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Turning an Eye Loss…

by Cat Needham 7 months ago in horse
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Into a Halloween Gain

Avast ye Matey!

When I found out my Quarter Horse Rolo had Uveitis, glaucoma and a cataract that meant his left eye was going to go completely blind, necessitating a removal of it, I was stunned, even though the eye’s constricted pupil and unnatural lightening had been going on for several months. I winced in sympathy when Dr. Nunnery, the Equine Eye Specialist, told me that in addition to the loss of sight, Rolo was also probably in pain. I stroked his soft eyebrow ridge, and kissed him. I nodded bravely to her and shrugged when we decided the best course of action would be an enucleation. Once she had left, however, I walked Rolo back to his paddock, removed his halter, and then sagged against the barn wall, clutching his lead rope, sobbing.

Not my beautiful, perfect Rolo, I thought. Rolo, a former stud horse, who was gelded late and who retained a Stallion’s proud carriage with his golden Dun-striped coat, elicited gasps of marvel at his glamorous appearance. I didn’t want my fiercely regal boy to feel pity and sad energy when people saw his round empty crater. “What happened to him?” I imagined would be the first piteous question upon new people meeting him, to say nothing of him potentially losing his top dog status in his herd. I also worried he’d become so disconcerted as to become a danger to ride, much less show in our local Dressage schooling shows.

I also had my own personal feelings of inadequacy to wrestle with. Blind in my own left eye since birth, I had a similar operation, and although I was lucky enough to avail myself of the finest artisans and doctors in Washington D.C., I remember being teased and feeling different and afraid when I was little. My own inadequacy was right at face-level, writ large by my beloved son’s giant cloudy eyeball, which turned an ironically very pretty Robin’s egg blue as the weeks passed. I was also selfishly nervous about my own personal safety; I relied on Rolo to support me on my weaker left side, and now it would literally be the (half) blind leading one another. Could I rise to the occasion without my crutch?

Rolo had his operation, with me at his side. It was undertaken in a stall under local anesthesia. The eye was stitched closed and then the whole thing excised; I held his halter whispering soothing words. When I felt his head being tugged, knowing at that second his poor diseased orb was getting cut out, I had to concentrate so as not to have a panic attack and faint. I’m not sure if I had residual post traumatic stress from my own operation, but I pulled myself together and matched my breathing with his. After, he had a bandage wrapped around his head, under a fly mask. Like the consummate gentleman he is, he waited for the whole thing to be over and us out of his stall before urinating. When he nonchalantly went back out to the round bale, giving his customary Tony Soprano “respect me or else” swagger, it was like nothing had changed; his gelding buddies deferred to their King and moved out of his way. Remarkably, his position in what we call his “Bro herd” of geldings didn’t flag one iota. Over the next months after being cleared to ride, he had a few random spooks here and there, but once he got used to things, he relied on his ears and my guidance to get him through. In fact, if anything, he seemed peppier, not surprising now that he was no longer in pain. I was inordinately proud of us both.

I decided to have some fun with his new state, and I ordered him a special custom leather eye patch (you really CAN get everything on Etsy!). Well, the eye patch was so snazzy, Rolo and I now dress up together as pirates for Halloween and fun costume contests. He seems to really love it and is so handsome and swashbuckling in his patch, hat, and our matching parrots. I cannot be more grateful for this gracious, strong, kind partner and friend. We take care of each other, even when we’re pretending to pillage and make lesser riders walk the plank!


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Cat Needham

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