Monday, June 30, 2003

Blind mare needs new pasture


But few show interest in horse with obvious disability

By Stephenie Steitzer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - Beauty is as healthy as the five other horses at Boone County Animal Shelter.

The difference is that the 18-year-old American Saddlebred is blind and has been at the shelter since February, when she was rescued from an owner who could no longer care for her.

"If she's been around this long, that tells me she's been a good horse," shelter veterinary technician Suzanne Ditto said.

Ditto said she thought somebody would have adopted Beauty, especially in a state crazy about horses.

But the owner of a Montana animal sanctuary that specializes in caring for blind animals said he's not surprised.

"What we have seen is, and this is true of livestock in general, as soon as a large animal is no longer useful for something, people tend to want to get rid of it," said Steve Smith, owner of Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, in Ovando, Mont.

Ditto said Beauty, a chestnut-colored mare, has been blind for at least three years. She does not know what caused the blindness, but does not believe the horse was abused.

She said a veterinarian thought it was probably a virus, since it affected both eyes.

Smith said two of his horses suffered from moon blindness, the term for a blindness caused by bacteria.

Beauty wears a gray-and-red fly mask to protect her eyes, which are sunken into her head.

The horse moves a little slower than the rest and should not be ridden, but is eager when presented food. She was well aware of the grain in front of her as Ditto poured it into a bowl and placed it on the ground.

As she felt her way to the bowl and ate, another horse approached and snatched the bowl from Beauty. She squealed and searched for her missing dish.

"We've all gotten just really attached to her," Ditto said.

Ditto said the shelter needs to find a home for Beauty because they are housing six horses. The shelter's capacity is two.

She said Beauty should be placed with another older horse, not a herd or young horses.

She needs to be kept from barbed-wire fencing and holes or objects that could cause her to fall.

Smith, who owns four blind horses and numerous blind dogs and cats, said he would like to take Beauty if he could find a way to transport her to Montana.

"These blind horses are just wonderful, sweet creatures," Smith said.

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Contact the Boone County Animal Shelter (www.boonecountyky.org/bcas) at (859) 586-5285 for more information about Beauty.

E-mail ssteitzer@enquirer.com




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