Well we took Doc's right eye out today. He was a champ throughout the procedure. We did it here on the farm with him standing and all in all it was smooth going. He is resting quietly now and will stay in for a few days until he heals.
The good news is that the procedure went well and by all accounts the cancer has not invaded his bone of the eye socket.
The bad news is that in the spring we have to take out his left eye as well. We had hoped we would be able to buy more time and possibly not have to do this but the angels were not completely on our side with this one.
Once he heals some I will start to ride him again and build his trust riding him without his right eye. He already trust me tremendously so we hope this will continue. I still plan to ride him after we remove the other eye too. So soon I will have a totally blind horse, a new one for me. He rides beautifully for me now so we plan to continue our love affair.
We will build him his own 4 board turn out next to the barn and where he can touch noses with some of our other horses but be completely safe. Thankfully he has never ever tested any fencing. Doc is only 9. I suppose if he were an old horse I might make the decision to put him down but I owe it to this horse to do all I can to continue his make him as happy and comfortable as possible.
It has been an emotional day for me. I pretty much held it together until I spoke with my husband to give him the details.
I should add that the NYPD mounted patrol, their auxillary and people we did not even know have been simply so supportive. We never asked for any donations for this surgery and yet people sent money, even kids at an afterschool program in the city took up a collection and the auxillary is sending funds to cover his surgery and care. I will be writing a letter to Mayor Blumberg expressing my graditude to the mounted department and auxillary. They really do care about their horses long after they have given them to new homes.
Thanks everyone for all of your support. It is so appreciated.
Glad to hear the procedure went well.
I am sure Doc will adapt well to the new situation. Most animals accomadate disabilities pretty well. I have owned deaf cats, blind cats, and a three legged cat and they all seemed to overcome their disabilities.
I know that John Lyons use to even show his horse that was blind. It is a matter of the trust issue, so keep on working on that.
Other stories I have heard is that if Doc has a pasture mate, that horse will sense Doc's disability and stay near him.
Other thoughts are putting a bell or bells on his pasture mate so Doc can always hear where his friend is, this will keep him comfortable.
Good Luck and keep us posted.
Bless you for not giving up on him and taking the extra step. You will have a special place in heaven for taking care of a special needs horse.
Great suggestions SUE. Good luck with Doc. I knew of a few horses with eyes that had to be removed due to cancer. They all continued with their regimens after some adjusting. Horses are amazing though. They seem to be able to adapt. Hugs to you for taking care of your big guy.
I second a companion with bells on his collar. Maybe a mini if a full sized horse is too much trouble. But I think there has to be some chemistry between the two for it to work so you may have to test them together to ensure they both are happy with their "jobs". I wouldn't want to isolate your guy, that sounds a little lonely to me.
I am so glad to hear it is going well so far. I am sorry you both are going through this. Don't lose heart, though. I keep my horse with a blind mare. She is completely blind yet, but very very close. She probably sees less than we think and senses most everything. her owner has an amazing bond with her, and did before she went blind, so she has thr trust you have and are working on. She can ride this mare anywhere, at any speed, alone or in company. She lives in both a 4 board 12 acre field and a small 3 acre 4 board lot. 4 board seems to work the best because she can find it and doesn't feel like she can test it. She touches it and it is solid. She has moved to this farm since going blind, so she has successfully learned a completely new environment. She does have a babysitter gelding that she has been with for a few years. She has gotten to know my gelding and LOFFS him. Trust me, sight or no sight, she can find him on 12 acres. I never feel sorry for her, she has a wonderful life. She does get scrapes here and there from testing and bouncing off stuff, but she is happy. She is only a couple of years older than your boy.
I hope the same for you two, a long and happy life. Thank you for being such a good owner and taking such good care of him. It takes a strong person to work so hard for a challenged animal.
Thanks everyone. I had a good cry last night in the shower and for once asked God, why. I have been through many, many hardships in my life and have not asked "why" this time I had to. Even When Miracle's dam died when he was 10 hours old I did not ask "why" and I raised that orphaned stallion to the wonderful horse he is today.
I know He will show me the way and Doc and I will be fine. We have other "sight challenged" animals but they for the most part are small (blind kitties we have raised). We do own a mare who has no real vision in one eye.
Doc and I do have a wonderful bond and it will grow. I am not the least bit afraid of the challenge ahead of us. I guess I am mourning the loss of this magestic beast's eyes. I know he will have his other senses and they will be enhanced. It's will be a learning curve for both of us.
He will have a turnout buddy in his new area in the spring. And Sue that's a great suggestion about the footing-thanks
We had already decided to have one of the horses, who is his current buddy, wear a bell now so he is used to hearing it. As always we will move forward.
I'm so glad things went well and Doc is handling it like a trooper. I have a totally blind mare. If they are trusting sensible horses, they can have very good lives
I do have a couple suggestions that come from personal experience though.
It will be much easier on Doc if he learns the boundaries of his paddock while he still has some sight. Even so, there will be times when he needs to be 'reminded' where the fence is. It was helpful to Candi to have a sort of transition zone before the fence. I've heard of folks who put gravel or plow up along fence lines. I let the weeds grow because I'm a Georgia redneck don'tcha know Also, if/when he hits the fence it's liable to be because of panic (trust me, it will happen). I'd suggest looking into flexible fencing like Ramm or Centaur.
