There are many reasons why horses, mules and donkeys make their mark and leave a lasting impression on us. So it was with Ben who came to Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare in 2012 after his competition career was cut short when his eyesight failed him. His owners became concerned when he started to refuse jumps and he was subsequently diagnosed with a condition called Moon Blindness, the second equine we had living at the centre with the condition. He could see some shadows out of one of his eyes which meant he often held his head at angle when trying to perceive something and we gave him regular physical therapy to prevent him becoming stiff as a result. He could be naturally wary due to his limited sight but built close bonds with our staff and in particular, another resident horse, Morgan.
Morgan came to Raystede due to recurring lameness issues which meant he could no longer work and effectively became Ben’s eyes. The two were inseparable and Ben felt confident in Morgan’s company to navigate his home. Tragically Morgan died quite suddenly in early 2019 and to everyone’s amazement and relief, the role was taken over by Dennis who, unprompted and pictured here with Ben, simply picked up the mantle as Ben’s guide.
In the Autumn of 2020, Ben started to show signs of pain and seemed very unsettled. Eleanor Stourton, Relationship Officer at the East Sussex centre explains; “The vet was called and the possibility of removing one of Ben’s eyes was discussed to make him more comfortable. However, Ben’s behaviour was getting increasingly erratic and it became clear he was losing what remained of his sight which was causing him to panic. Removing his eye might stop his pain but we could do nothing to retain the tiny amount of sight he had.
Physically Ben could have survived but mentally, even with Dennis beside him, he would have been under tremendous strain and his quality of life would have been hugely compromised so, at 15, the difficult decision was made to put him to sleep.Ben had a home for life at Raystede as due to his disability, he could never have been re-homed. He overcame so much adversity in his relatively short life and taught us so much. We take comfort that he and Morgan are now reunited.”
To find out more about Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, The Broyle, Ringmer, East Sussex BN8 5AJ visit the website at www.raystede.org