Equine Ameloblastoma: Rosie’s Story – Part 1

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Equine Ameloblastoma

This blog post series is purely a record of our journey with Rosie. It is not an in-depth look at the condition, nor are they intended to be used as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. Should your horse be showing signs of, or is diagnosed with, ameloblastoma please consult with your equine vet, surgeon and dentist.

These blog posts contain images that some people may find distressing, however I believe they are a valuable part of understanding the progression of the condition. Please feel free to scroll past the images and only read the text.

Why I’m Sharing Rosie’s Story
When Rose was first diagnosed there was very little information available to us from people who had elected to let the condition take its course. Most people either had the surgery or they had their horse put to sleep soon after diagnosis. Rosie did not wish to have the surgery and instead requested we ride it out with her. My promise to her was that I would share her journey so others may benefit.

Rosie: 15/08/2009 – 05/08/2022

What is Ameloblastoma
Most of the information I was able to find when Rose was first diagnosed referred to humans however the condition is, from what I have read, fairly similar across species. This is one of the most concise explanations I was able to find.

  • Ameloblastoma is a rare, noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops most often in the jaw near the molars. Ameloblastoma begins in the cells that form the protective enamel lining on your teeth.
  • The most common type of ameloblastoma is aggressive, forming a large tumor and growing into the jawbone. Treatment may include surgery and radiation. In some cases, reconstruction may be necessary to restore your teeth, jaw and facial appearance. Some types of ameloblastoma are less aggressive.
    (reference Mayo Clinic)

    Extract from Rosie’s Histology Report
    Diagnosis: Ameloblastoma.
    Comment: The histological assessment of these tissues reveals a tumour of odontogenic epithelium invading into the bone and associated with prominent haemorrhagic stroma. These are generally considered benign odontogenic tumours that may act as space occupying lesions within the jaw. The tumours are notorious for invasion of surrounding tissues including the bone in particular. Very rare cases may show transformation to squamous cell carcinoma and eventual distant spread. These are rare tumours but complete excision may be curative.

    Treatment of Equine Ameloblastoma
    At the time of Rosie’s diagnosis (September 2019) we were given three options.

    1. Surgical removal of the affected mandible and associate teeth, this required a few hours under general anesthesia, a week long stay in hospital post surgery and approximately three months being paddocked/stabled on her own to ensure full healing prior to being returned to the herd. Additionally regular proactive dental care would be required as the upper teeth would no longer have a lower grinding surface.

    2. No action, let the condition take its course. We were advised that if we took this option she had an expected life span of 12-18 months depending on how rapidly the tumour progressed. This option also presented the risk of catastrophic failure of the mandible, either by sustaining an impact trauma and fracturing or by the bone simply losing structural integrity and fracturing during regular use.

    3. Euthanasia. While this was something our vets knew we would not consider at this time, they were also aware that for many horse owners the cost and level of care required for either option 1 or 2 was not something everyone is able to meet.

      Introducing Rosie
      Miss Rosie, the most amicable little horse I’ve ever met, came into our lives in October 2012. An unexpected and unplanned addition to our family, her “dating photo” popped up in my Facebook feed and something inside me said stop scrolling.

      My husband Torben was working up north at the time so I flicked him a text saying something along the lines of “There’s a super cute little mare for sale that’s just popped up in my Facebook feed”. I gave him details of her age, breed, price and ‘my case’ to which he responded “Sounds good, go meet her”. I actually had to call him because I thought I was being punked!

      We were not planning on expanding our family of 5 horses to that of 6… our barn was already full! Sometimes though the universe has plans you just don’t know about. So I sent a message and made arrangements to go meet Rosie.

      At the time I met Rosie she was going by the name Shirley, simply due to the fact that her racing career was not going to take off and she had never been given a stable name so her racing name “Shirl’s Peanuts” was adjusted and adopted. Needless to say, one of the things I needed to do should she join our family was find her a much more suitable name.

      It only took two small rides and Torben meeting her once, plus a passed vet check and Rosie came home to live with us. A shy, sweet 3yr old thoroughbred who had absolutely no desire to run around a racetrack whatsoever!

      We took things slow and steady as Rose was what one would call a late bloomer, not terribly agile and could fall over her own feet just walking around the arena. We had many near misses when she’d trip while riding including one spectacular fall, which despite my skills as an event rider and being able to get in the back seat while she sorted out the front end did not help me when she decided she needed to “fix herself” by popping in a few bucks… so me, with no pedals and very little knitting promptly landed on the floor and then in hospital being scanned for what turned out to be a torn shoulder tendon. We put eventing on hold and focused on dressage.

      In early 2014, not long after my fall, I had a massive change in direction with my horses. This meant riding became an unimportant part of our relationship and connection and collaboration became our everything. It was at this point that Rosie started to shine!

      She found her voice and her feet and to my surprise became very, very agile with her favourite game being displaying her talent for aerial manoeuvres… think airs above the ground, she could do them all, with power and grace! Completely untrained and totally intrinsic in motivation.

      She became solid friends with Puffin our matriarch and rarely left her side. After Puffin crossed the rainbow bridge and Jackson took up the role of matrix holder Rosie stepped in as his second in command. It was around this time that her connection with Torben started to grow and I watched on as the two of them formed a bond that I was never able to forge with Rose… she was always destined to be his girl. The universe knew!

      Although I was her primary carer in both health and in sickness and she would always oblige my requests, her heart belonged to Torben. She would light up when he came to see her and sulk when he would go away for work or 4WD’ing. She would stand stock still for what seemed like hours while he removed bot eggs or loved on her but I would get about 3 minutes then she’d walk away… it did and still does make me giggle.

      She was always willing to work with my clients and had the ability to help people explore and process their emotions or trauma… a therapy horse if ever there was! She seemed to take on and transmute so much of what was happening around her, not just the people but the horses and even the land. She was so deeply connected to the earth, something that became extremely apparent as her condition progressed.


      1. I am so sorry for your loss but think I will be going through it myself soon as the big love in my life seems to have the same condition. It has been going on for a while, it was removed in 2015, but has grown back and the swelling is a lot larger than it was originally. I am organising a vet visit soon, a visit with the same vet who saw it last year, he is reluctant to do surgery again as the horse is now 19 and he told me he thinks he is too old for a general anesthetic

        • Elaine,
          I’m so sorry to hear about your boy and that it seems to have grown back. As with any type of tumour I guess there is always that chance. I can also understand the vets reluctance to put him through a GA surgery at 19. That said I have a mare who had a GA surgery at 19 although not one as long as or invasive as what’s required for ameloblastoma. Sending you tonnes of love and support as you navigate this space, if there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to reach out. You’re welcome to email at any time xx


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