by Unit of Refuge Farms
I am born on June 4th, 2004. I am so tiny and frail. My mother is a quarter horse and my dad? Well, we really don't know who he is. I stand quickly and never leave my mother's side. She is warm and gives me nutrition and I do not wander more than inches from her.
It is early one day when I am haltered and put in to a trailer. Mom is left behind and both of us are hollering to each other. She tells me to be brave! I tell her I'm trying but I'm still very scared! I want to go back to being next to her!
The trainer's facility is clean and I am put in something they call a round pen. I do my very best but the trainer talks to me and asks me to do things. I really don't know what she's asking of me. It seems that she expects more of me than I can give. Within a few hours, she comes up close to me and says, quietly, "You are blind, little one."
My owners are called and they are not aware. My eyes just don't work. What should the trainer do with me? They ponder trying to sell me in a horse sale coming up...And then a place called Refuge Farms enters the picture.
The woman from Refuge Farms talks with my owners. She is willing to take me - just as I am - and so it's in to that trailer one more time and off to Spring Valley I go!
It is sunny day in October when I arrive at Refuge Farms. I am trembling from fear. New smells. New voices. New sounds. New ground. The water even tastes new. I want my mama!
The very first time the woman of Refuge Farms sees me she says, "Oh! She's just a little unit of a thing!" and the name sticks. I am now called Unit. Odd name for a horse, but I accept it. I am led in to a stall where there is fresh shavings, water, and a pile of good hay. I don't eat. I'm scared.
Within days, I am shaky from lack of food and so they lead me down a driveway and introduce me to a new stall - same hay and same water and now a touch of grain. I have no teeth yet but I munch on the grain and like it's taste. But I am lonely for a horse's touch even though I have many human hands brushing me and many soothing human voices talking to me.
And then a baby horse just like me is brought in to meet me! I go straight up to the face of the horse and this other baby horse quickly nips at me and tells me to never, ever approach another horse straight on! I listen and learn, but it's difficult since I can't see the other horse and I have to guess where the head and tail are! Tough work for little me!
It is a full 6 weeks later and I'm great pals with this other horse who they call Babee Joy. We run and play and every once in a while I forget to listen and smell and so I run head first in to the round bale standing in the corral area. It knocks the wind out of me, but I back up, catch my breath, move over a bit, and take off again to play with Babee!
My caretaker, Sandy, is thinking of operating on my eyes to give me vision. She really wants to but just can't see the way to pay for it. She tells me that I am safe and loved and will be just fine, just the way I am. And she asks me to forgive her, but she explains that she just can't risk the rest of the herd by spending the hay money for my operation.
I tell her I understand but some of the volunteers won't give up on the idea! They pester Sandy and encourage her to write a letter and mail it to the Friends of Refuge Farms. "Just write the letter!" Mechanical Mary says to Sandy. "Let others have the chance to help decide!"
The letter is written and these Friends of THE FARM respond with big hearts and send in 50% of the amount needed for the surgery. Sandy cries for joy! And she says we will go for surgery! She says we will take the 50% and the bucket full of faith that she carries around with her and we will go to Anoka, Minnesota.
It's a bitter cold Friday in January here in Wisconsin. The temperature outside in the barn - out of the wind, at that - shows 36 degrees below zero at 1am! It's time for medications for my eyes and both Sandy and I are cold before we even start.
But medications are needed to insure my eyes heal properly. They tell me I will see. Hmmmmmm. I can make out some things now, but everything is very blurry. I can tell that there is movement around me. Dr. Larocca tells me that things will get better - but it will take time. But right now I must prepare for medicines to be put in both of my eyes.
Sandy enters my stall and I know where we are going. It's been 5 and a half hours since we did this last and one thing I'll give this woman, my caretaker - she's religious about these medicines. She keeps telling me that these meds are what she can do to make sure the surgery does it's very best job for me.
I stand as still as I can and she gently lifts the eyelid of my left eye. Even though I have squeezed that eye shut as tightly as I can, she manages to lift that upper lid and pull the lower lid down! Just long enough to let a drop of solution in. Then she quickly releases both lids and scratches me behind my ear giving me consolation with her soothing voice.
We do the drop routine again but with a different medicine. She lets me stand for a minute and while we wait for the medicines to be absorbed, I munch on an apple quarter. The apple is already freezing due to the bitter cold!
It's time for the first ointment, and so Sandy takes the ointment tube out of her mouth. She puts the tubes in her mouth before she leaves the warmth of the house to keep the ointment warm and so what is placed in my eye is cool, but not frozen as it would be if the tube were placed only in her jacket pocket.
We do the ointment routine twice for the left eye. And then we start all over again for the right eye. Patiently, we both realize that this is a "must do" and so we repeat this process every 6 hours - day in and day out. Freezing cold or not. When we are done, I get the rest of the apple for a treat, along with a few dozen hugs and kisses!
Somewhere along the line - maybe the cold? Maybe a piece of hay? - my left eye is cut and an infection begins to set in. Sandy notices that I am squinting a bit and she hurriedly drops the trailer on to the truck and off to Anoka we go! She tells me we must go! She tells me something about being more "safe than sorry".
We arrive at Anoka and I am aware that my left eye stings and is watering. The doctor stains the eye with a lime green dye and the dye outlines the cut. Dr. Larocca is consulted and we switch medicines for this left eye only. We must stop the infection and create a blood and oxygen rush to the eye to stop the growth of the wound, which is called an ulcer.
I stay in this hospital for 10 days - yes, 10 days! I am frantic to return home and get back where things are familiar! Finally, Sandy arrives and we go home - complete with a lunch bag full of meds and 2 pages of instructions!
I am moved to a box stall in the old barn to best eliminate the chance of flying debris from the other horses. Very quickly, I become depressed and show Sandy that I am lonely by hanging my head and not eating all of my food. She and the volunteers see this and bring Babee Joy, PONY!, and Halima down to the old barn for company. I do better now that my pals are within my newly gained eyesight!
We are back on the every 6 hour routine and yes, we are just as disciplined as we were before the cut appeared. I hear that this must work! The risk of vision in this left eye is at stake! No excuses this time, I'm told!
And so I give it my best. When it's time for these new magical drops and ointments, I simply rest my little head on Sandy's left shoulder so she can have both hands free to work my tightly squeezed eye gently open to administer the medicines. I don't struggle. No need to halter or tie me. I know it will help. But that doesn't mean I have to like it, now does it?
When we finish, I get more hugs and kisses, a brushing, fresh water and a new supply of hay. My grain has been removed from my diet since I am unable to go outside of this box stall and the grain would only add to my energy level. So I live on good hay and clean water and even though all of this other "stuff" is going on, I am continuing to grow bigger every day.
One day Sandy comes in to the stall and takes me down the driveway to the corral! She takes off my halter and hugs me - hard! Tears are flowing as she holds me close and tells me to be free! Be a horse, she says! And grow up to be strong and teach us all to see!
I give her a quick kiss of thanks and I'm off! It is time to run and be a horse! Oh, glorious day! I can see Babee Joy (Wow! She's big!) and the round bale and not run in to either of them like I did before!
I run and run and then stop on a dime! My head is high and I look through my special sunglass goggles to see the world around me. Oooohhhh! The sun! And the snow! And who are all those other horses? And all these people! Oh my, there's a dozen or more people standing and smiling from ear to ear! Clapping like crazy! They seem almost as happy as I am!
Seeing...I didn't know it existed. I was happy and I was safe. But now I am ecstatic! The world is a glorious place, isn't it? I know - I can see it!
I can see it!