Melanie Eberhardt had owned Lynn’s Vision (“Bubba”) for two years when her beloved horse seriously injured his eye. This is the final segment of his story.
ALL THAT WORK…WHAT NOW?
Bubba has been confined to a dark stall with his eye stitched closed. Everyone at the barn has been helping with his treatment–a complex combination of four to five drugs and Bubba’s own blood. It is administered every three hours directly onto his eyeball through a tube that has been inserted through his skull. It’s been 10 weeks.
Everyone has fallen into a routine at the barn. No one asks “how much longer,” we just keep doing. After work one evening I stop by the barn to take Bubba for an evening walk. As I reach the barn door, the owner of the farm calls from the back porch, “Get your breeches!” I turn and stare. I can’t figure out what she’s saying to me. “Get your breeches!” she repeats. I start crying.
The vet had been out that afternoon to check Bubba’s eye. The blood vessels had rejuvenated enough to stabilize his eye. It was not going to rupture. Everyone’s hard work had saved Bubba’s eye. But could he see?
I had to think about that later. Right now, Bubba had been cleared for a short turn out in the riding ring to stretch his legs. My OTTB has only been off the track for two years. He’s used to moving but he’s spent the last 10 weeks virtually standing in a stall. Still wearing his headgear, his eye still protected by the hard plastic cup, we walked Bubba to the riding ring and unclipped the lead rope.
He stood about a nanosecond then took off like the Tasmania Devil! I never saw a creature so happy to move and boy did he move. Exuberant and expressive with every twist and buck. He bucked and kicked and rolled, and ran, and spun around and did the same thing in the other direction for about 30 minutes. He exploded with the sheer joy of movement. I bawled like a baby. I was so happy for him.
It would take nearly a year for the grey cloud in Bubba’s eye to dissipate. As the blood vessels continued to grow, they compressed the damaged tissue to something about the size of a dime. His vision is slightly compromised–he has a dime size cloudy spot on his eye. The bad spot has little impact on our riding, training and showing goals. AND the important point is that he can see!
ADVICE FROM THE WEARY
I’m grateful to Horse Nation for allowing me to share my story. We take care of our horses to the best of our abilities but accidents happen. And when they do, it’s very difficult to think clearly in order to make quick decisions that may have a lifetime impact on your horse. I learned a few things that might help you should you find yourself in a similar unfortunate situation.
- IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
Understand your horse and determine which treatment best suits HIM. Is your horse one who can tolerate extended treatments and confinement? Is he generally healthy or are there other health variables to factor? Should the worst occur, how would your horse be able to manage with change?
- STAY IN THE MOMENT
Don’t get mired down about things that you can’t change. Don’t fester over “Why did this happen?” and don’t make yourself crazy worrying about the future and the “What Ifs”. It’s a big waste of time and energy. Focus on the moment. What can you do right now to comfort your horse? Our horse’s feed off our energy so keep yours positive and constructive. It will pay off!
- DO EVERYTHING THE VET TELLS YOU TO DO – EVERYTHING!
If the vet tells you to medicate your horse every few hours, you better medicate your horse every few hours. Never skip a treatment, not once!
- YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE!
If treating your horse is too much to handle, get help. Your barn friends and management are your support. Ask for help or hire help. Ask your vet to recommend a place where you might move your horse, “horse assisted living,” until his treatment is completed. There are options so don’t make yourself miserable trying to do it all alone. Your horse is the one who will suffer from your failed efforts.
- HOPE FOR THE BEST BUT PREPARE FOR THE WORST
Recovery is not a clear path–you’ll encounter set backs and obstacles. Hopefully in the end, your horse will recover. But that’s not a guarantee. Be prepared to change your plans and goals for your horse. Maybe your top-level eventer will need to become a companion horse. There’s nothing wrong with that. Change is simply change.
When my thoroughbred, Lynn’s Vision, raced, his earnings were donated to a non-profit that funded cancer treatment of the eyes for children. Shortly after retirement, Bubba suffers his own serious eye injury. He undergoes two-and-a-half months of unrelenting treatment and multiple surgeries. His eye and vision are saved thanks to our many friends at Bits & Bytes Farm, excellent veterinary care and even Bubba’s positive demeanor. And don’t think the karmic coincidence with the eye thing goes without acknowledgment!
I hope none of you ever have to experience a serious horse injury, but if you do, may your outcome turn out as well as ours! Go Ride!
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