Since the release of my last book, Let the Blind Horse Lead, I've had several people ask me more about Billy. I thought I'd share a bit more of his story here:
Billy, a blue roan Quarter Horse gelding, was a ranch horse in Wyoming for the first 10+ years of his life. We purchased him from South Dakota in October of 2020. Not long after we brought him home, as I started to ride him around our property, I noticed he was quite anxious at both dawn and dusk when the shadows were long and light was changing. As I got more familiar with him, I noticed cataracts in both his eyes. Our vet, Dr. Beckman, came out to check him and diagnosed him with cataracts and also Eveitis, which is a form of inflammation in the eye which affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall. Over the next few months, his eyesight continued to worsen and we took Billy to an equine eye specialist, Dr. Tolar, in Louisville, Ky. Dr. Tolar suggested that Billy might be a candidate for eye surgery. We hoped to be able to save both his eyes, but even one eye would be a success. We agreed and scheduled his surgery for early September 2021. When Dr. Tolar began surgery, her initial cut into the right lense resulted in the entire lense disintegrating. She spent the next hour and fifteen minutes picking the pieces of his disintegrated lense out of his eye. The decision was quickly made to not attempt the left eye and stop the surgery on the right eye. After a week in the hospital we brought him home, knowing that he might soon be completely blind in the right eye with questionable sight in his left eye. He was on stall rest for a month with multiple rounds of daily medication. He still gets eye drops in both eyes, and will continue with that all his life.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2021 he did lose more vision in his left eye. As a result, his anxiety level went up 100%. Up until then, I had been riding him regularly, had even helped a local friend and cattle rancher herd cattle with him on their ranch. Additionally, I had also been taking Billy to a friends' equine obstacle course in order to teach him verbal cues for stepping over things, and changes in terrain. It was fun. But when his vision diminished so quickly in the Fall, we had to go back to the basics; how to lead, how to stand tied, how to step into a trailer, how to feel safe with me and comfortable being alone.
Everything I did with him needed to be consistent. Where I put his hay, where I put the feed bucket when he got fed, how I gave him eye drops, how I called to him to come to me from the pasture, how I cleaned his feet, or even put a halter on. Consistency helped him relax. Consistency helped him trust me and know what was coming next.
It is now mid-July 2022, and we just returned from a 6-week adventure out to Colorado and South Dakota. Me, Billy, Eric, Yogi, and our two dogs, Jack and Grace camped in Colorado, rode trails near Fort Collins with friends, and camped and rode trails at a horse camp called Broken Arrow in Custer, SD. Billy did everything I asked. He was amazing! We even participated in a 10-day horsemanship clinic with a clinician I respect and like a lot, Mark Rashid. It was an amazing adventure. But during that time, we decided that it's not fair to Billy or me to ride in situations that are potentially dangerous. So Billy is now retired from trail riding and long distance travel.
That doesn't mean he's done with his work though, there is still more to come. He is a horse of many talents. I have taken him to nursing homes and Independent Living facilities in Louisville and he is wonderful with people. When Covid hit and people could not go into nursing homes or facilities, some friends of mine and I took our horses to visit folks. The staff would bring people outside to see the horses and it proved to be a wonderful diversion for the staff, the residents and all the people we met. And, it was good for our hearts as well. Billy is also good with kids. I've had him in places where there are 4-8 kids petting him all over and he stands, one foot coked, eyes half closed, and totally relaxed, comfortable being the center of attention. Billy is not the horse I wanted. However, he is exactly the horse I needed. I'm learning much from him. I don't know where he and I will go on this journey together, but it is certainly a journey I'm excited about sharing with him! So, as I said, let the blind horse lead!
My husband Eric and I live on a small farm, seventeen acres, with our two dogs, Grace and Jack; three horses, Yogi, Billy, and B.J.; and seven cats, all but two of them, barn cats. Oliver and Smoke, our two house cats both know how to use the dog door so they come and go as they please. But they always show up for meals, as I am sure that pleases them greatly!
I don't know
where we are going
how to get there.