Endo, an Appaloosa horse became totally blind, but his owner, Morgan Wagner, decided to give him a second chance to live his life. Up to this day, their story is truly inspiring as both owner and horse battled the hardships of diseases.
When Morgan Wagner turned 13, her grandmother promised to give her a horse of her choice. The young girl from Oregon, USA, chose the Appaloosa named “Endo”, who at the time was only a few months old.
As Endo grew up with Morgan, they had their first dressage and riding lessons, learning how to place a bridle to walk from the bit, how to stand still while riding… Rider and horse connected very well as they both learned new skills everyday.
However, things changed when Endo turned 8. Morgan had noticed Endo’s eyes cried very often and that the horse was not comfortable. When her efforts to ease the horse’s problems did not work (she cleaned his eyes daily, took him for rides at night…) he decided to call a veterinarian.
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Endo suffered from Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU), also known as moon blindness. The disease is a common cause of blindness in appaloosa horses and it consists of inflammatory processes in the uvea (horse’s eyes).
As the eye disease progressed, Endo’s right eye ruptured, and the pain was such that the horse could not chew. The veterinarian informed Morgan that Endo would never be able to see again with that eye, so the horsewoman decided to operate Endo to remove the eye.
This caused a huge shock to the horse, who trembled and could not move. When the horse calmed down, the two friends received another harsh blow: Endo would probably also lose the left eye too in the short term.
Under these circumstances, most horsemen would choose to euthanize their horses. However, Morgan was not ready to give up on his equine friend, and decided to remove the second eye.
Before the operation, the young rider took the horse out and put a blindfold on him. Although at first the horse was frightened, he started learning to move with the blindfold. This eased the way when the day came, and Endo adjusted quickly to his total blindness in the stalls, finding his hay and water almost immediately.
Morgan states Endo is able to do almost everything by smell or voice commands. The horse is able to sense walls, doors, gates, trees and other obstacles. As the veterinarian recommended the horse return to normal activities as soon as possible, Morgan got into training very fast.
“I honestly didn’t know how he was going to handle life without his sight, but I wanted to give him a chance. I knew that there was a limit where he might have to be put down if he was unable to cope. Being affected with my own chronic illness, it was difficult to draw the line as to what is a full-quality life.” -Morgan Wagner
Morgan herself suffers from lupus, an illness that has affected every aspect of her life and, at one point, rendered her into depression. As Endo had time to adjust to his blindness and moved around the stall as if he could still see, Morgan got encouraged to do the same: she set goals for her life and returned to the things she loved.
Training did not always go smoothly - Endo found it hard to balance himself in the beginning, and still chooses not to canter or gallop if Morgan is not with him to guide him. He has been vocally trained for trick and liberty work, and the partnership has been working in equitation as well: an incredible feat as it includes two obstacle phases with a low jump.
Also, Endo and Morgan have traveled to Canada to perform at an equine theatre production as well as in two national-level competitions: the Andalusian World Cup in Las Vegas and the Haras Cup in Texas.
These have been great experiences for Endo the blind horse, as the competition venues are very noisy, taking away another of the horse’s senses and putting his relationship with Morgan to test.
If you want to discover more inspiring stories like this one, you can watch FEI Equestrian World on HorseTV.