A newspaper reporter’s phone call brought Beauty to the sanctuary in the summer of 2003. A reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer called us one Sunday afternoon. She was doing a story on an old, blind mare that had languished in a northern Kentucky animal control shelter for several months. The horse, named Beauty, had been impounded from a neglect situation.
The reporter wanted to know what it was like to care for blind horses. We told the reporter how wonderful these sweet animals are and how they can have a great quality of life.
Images open in a pop-up window.
We figured that once the article came out, the Kentucky shelter would get dozens of offers to adopt the blind horse. This was Kentucky horse country, after all. But we asked the reporter to tell the shelter that if they still couldn’t find anyone to take the mare after the article appeared, then we’d be willing to provide a home for her if they could get her to us in Montana.
The story came out the next morning. The headline said, “Blind mare needs new pasture – but few show interest in horse with obvious disability.” To our surprise, however, the article went on to say that Beauty had a home in Montana if only a way could be found to get her there.
At 6 a.m. the shelter’s phones started ringing off the hook with offers to help pay for Beauty’s trip to Montana. Then a generous couple named Ron and Mary Wolfe called to say that they could drive Beauty to Montana in their horse trailer.
At 7 p.m. Kentucky time the shelter director called us. She said, “Our phones have been ringing non-stop, I’ve done nothing all day except answer calls and I still haven’t returned all the messages. But we have the money for the trip, we have someone who can drive her out to you, and we just want to know: Are you serious about your offer?”
We said yes, of course! It turned out there were no good offers to adopt her locally, and everyone there was thrilled with the idea of Beauty going to a sanctuary with other blind horses.
Two weeks later, Ron and Mary Wolfe arrived one night with Beauty in their horse trailer. The next day, when we got to look at her for the first time in daylight, we were horrified to see her eyes. They were sunken and covered with what looked like scar tissue. She couldn’t even close her eyelids.
We took Beauty to our large animal vets at Bridger Veterinary Hospital in Helena. They think Beauty had suffered from a chronic dry eye condition that was never treated. Over time, her eyeballs ulcerated over with scar tissue, leaving her blind. It must have been excruciating while it happened, but they don’t believe she is in pain now. However, because she can’t close her eyelids, she can’t keep flies, dust and debris from getting in. So she wears a fly mask most of the time.
And her eyes continue to secrete “gunk” that runs down her face. In fact, she has scars on her cheeks where this gunk collected and dried to a hard crust. Her owner had rarely if ever washed her face, so the crust eventually left scars.
Our vets believe she would be a lot more comfortable if we removed her eyeballs and surgically closed her eyelids. The risk is not from the procedure itself but from putting an old horse like Beauty under anesthesia. Before making that decision, they suggest we wait until the weather gets cooler and she gains more weight. Then we’ll do another round of blood work, assess her condition, and decide what to do.
Like her eyes, Beauty’s teeth had long been neglected, interfering with her ability to eat properly. So our vets also did extensive dental work. Then we started this skinny girl on Equine Senior (a special pelleted grain packed with nutrition), gave her as much hay as she wanted, and watched her gain weight.
Now Beauty stands at her corral gate and nickers when she hears us coming with her Equine Senior. She loves to hang out with the other blind horses, especially her best friend, Lena. This sweet old mare may have been neglected for a long time, but now she’ll spend her final years getting the love and attention she deserves.
Update October 2004:
After a brave and determined struggle with kidney disease, our beloved Beauty finally left us for greener pastures in the sky. We lost her just before Labor Day weekend 2004.
When we came into the barn on her last morning, we found her down in her stall. A stroke overnight had left her paralyzed, but she was very much alive and alert. When Beauty heard us open the barn door, she raised her head up off the ground and nickered for us. We sat with her and held her head in our laps until our vets could arrive.
In her all too-brief year with us, she showed us both remarkable spirit and heart-warming affection. Even old and blind, she still enjoyed life every day.
It was a real privilege to care for her. Like so many of our disabled animals, Beauty was an inspiration for everything we do. We have not taken her page off the Web site yet because she is still very much a part of us.