As for a companion.... Yes, the other horses do sense their disability and they aren't always kinder because of it. In fact, after more than three years I have just found the horse that doesn't take advantage of Candi's disability. Even her old friends would be mean to Candi at some point in the pasture. That includes the old gelding who loved everybody and Wonderpony who was always at the bottom of the herd and as gentle a soul as you would ever hope to know. Ponies can be the meanest - they often have a hidden need to be boss.
Most of the time it happened at feeding time. The beastie would either bully her when it was time to come in, or run her away from her feed/hay. Because she couldn't read their body language anymore, they often resorted to getting physical. That meant she just couldn't relax in her own pasture.
Teach Doc a few voice commands that will make life easier. "Whoa" and "up" are the two I use for Candi. She'll whoa on command no matter where she is - trotting in the pasture, etc. I use the up command to tell her to lift her feet - grade changes on trails, step ups in the barn and onto the trailer, etc.
Good luck with Doc. He's a lucky guy to have you and if he's anything like my Candi, you're lucky to have him. It will be a big responsibility, but also a rewarding one
One other thing from our experience - hot wire. If you can avoid it, at least on his fence, that's a good idea. This mare had it at one point. When she hits it by mistake, just trying to get her bearings, it starts a serious panic. Not at all worth it, actually started one panic that sent her through the fence. The BO's at the time thought it would be better to keep her off the fence, but sometimes she just likes to touch stuff to kind of check and make sure it's where she though it was. Beastie had a good point - any of that fencing appears solid and feels solid on investigation but would give, especially for such a big boy. When this mare gets to uneven ground of any kind we tell her "easy". She does great downhill, but trips some going uphill.
The fact that my boy pins his ears at her or threatens her and she doesn't respond works great. As far as he knows she's just not afraid of him and he gives up. She will spin and kick if threatened, and he knows better than to fight a kicker, he moves too slow. He is actually pretty gentle with her. He will turn and bite another horse, but with her he pins his ears and instead of taking a chunk he just sort of pushes on her a little with his mouth closed. He does get a bit frustrated when she's in season and backs up and tries to pee on his head while he's grazing!! Her babysitter gelding actually gets more frustrated with her than mine does. Mine has only been with her a few months, and the babysitter has been on duty several years! She is a mare, after all!!
Thanks Beastieslave for the comments. Yes, we plan on getting him into the "new" paddock before we remove the left eye.
He is top banana in his current pasture and I honestly don't see that changing. We actually have to take him out at feeding time b/c he's the one pushing down the line to see if the next pan of food is better than his!
We will watch the interactions closely when he returns to his current pasture.
I did find out that his original cancer was in his left eye, hence no third eyelid now. So in a sense it "bought" Doc 5 years without cancer returning.
He's an extra special boy. Maybe someday you'll see us on Animal Planet or something like that on a show about amazing animals.
I read in a book that these people who had a blind horse put mulch or something in a strip along the inside of the fence, it was several feet wide, so their mare could always tell when she was getting close. Worked for them.
Oh, and remember not to trim the whiskers on his face... he'll be using them to find things.
Best wishes for you and your guy!
"Uh, if you're going to try that, shouldn't you unplug it first?"
I'm so sorry but it's going to be okay.
A friend has a completely blind mare that she trail rides and people are amazed when told this mare sees only dark. She knows step up, step down, big step, and step, step step, which means take careful steps one at a time until I stop telling you to. They ride some rather rough trails and I'm awed whenever I watch them. This mare is far less spooky than she was when she could see and trusts my friend completely. It's beautiful to see. If your boy doesn't know commands like these it probably would be a good thing to teach them to him now. My friends mare has a large paddock with trees in it and she gallops all around and knows exactly where the trees, her shelter, etc. are. Fools a lot of people.
I swear Candi has her paddock and the big pasture mapped out in her head. It's amazing She knows where the fence is, where each tree is, where the gates are.... The guys who work at the farm swear she can see - even though I've told them about the opthamologists' findings and the fact that one eyeball is gone and the other is shriveled up. Anyone who watched her trotting around would think she could see.
Candi doesn't need the transition zone near the fence for everyday living, but I like to think it might help in panic situations. Those are the times that make me worry. A few weeks ago we had a huge thunderstorm and I was at the barn when several lightning bolts hit the rods on the equipment barn. Candi is more nervous in the barn, but she did get spooked in her paddock and ran into the fence. The fence was fine, but she needed stitches on her nose. We're getting ready to replace the livestock wire fence around her paddock with Centaur!
Just an update that Doc is doing very well today and back to his usual self, not that he wasn't before.
He's still in a stall, mostly b/c we had 30+ MPH winds here today-he's normally in 24/7 turnout with the big run in with the boys.
We plan on handwalking him tomorrow around to let him get used to only having one eye now, and the "good" one is not that good either before we turn him back in with his buddies.
I am thankful for the stories from everyone, it give me the determination to do even more with/for him. We have a plan now and while no journey is linear in nature, we know we can weather this storm, just like the others.
There are many here who can offer great advice. In fact - I know Lori from Sunkissed has gotten more than her share of horses with the same issues as yours. She, and others who have had to deal with this, will be a fount of wisdom for you.