Venus is a very sweet 22 year-old Rocky Mountain Horse mare. She was purchased in an auction by Hi Caliber last year and put into one of their paddocks. Besides being thin, there were no other major health issues, as noted by their veterinarian and intake pictures, and a few months later she was fostered by a wonderful woman to see if she could be trained to ride.
When Venus got to the foster however, her eye was blue and cloudy. The woman called out the vet, who found several wood splinters in Venus’ eye; apparently she had gotten them while turned out in Hi Caliber’s rickety paddocks, but as no one checked on the horses regularly, the slivers had worked their way into the eyeball. Although the woman tried a number of different medications, the slivers had been embedded for so long that they scarred the tissue of the eye, and permanently blinded Venus for the rest of her life.
This was a horse who came to the “rescue” with no eye issues. She left the “rescue” with an obvious eye issue that was not caught by anyone at the “rescue,” and the foster had to call out the vet in order to start medication. When the foster told the owner of the “rescue” what the prognosis was, she was told that “these things happen,” (they should NEVER happen), and to bring Venus back and she would put her down!
Appalled by the lack of compassion from HiCaliber, the woman adopted Venus to keep her from being shot in the head (because that’s how HiCaliber euthanizes horses – it’s legal in California but only as an emergency last resort) Again – this woman had to adopt Venus from HiCaliber, whose improper care caused Venus to go blind in the first place, to prevent that same “rescue” from killing her because she would be a difficult horse to adopt out. It’s disgusting.
We’ve known about the HiCaliber situation for some time and chosen to allow the authorities to complete their investigations before we spoke about it. The time will soon come when they will wield their justice as they see fit. But for now, Venus’ neglect has made it impossible for us to not say something. We are speaking up now so that there is a record of the abuse and so that others will know of our experience.
There are a number of very reputable rescues (Hanaeleh included) who are GFAS-verified (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) and who work with the larger welfare organizations like HSUS and ASPCA. We work with each other to network horses and bring more awareness to equine issues…and the humans who advocate for their welfare.
There are a number of us out there who do our best to give quality care to our animals, who work thousands of unpaid hours a year, and who give of our own money in order to create a safe and humane place for all of our animals.
Hi Caliber is NOT a reputable rescue. Their treatment of Venus is just part and parcel of the hundreds of sad stories that have come out in of that organization due to neglect, abuse and the torture they put animals through due to their selfishness and negligent lack of care.
We are not certain yet if we need to take out Venus’ eye. It is still a possibility, especially if the eye begins to weep or there is too much pressure in the eyeball. This surgery will cost between $2,000 to $3,000, and the outrageous part is that it was completely and totally avoidable! If Hi Caliber’s paddocks had been kept up, or if there were regular checks on the horses, the slivers could have been identified, removed and Venus would still be able to see out of both eyes.
For now, Venus is safe with Hanaeleh. Our vet came out as soon as Venus arrived and we got her caught up on her vaccinations. Josh, our farrier came out, too. Venus will eventually get her teeth done (something Hi Caliber never did). Our vet also looked at the eye, and said that, while there is a little light coming in, the eye is completely useless to her. She suggested covering one side of a fly mask so she would not see random shadows that might scare her, and when we do start riding her, we will probably use a blinker on that side for the same reason. That is, unless we need to have the eye removed.
We look forward to working with Venus and helping her through the transition of having sight on only one side. Thankfully, many horses can have a long, productive life with only one eye – Austin, for example, has no sight in his left eye and recently was adopted from Hanaeleh as a pleasure horse. There are even horses who are completely sightless who do well – Endo the Blind Horse, for example, still competes in the show ring!
We wish that Venus had gotten the proper care that she deserved from the beginning, but since she didn’t, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure that she will be safe and comfortable for the rest of her life. We are hopeful that she will recover and become a lovely little riding horse, but in the meantime, our goal is just to love her and teach her to trust humans again.