Horse Health

The Power of Magic

April 21, 2011

The story of a very special horse helping some very special children.

From the American Quarter Horse Foundation Quarterly

Magic's blindness makes autistic children (who avoid eye contact) feel at ease around horses at this therapeutic riding program. Journal photo.

At first, “Magic” sounded perfect. The bay American Quarter Horse gelding had done it all: He had jumped, been a pony horse at a polo barn, showed dressage, been trail ridden and had the classic Quarter Horse temperament.

That’s how his owner, Jody Lynn McBrien, described him to Gail Clifton of the Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) in Bradenton, Florida, hoping to donate him to the therapeutic riding program.

“And then Jody said, ‘Well, I need to tell you the rest of the story,’ Gail recalls with a smile. “‘He’s blind. … He has no eyeballs.’”

Magic had suffered from chronic uveitis since the age of 3, when Jody bought him. Around age 5, he lost the sight in one of his eyes, and a year later he went completely blind. Jody had his eyes removed because they were painful but continued  riding and showing him.

AQHA’s FREE Trail Safety Tips report will keep you and your Quarter Horse out of harm’s way when you’re on the trail. A veterinarian, farrier and national park activist offer tips and advice on how to better enjoy trail riding while keeping your horse’s health and the environment in mind. Download and share today!

At first, “Magic” sounded perfect. The bay American Quarter Horse gelding had done it all: He had jumped, been a pony horse at a polo barn, showed dressage, been trail ridden and had the classic Quarter Horse temperament.

That’s how his owner, Jody Lynn McBrien, described him to Gail Clifton of the Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy <http://list.aqha.net/t/109307/482561/6106/4/> (SMART) in Bradenton, Florida, hoping to donate him to the therapeutic riding program.

“And then Jody said, ‘Well, I need to tell you the rest of the story,’ Gail recalls with a smile. “‘He’s blind. … He has no eyeballs.’”

Magic had suffered from chronic uveitis since the age of 3, when Jody bought him. Around age 5, he lost the sight in one of his eyes, and a year later he went completely blind. Jody had his eyes removed because they were painful but continued riding and showing him.

Gail had immediate reservations, but after riding Magic for herself, SMART took Magic and introduced him to the parents and children. “He was extraordinary,” Gail says. “All the kids love him.”

“Kids with autism don’t usually make eye contact. They’ll look everywhere else but in your eyes. And here they can look at Magic and he doesn’t look back. Those kids are always exploring his eye sockets and getting up to his face and smelling him, which they won’t do with the other horses.”

The American Quarter Horse Foundation, through its Equine Research grant program, partnered with the University of Florida on a study researching horses like Magic with eye infections causing blindness. The study showed some drug combinations have the potential to minimize the time, stress and fatigue associated with topical treatment regimens for certain eye infections, thus making the horse owner or veterinarian’s job easier and more successful.

We invite you to learn more about the equine research projects of the American Quarter Horse Foundation and how together we become a formidable team that enhances the health and future of America’s Horse.

AQHA Corporate Partner Farnam supports the American Quarter Horse Foundation and America’s Horse Cares programs.

Getting out of the arena and hitting the trail is one of the most rewarding and relaxing horse activities, but it is not without its dangers. Whether reviewing safety tips, or teaching them to your children, AQHA’s FREE Trail Safety Tips report will certainly come in handy.