Bushwacker recovering from successful surgery

Bushwacker could be back in the game as soon as March.


  • Dr. Gary Warner removed a bone fragment from Bushwacker’s rear-right fetlock.
  • The surgery went so well that another fragment was removed from his rear-left fetlock as a preventative measure.
  • Bushwacker is up and walking, and will return home in about two weeks.

In This Article

ELGIN, Texas - Bushwacker underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to remove bone fragments from the fetlock joint in both his back right and left legs.

The injury to the World Champion's back right leg was confirmed last week by Dr. Gary Warner.

According to Warner, Tuesday's procedure went so well that he decided also to remove a small fragment from his left fetlock in order to "prevent any further problems from occurring." To this point, the second injury had not affected Bushwacker or caused any noticeable discomfort.

Warner said, "The surgery went very well, and he responded well."

Within a few hours, Bushwacker was up and walking in a pen, eating, and drinking water.

'The surgery went very well, and he responded well.'

Warner said that while the injury is common among racehorses, it less common among bucking bulls. He had previously performed the procedure on 15 to 20 bulls. However, this was the first time he was able to do an arthroscopic procedure, which is less invasive than conventional methods. He was able to enter the joint through what he called a keyhole or puncture wound.

The lack of a larger incision means Bushwacker could be back in competition in two months rather than the four to five months recovery would have taken if he also had to heal from extra tissue damage.

A fetlock joint is shaped like a human knuckle, but is larger, with two toes coming out of it rather than one finger.

Bushwacker is believed to have flexed the joint farther than the normal range of motion. In doing so, he fractured a small piece of bone that is comparable to the bone after the first knuckle on a human.


Location of the fetlock joint.

He will remain at the Elgin Veterinary Hospital for 10 to 14 days before returning to Kent Cox's ranch outside of Stephenville, Texas, where he'll undergo continued rehabilitation in preparation for his return to the Built Ford Tough Series.

"Whatever Dr. Warner thinks I need to do, that's what I'm going to do," said Cox, who cares for and hauls Bushwacker for his owners Julio Moreno and Richard Oliveira. "Whatever Dr. Warner wants done, that's what'll get done."

Warner has asked that Bushwacker rest, exercise and receive supplements "to encourage and promote the healing of the cartilage and get him into full competitive shape."

"Cattle have an amazing ability to heal themselves, if you give them a little bit of help," Warner added.

Cox said that Bushwacker is "in the best hands he can possibly be in here. I had all the confidence in the world in Dr. Warner and his staff here. It gives you a feeling of ease when you have the best people in the world working on him."

'He's got an exceptional level of intelligence and seems to know what we want to do before we do it. I'm impressed with his athletic prowess and his intelligence.'

Bushwacker is expected to regain his status as the top bull in the PBR. He was scheduled to make his 2012 Built Ford Tough Series debut in Anaheim, Calif., and would have been part of the first Top 15 matchup in Sacramento, Calif.

Moreno is hopeful he can compete three or four times before the summer break, and then return in the fall for the home stretch before the PBR World Finals.

In 2011, Bushwacker competed in 12 BFTS events, the Finals and two Touring Pro events.

In his first outing at the Finals, Bushwacker was marked a career-high 48.5 points in Round 3 before clinching the title with a 47.5-point effort in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. Seven other times last year he was marked 46 points or higher, and never less than 45.25 points.

Only three riders got beyond 4 seconds in 2011, with Dustin Elliott coming the closest to making the whistle. He held on 6.57 seconds in Pueblo, Colo., before coming down short of the whistle.

Bushwacker has been unridden since Thiago Paguioto rode him for 89.75 points at the 2009 World Finals two years ago.

"I can tell you that I've been in practice for 32 years now and worked with a lot of bovines, a lot of bovine athletes, a lot of breeding stock, and this is definitely the smartest beast," Warner said. "He's got an exceptional level of intelligence and seems to know what we want to do before we do it. I'm impressed with his athletic prowess and his intelligence."

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