Horse Survives Loss of an Eye

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Cheyenne the one-eyed horse
Now back to health, Cheyenne poses with her devoted owner, Jacki Moxley. Photo: Cindy Hale

Jacki Moxley has a lot to be thankful for. Her 11-year-old sorrel mare, Cheyenne, not only survived a traumatic injury that led to the loss of her right eye, but the horse has also thrived. 

“Despite the loss of her eye,” Jacki says, “I think I ended up with an even better horse.”

The frightening saga began last March when Jacki arrived home one evening after working her shift as an assistant manager of a local feed store. She hastily began her usual routine of feeding the horses she kept on her small ranch in Norco, California. But when she got to Cheyenne’s corral, she was horrified.

“The right side of her face was battered and swollen,” she explains. In recalling the gruesome scene, she winces. “Her eye was literally out of the socket. It was dislodged.”

The vet on call was summoned, but there was little that could be done to save Cheyenne’s eye. Upon a full examination, it was determined that the horse had likely been assaulted with a board or blunt object while Jacki was at work. Yet finding the culprit wasn’t the first thing on Jacki’s mind. She wanted desperately to save her horse’s life.

“The vet told me there was only a 30 percent chance of Cheyenne surviving the injury, due to a bacterial and fungal infection that had taken hold. The optic nerve (from the eyeball) goes directly into a horse’s brain, so Cheyenne could’ve died from a massive infection at any time. The surgeon had no choice but to remove her eye. And then my husband and I had to treat her every hour, on the hour, for weeks. Not only did she need antibiotics and pain meds round the clock, but there were potential side effects from the drugs. To prevent colic or founder, we had to handwalk her periodically, even at night.”

It took about eight weeks for the wound to completely heal, and during that time Jacki admits that she considered euthanizing Cheyenne. “I didn’t want her to suffer. She had lost about 300 pounds and she was in a lot of pain. But this mare has always had a lot of heart, a lot of ‘try,’ so I decided to allow her to tell me how much strength and endurance she truly had.”

Jacki had purchased the AQHA mare as a three-year-old prospect for all-around western riding and as a reliable mount for her daughter, Brianna, who was competing in rodeo queen events. “We needed a stocky, flashy horse with a good mind, and Cheyenne was perfect for us. Over the years we’ve used her in barrel racing, team roping, team penning and ranch horse competitions. Plus she’s great on the trails. Even my mother-in-law can hop on her and ride her down the street.”

With the intensive care that Cheyenne received, the bond between the mare and her human caretakers only increased. “She began to rely on us during that long course of treatment,” Jacki says. “There’s a certain amount of trust that an animal has to have when it’s that ill, that injured. Now that she’s well, she’s back to being the same horse she was before she lost her eye. Only in some ways, she’s even better. I think she listens to her rider more.” 

Though Jacki doesn’t think of her mare as being handicapped, she does feel that the mare compensates a little by relying more on her rider for cues and direction.  That makes Cheyenne an even more trustworthy saddle horse for kids and novice riders. In fact, the cinnamon colored horse is back to competing in gymkhana events and trail trials.

“It’s a sad fact that horses can have accidents where they lose an eye,” Jacki states. “But I’d advise horse owners to have faith in their horse. Follow your vet’s advice. And don’t give up hope. I’m certainly thankful that I didn’t, because I’ve got my great mare back again.”

25 COMMENTS

  1. This story reminds me of a movie of a young dressage gal whose horse went completly blind and she goes on to ride it in a competition. People who beleive in their animals will help them to get through any ordeal.

  2. That is so great! I understand how it is to have a horse that is blind/partially blind! I had an old QH gelding that I rescued from slaughter that was around thirty when I got him and blind in both eyes! :'( But after some TLC and groceries, he got back up to speed and was ridable. Blazer, the horse, was probably one of the best horses I have ever owned and I think it is terrible to throw an entire life away just because of a physical disability.

  3. This is the story of great stories! This mare and her owners deserve so much recognition for the bravery, true heart and LOVE! This is an inspiration for those of us who adore our equine friends and would do their all to give them the BEST! I know I would for my mare

  4. Jacki, I just felt the need to commend you on you courage for taking care of this lovely mare after the horrible trauma she went through, and then you experiencing this horror. I adore my horses, dogs, cats, all creatures great and small. You deserve a medal and so does your lovely mare. May you be blessed for ever!

  5. I just want to say I think that was a great story and I really commend the owners for not giving up on the horse and giving her what she needed.

  6. Just wanted to say I know what it is like to have a horse without use of an eye. My horse is blind in his left eye from an injury. Even though they lose sight in one eye it is wonderful how much they can overcome it so easily.

  7. An amazing story for sure…ever find the culprit? Anyway so glad you didn’t give up on your horse and she will repay you every day for that. Horses are truly amazing animals!

  8. My beautiful QH mare lost her left eye in July,2000.I have had her since she was a weanling,she was 16 when it happened.She has adjusted just fine,[t was me that was depressed and heartbroken.She still does well,it seems when she is turned out her buddies realize she is’nt what she should be.

  9. I never could and still cant understand what drives people to hurt animals. The fact that this mare survived it and even thrived through it really just shows you how much animals can withstand and how lucky we are to have them in our lives. This story is just amazing.

  10. I remember one of the horses at my old place lost her eye when she was a foal because her mom kicked her in the head. Another filly I remember had both of her eyes, but you can barely see her left eye.

  11. This article brought tears to my eyes….and I experienced it first hand with Jacki. Cheyenne is truly an amazing horse. To see how sick she was then and to see her now is a real miracle. Cheyenne was in so much pain, so weak and so skinny we worried that she wouldn’t make it…and I know without the love and dedication of her owners she wouldn’t have!!! Living in a town dedicated to animals, it’s hard to believe that there are such cruel kids out there.

  12. I’m so glad to hear about anothe owner how is trying to save their horse friend. I have a completley blind pony and I almost never hear of people still ridding and working with them. Thank you so much…I’m not the only one out there!!!!

  13. I have a gelding horse that is around 4 years old and he has moon blindness. Last year he done great on trail rides but this year I think he has went total blind. His trust is in me and he’s a wonderful horse I just wish I knew more when riding him to help both of us. People are so suprise when I ride that he is blind and when they hear me talking to him the whole ride. It makes me feel good that I’m not the only one who has a special horse

  14. I also have a horse who is blind in the near-side eye from a grass seed, he had also been mis-treated. He is 18 years old & this happened many years ago from what i can gather. It has taken Gideon 18 months to trust me and now people comment on how relaxed & happy he is. We are still learning together & yes i too neally gave up on him but am so glad i didn’t, he is my world.
    Lindy Conn (aust)

  15. I once had the opportunity of working with a lovely one-eyed pinto pony. She was spoiled from having to many green riders that put her back in the pasture as soon as she bucked, so my assignment was to get the buck out of her. She was also quite sour which was a result of being spoiled, as well as very fat. She turned out to be an excellent jumper and very smooth trotter in spite of it all, and she also had a very sweet disposition once she learned that the world didn’t revolve around her. I still see her once and a while and I miss her, she taught me a lot.

  16. Today I had to put this wonderful mare done. Cheyenne touched sooooo many lives. May she RIP. She was my life. I’m heartbroken but she was not expected to survive that injury and she did. The meds she was on with the injury weakened her bones and gradually took a toll on her. My she run free in heaven with the other horses that gave left us all too soon. ??????????

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