From the first I've been curious about Rocky's blindness, believed by some who have seen him to be cataracts. In recent months I began to wonder if there might be some treatment.
Several weeks ago, I began calling equine veterinary doctors and researching blindness in Appaloosa ponies online and in some books. I came across a lot of information about "Moon Blindness" – equine recurrent uveitis – an immune system disorder that is the major cause of blindness in horses, and is somewhat common in Appaloosa's, especially older ones. The precise cause of Moon Blindness is not clear, but it is most common in older animals and is believed to be genetic. It affects 12 per cent of horses worldwide and about 25 per cent of Appaloosas. There is no single cure, although the illness sometimes responds to antibiotics and other medications. If caught very early, it can sometimes be headed off. Discovered late, it's harder to treat, although it sometimes respond to medication.
The worst symptoms of Moon Blindness are detachment of the retina, calcification of the cornea, cataracts, atrophy of the eye, or eventual blindness in one or both eyes. Medical historians believe moon blindness is the oldest recorded disease in the world.
I called several equine vets and all of them mentioned "Moon Blindness" as a likely cause of Rocky's blindness. All three said they couldn't be sure without seeing him, and so Maria and I settled on one vet, Dr. Sarah Jensen of the Granville, N.Y., Large Animal Practice, who has come to the farm and helped us treat the footrot in the sheep that had been plaguing us all summer. Dr. Jensen will come to the new farm Friday morning to take a look at Rocky's eyes and see if it might be possible for him to see. We aren't sure if Moon Blindness is the cause – it could be cataracts. And nobody can yet say whether Rocky's blindness can be helped, of course, but Dr. Jensen will take a good look, make sure Rocky is not in pain and see if we can do anything about his sight. We are not inclined towards invasive proceedures or expensive surgeries, even if we could afford them.
Rocky is doing well, navigating comfortably, able to find food and shelter. The last thing we want to do is make things worse, but it is exciting to think that this loving creature might be able to see again.
From my readings and conversations, it seems there might be some hope. There are a number of new technologies that have proven successful in recent years. We'll see what Dr. Jensen says and I will share the process with you and with my cameras.