Friday, October 08, 2010

Gazelle's story

Washington County Fair - I'd guess 1995 or so, but I'm not certain.
Birthday: May 21, 1983
Birthplace: Oregon

Gazelle has been my friend and pet since about 1992. She was my 4-H project horse until I graduated from high school in 1997, and she has competed at county and state fairs in Oregon. Note the picture above.

At some point before I graduated from high school, we discovered that Gazelle had a cataract in her left eye, but our vet did not recommend any aggressive treatment at that time. He explained that success rate of cataract surgery was very low, and most horses learn to adapt to the gradual loss of their sight (remember, it was the mid-1990’s - I think surgery options may be different now). When the cataract was discovered, we think Gazelle had already lost about 25% of her vision in that eye.

After I graduated from high school, I took Gazelle with me to college (about an hour and a half away from home). She stayed with me down at school until I earned my degree in 2002, and then the two of us went back home again. I believe gradually over the five years I was at schoo, Gazelle lost another 50% of the vision in her left eye, bringing the vision lost to about 75%.

Another four years later, in the autumn of 2006, Gazelle had eye surgery to remove eyeball that was damaged by a cataract. The surgery was necessary because the vision loss had caused her eye to atrophy and had become very painful. As near as I can guess, she was almost completely blind in that eye for about for about two years before the surgery, so it was a smooth transition.  She didn't all of a sudden wake up, unable to see.  It had been a long time coming.

The surgery took about two hours, and the vet completely anesthetized her on the arena floor. She had an IV and a helmet, and there were 2 assistants and an extra vet on hand. And of course I was there for moral support. After the vet removed her eye, tear ducts, and eyelashes, he inserted a silicone ball and stitched the whole thing closed. You can see it in this picture (one of my favorites of her):

Although I was there to be supportive, remember I never really wanted to be a vet. I was completely grossed out! I guess I was standing there swaying, looking pretty green, and all of a sudden it hit me that I better go sit down before I fell down. One of the assistants said she was just opening her mouth to tell me to go sit down, so she was glad I went on my own. When the surgery was over, the vet asked if I wanted to see the eyeball.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Cute aside: Dan and I met shortly before Gazelle's surgery.  I knew he was a keeper when he asked if he could come visit me at the barn, and I told him that I would just be hand-walking Gazelle because she was recovering from surgery. He said he wanted to come anyway just to walk with us.

In June 2007, Gazelle, Dan, Blake and I made the long, perilous journey from Oregon to Ohio. I left Oregon because I was following Dan, and Gazelle was following me. Blake was just along for the ride, I suppose. The adventure across country was quite an ordeal, but everyone (including Blake) made it without any permanent trauma. We will never stay in a Days Inn again (“With convenient horse stalls available.” Yeah. Right. Gazelle still intends to write a letter explaining exactly what constitutes a “horse stall” to her, and it’s not an open-air pen on the side of a parking lot).

Gazelle is half AQHA, one-quarter Appaloosa, and one-quarter Missouri Fox Trotter. Her sire was a registered AQHA racehorse, and Gazelle is a direct (although immensely distant) descendent of Sir Barton, who in 1920 lost a match race with Man O’ War (irrefutably "the greatest racehorse of all time"). Sir Barton is most remembered as being the first winner of The Triple Crown.

October 1, 2010
This is a picture of me standing in front of Man O' War's grave in Lexington, Kentucky.
More on that experience later!

1 comment:

Pat Tillett said...

Wow! that was very interesting. I love horses...nice ones anyway!

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