Lessons from a Mule

Poor Miss Mule Part 2

In Part 1, I explained how Miss Mule came down with a rare eye condition called immune mediated keratitis and how it wasn’t responding to medication. Turns out what she has is endotheliitis, an even more rare form of immune mediated keratitis that is poorly understood and doesn’t respond to medication. I can attest to that fact, because Miss Mule went through 3 rounds of a powerful steroid and hypertonic saline and had zero results. The eye stayed exactly the same.

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My vet was honest in saying that he didn’t know much about her condition. He’s not alone. This is one of those things that vets don’t have a treatment for. I have gone through the online forums and can’t find one example of a horse that had it, got treatment, and got better. The only thing I found was one article out of NC State University saying that stem cells injected in the eye seemed to help. I don’t have money for anything involving stem cells.

The one silver lining on the cloud in her eye is that endotheliitis isn’t painful. She isn’t in any pain- no squinting or tearing of the eye. She still wants to do all the same things. She even wants to go on rides; she gets upset if she gets left behind. If there isn’t anyone to ride her, she just tags along behind us like a dog. I made a video about it.

I’ve been feeling very guilty about her eye, and wondering if I had more money to spend if I could fix her. From all my research, there doesn’t seem to be any way of fixing it. I could take out the eye, but I don’t feel right about that because it’s not painful and there’s a chance her condition could resolve. For now I just have a mule with a cloudy eye.

The result of the cloudiness is that she is basically blind in that eye. She may have a little vision, but she acts like she can’t see. It’s been interesting to adjust to a half blind mule who is already suspicious of my motives. I have to be careful not to startle her, so I talk to her constantly as I move around to her blind side so that she knows where I am. While she’s a little jumpy around me, she is the same amazing athlete out on the trail. She’s even been ridden on the road around cars with no reaction.

So far, the loss of her vision hasn’t cramped her style at all. She still does all the things she enjoys. Even though I question why I get so unlucky in having these wacko things happen to my horses (my thoroughbred had all kinds of crazy injuries), I keep reminding myself to be thankful that she’s not in pain and that she can still be ridden, and still WANTS to be ridden. Even though her eyesight is compromised, Miss Mule is still very much the same amazing athlete and kind soul that she’s always been.

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