It sounds like the plot of a heartwarming horse movie, but it’s for real: A 13-year-old Wisconsin girl is on track to show her completely blind horse in the upcoming State Fair.
The horse, Skip, is a 27-year-old Palomino gelding who had one eye removed in 2010 and the other in 2012 after developing glaucoma. Both eye sockets were stitched shut, with a ball placed in each one to keep them from collapsing.
In deciding to go through with the surgery, the horse’s young owner, Victoria Czech, accepted full responsibility for the horse’s care.
According to a story in the Sheboygan Press,
Veterinarian Joel Mayberry of Chippewa Veterinary Clinic near Chippewa Falls was impressed with the Czechs’ decision to save the horse.
“It’s pretty rare — I can’t say we’ve ever done that before,” Mayberry said, adding that he didn’t do the surgery. “It takes a lot of commitment from the owner, and that’s a good thing. Not many people would do it.”
Skip adapted well to his blindness, navigating around his pasture by memory. Still, Victoria wasn’t sure what to expect when she tried riding him.
“I was wondering how he’d do–I didn’t know if he would trot. I was scared to get on him,” she said. “He acted like nothing had even changed.”
Victoria and Skip competed successfully before his surgery. Victoria notes that although Skip is a bit jumpier than he used to be, he is fine at shows.
At the upcoming Northern Wisconsin State Fair, Skip will compete in a variety of classes ranging from showmanship to western pleasure and trail walking.
It’s not the first time a completely blind horse has returned to the show ring.
Here’s a video of Goodbye Little Town (Smokey), a 22-year-old dressage horse who has been blind from cataracts since age 8, competing at Second Level at DevonWood Equestrian Center in Sherwood, OR.
Sadly, Smokey passed away in 2011, but his life touched many people. His owner, Angie Egberg, remembers him on her website:
Without warning, my beloved gelding was to spend the rest of his life without sight. He adapted exceptionally well and I made it my goal to keep him as happy and independent as possible. There are many people who believe that a blind horse cannot have a comfortable, happy life. There are even more who believe that a blind horse can no longer be a riding partner and are really only to live out their life as a pasture pet.
Thankfully, these ideas never crossed my mind and Smokey continued on as one of my best and favorite riding horses. He is the most inspirational horse I will likely ever meet. Through all the unfortunate twists of fate that life has handed him, he has always pulled through with remarkable resilience.