Our beautiful blind mare Lena made it to her 31st year but no farther. She was the first disabled animal we ever took in, back in 2000 on our ranch in Montana, and she led us to take in many more blind horses over the years. In the end, more than two decades later, she was the last one.
She had been losing weight in the past several months and didn’t have the same appetite she once did. We worried about her going into another long, cold winter like that. Our vet did a full blood panel and everything looked great. That was perplexing because she wasn’t maintaining her body condition, so we were hoping to find some answers in the blood work.
Then, a few weeks ago, Lena suddenly developed a severe case of lymphangitis, which caused her left rear leg to swell up dramatically. The swelling also involved her mammary tissue and lower abdomen. Our vet provided us with the necessary antibiotics, ointments, and leg wraps to treat her. The swelling came down overall, but her pastern and hock remained swollen and painful, despite the treatment.
She became lame in that leg and didn’t want to move because of the discomfort. She would stand there, trying not to bear weight on it, in effect a three-legged horse. There wasn’t anything more we could do to help, and we didn’t want her to suffer. So we made the emotionally wrenching decision to euthanize her.
Lena had been with us from the very beginning, as I mentioned, and she had helped us define our mission of focusing on disabled animals. Year in and year out, she had been there with us, always a constant in our lives. Every day for 23 years, there was Lena. So losing her was like losing a part of ourselves, too. A lot of our history was represented in this one lovely animal.
So will we have any more blind horses in the future? It is unlikely at this point because our large-animal vet practice has since closed, as of September 1st, leaving northern New Hampshire with literally no equine veterinary services. (There is also no veterinary care now for goats, sheep, or beef cattle … just dairy cows. This is a sudden, very real veterinary crisis for this region, and there is no solution in sight.) I’m sure you can understand that we would not want to take in any animal that we cannot provide veterinary care for. So for now, for the first time in 23 years, we don’t have any horses and don’t expect to take in any for the foreseeable future. As sad as that is, we are still so grateful that Lena made it this far with us!
(Photo of Lena taken in the early 2000s by Amber Chenoweth.)