My name is Tracey and I have been part of the Coast team for nearly 14 years. I have a very special horse in my life called Porter (a.k.a “Blinky Bill”) who suffers from a condition called Equine Recurrent Uveitis. I have decided to start writing a blog about Porter’s story to document his progress as we learn to live with ERU and hope that our experience may help someone else, or at least let them know they are not alone.
Meet Porter a.k.a Blinky Bill…
Porter is a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse who I bought back in January 2015 after a series of not very pleasant riding experiences.
After a 6-month break from being a horse owner I had come to the conclusion that life was simply not the same without a horse of my own. Although owning your own horse has plenty of ups and downs, I never felt quite the same without my own horse, I always felt like there was a part of me that was missing. My other half will also testify that I was miserable without a horse and despite the never-ending cost of a horse he would prefer that I came home with a smile on my face everyday rather than having extra money in the bank (what a guy! And yes, I am marrying him!).
So, the search began for my new stead and it wasn’t difficult due to the fact my very good friend Avril bought and sold horses, and I had always kept my horses on livery at her yard. I texted Avril a few days before Christmas to say that I had finally decided to buy another horse, and did she have anything in that might be suitable for me or could she keep an eye out when she was next in Ireland. I instantly got a response saying, “great news, I think I may have just the horse”. After Christmas day was out of the way I couldn’t wait to head to the yard to meet my future forever horse. When I arrived, Avril explained that this horse was not my usual choice, at this stage I had always chosen big horses, so I was a little confused when I was introduced to 16hh chestnut thoroughbred who seemed tiny to me. Avril had been my instructor for a number of years and supported me through all my highs and lows of riding and owning horses, so I was very happy to follow her advice of trying something different. Porter had only arrived from Ireland very recently and Avril explained that he was green and a bit livelier than I was used to, so I recruited my friend Nicki to test ride him for me as Avril wanted to put a couple of weeks work into him before I rode him. Nicki gave Porter a spin around the school and popped a few poles, and the rest is history – a whole lot of history, but I’m sure we will get into that in later blogs entries.
Fast-forward from January 2015 to March 2018, there had been some heavy snow that March and it had just thawed enough that we could ride in the school. It was snowing very slightly when I was riding Porter and he kept shaking his head, he didn’t usually do this, but I just assumed it was the snow irritating him and I didn’t think anymore of it. The following day Porter came in from the field with a very swollen eye so we called the vet out to take a look. The vet explained that the pupil of the eye was very restricted and wasn’t responding to light in the way it should, and that Porter appeared to be having an episode of uveitis. Horses can have one off episodes of this and can often be triggered by a scratch to the eye or knocking the eye, so Porter was injected with some painkillers, given bute to help with pain and inflammation and we were to give him atropine eye drops every few hours to help push the pupil back open to ease the pain. Unfortunately, this would not be a single one-off episode of uveitis for poor Porter. Throughout 2018 Porter continued to have flares of uveitis which lead to the diagnosis of ERU – hence the nickname Blinky Bill developed as Porter can now hold his eye completely shut with the other wide open, even when there is no uveitis he likes to do this to send me into panic mode!
In November 2018 after a consultation with an ophthalmologist we decided to go ahead with a steroid injection into the back of the eye. A couple of weeks after the injection things took a turn for the worse and Porter started to get a number of ulcers and calcium deposits on the eye, which naturally lead to more ulcers. After battling ulcers for a number of weeks the ophthalmologist reviewed Porter’s condition and advised me that he would need a keratectomy operation to reverse the calcium deposits and stop the ulceration cycle the eye had got into. I was already in the process of deciding whether to go ahead with another operation to insert an implant into the eye to help manage the uveitis moving forward, as the aim is to reduce flares as much as possible to prevent further damage to the eye that can lead to blindness. The other difficulty added to this was that I was only a couple of £100 away from reaching the £5000 limit on Porter’s insurance so I knew any treatment in the future I would have to fund myself.
After weighing up all options (including removing the eye completely) and with advice from my own vets that had been helping Porter every way they could over the past 9 months, I decided that the eye itself was still a good eye and not worth giving up on yet. Porter underwent a keratectomy and implant operation all in one. Despite the cost of this I wanted to do everything I could to save the eye because Porter has a slightly suspicious nature and approaches life with a bit of caution, so if I could possibly help him have two eyes to do that with then he would be a happier horse in the long run.
This brings us to the present day where we are now nearly 5 weeks post operation and keeping everything crossed for Porters future with two eyes!