through, but I had to go for it.'

On the mend: Paul Newby allowed surgeons from Glasgow to operate on his champion showjumper, making her the fifth horse in the world to have the pioneering operation

Paul took Star 165 miles from Sunderland to Glasgow where she was only the fifth horse in the world to undergo the risky operation.

Last September skilled surgeons spent four hours with the horse on the operating table as they carefully removed the tumour and lower jaw.

Reconstructive surgery was then carried out to stretch the skin from her mouth underneath the jaw to prevent it from drooping.

The cost of the treatment was £7,000 but Paul only had to pay £2,500 for this as the surgeons used Star as a ‘case study’ students could learn from.

Despite the dangers, Star pulled through and is now back at her stables in Whitburn, Sunderland, where she is recovering.

Paul, who started riding when he was ten, said: 'This is such a huge relief because I honestly thought Star was going to die.

'She is only the fifth horse in the world to have this surgery and when they actually removed the tumour it was the size of a melon.

'When I saw pictures of it I couldn’t believe how big it was. If she hadn’t been operated on it would have just kept growing and growing.'

Paul has started riding Star again, who has won trophies in showjumping including a competition just weeks before her operation.

He hopes to enter her into competitions again this summer.

He said: 'She was only a young horse and had a lot of potential.

'I had to give her a chance and she has recovered unbelievably well.

'I am so grateful to my vet Kathy and the surgeons at Glasgow because without them she probably would not be here now.'



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