At the end of February, I adopted a blind, Belgian gelding named Charlie. He had been used as a wagon horse in Northern California. Due to the economy, his owner was desperate to thin her herd and offered him to anyone who would give him a good home, or, unfortunately, she would be forced to put him down. So, I adopted him! I have never had a blind horse, but I sensed Charlie was well adjusted and would be just the thing my heart needed. Join me on my journey of "Seeing in the Dark!"
When I joined this site, I was looking for friends. I had embarked on a great journey with a blind, Belgian gelding named Charlie. He was an amazing horse. The darkness didn't stop him from enjoying his new life and new job. However, sadly, he succumbed to Colic and is now in the Big Meadow in the sky. It was sad, but Letting Him Go was also the Humane thing to do.
As well as losing Charlie, I recently lost my husband, and I am now a widow. I am trying to return to the Equestrian World slowly, safely, and sanely! I am looking for a partner to help me do that.
Wow! I haven't been on the site much since Summer, and I realized that so much has happened, and, maybe, some of you might like an update!
Charlie has blossomed!! As you recall, Charlie is predomintly blind and had to get accustomed to his new surroundings after living his life in Northern California. He caught on quickly and got comfortable in his new "neigh"borhood! LOL Tanny picked on him once she realized that he was at a disadvantage, so I separated them, and it's been fine ever since!
Around March, I hired a trainer for Charlie to come 3 days a week and work with him. Being a wagon horse in his 'former life', he had ground manners and could be led and directed, but he'd barely been ridden. After weeks of lunging, before I hired Erin, he was very comfortable with being asked new things. He learned the commands and new skills, and we made real progress. He still had some confidence issues outside the arena, but, on the whole, I was very pleased.
As the weather warmed, I was able to find a few brave kids to do some vaulting on Charlie, and we had a blast! Again, it was something new and different, but after a few protests, Charlie realized what he was being asked to do wasn't soooooo bad, and the attention he got from it was better than anything he'd had before!
When he lost his winter coat, was toned and muscled up, and had laughing kids with him day after day, he was absolutely beautiful!
All too quickly, school started again, and we didn't have the precious free time to 'play with Charlie', and the winter weather hasn't helped much either. We are desperately waiting for Spring!
I've had Charlie for over a month now. We had been worried that he would go through separation anxiety, because he had been separated from his friends and sister, who'd been his constant companions since before he went blind. He lost his sight due to Uveitis. Charlie just got used to it and even continued pulling wagons and sleighs with his 'seeing eye sister, Lucy'. I am told kids seemed to be drawn to him, and I'm hoping that's true, because that's what I do. I use horses in therapy and the sport of Vaulting.
I have another Belgian, a mare named Tanny, short for Montana Mae. She is the typical Belgian brown with blonde mane and tail. She is huge and powerful and still very green at 8 years old. Charlie is 11 years old and a good two hands shorter than Tanny, but still impressive at 16+! Tanny was a PMU and has a tale of woe herself, but this is Charlie's story, and I will stick to it. I was told that children, especially, were drawn to Charlie when he was out at events or in parades, and I'm counting on that, because that's what I do. I work with horses for therapy and the sport of Vaulting-Gymnastics on Horseback!
When Charlie first arrived, it was easy to see that he was blind. Not being in familiar surroundings, he bumped his way around and looked a bit forlorn. Even though he'd been blind since he was 5, he was used regularly, with Lucy, to pull a big wagon, sleigh or plow. Eventually, his former owner acquired other horses to take his place and gave him an early retirement. That's when he became 'an extra mouth to feed', and even though she loved him very much, a bit of resentment began to grow.
As I said, I was waiting for the incessant whinnying that some horses perform when they are moved, but Charlie patiently waited to go home, or for things to become 'familiar'. I kept him in the stall next to Tanny to let them get acquainted. She immediately tried to be the boss, but the pipe coral pannel that separated them kept her from pushing him around too much. We had shown him where to expect his water and food to be each day, and he quickly learned the sounds of the routine of feeding, grooming, cleaning, ect.
From research I'd done, I'd learned that most blind horses have what's called the "Blind Horse Tilt". Their heads to one side to better catch the sounds of activity around them. Sure enough, Charlie's head to the right, our left as we look at him, whenever he hears the door of the house open or close, the engine of the truck stop when we get home, or even the sounds of our voices through the windows on the few days it was warm enough to open them to let some fresh air inside. He soon became comfortable with his new home.