Lakota - the blind wild mustang
My mom died in Jan.2007. She left behind a couple of horses which we had to rescue from her property.... Lakota is a seventeen year old wild mustang mare that was born free and wild in Nevada. She was captured by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) adopted out and later sold to my mother. At the time, Lakota had a six month old daughter named Cheyenne. Both were wild and lived there on the property. After my mother's death, it became urgent to relocate them. Lakota had gone blind and moving her and Cheyenne became a monumental task...We set up a round pen (corral) and once Lakota was inside the corral, we began to remove panels to reduce the size of the corral...My husband roped Lakota and I injected her with tranquilizers from the vet. Even sedated she was terrified. After trapping, loading and transporting her to our house, we set up the corral in the yard, opened the horse trailer and attached it to the corral. It was a stormy night and Lakota unloaded herself in the middle of the night. Lakota was totally terrified by everything. I was told that being blind is hard enough for a horse and being wild and blind was an impossible combination, and that very likely we would have to have her euthanized. I looked on the Internet for expert advise....many had experience with wild horses or blind horses but to date I have not found anyone that claims to have experience with a blind wild horse.I was told that most likely I'd never get my hands on this horse, which if it weren't for medical reasons and the possibility of having to handle her for any number of reasons pertaining to her health and well-being, then I'd just as soon, let her stay wild. I started by just talking to her. The sound of my voice made her spook and move away from me. While feeding her, I tried to give her a carrot from my hand, which totally freaked her out and she wouldn't come near the feed bowl until I would leave the corral.. For the next three days she wouldn't eat until I would leave the area. Little by little, she allowed me to come near her again. I spent countless hours just talking to her. I continued to try to gain her trust and used the carrot to guide her to the rubber feeder that contained her grain. By tapping the carrot on the feeder bowl, she could find her way to the food. Little by little she began to tolerate my presence and be less spooky.
Lakota has retained so much of her natural instinct, which is obvious by her reactions. She knows when a storm is brewing up, long before any of us or any of our many other animals. She notices any sound of movement long before any of the other horses. For months, we'd move the corral around to new grass for her to graze on. At first she was terrified of the sound made by the metal corral panels and would spook and bump into the panels.. After a while she would stand patiently in the center of the corral while we pushed it around,knowing that we were moving it to new grass and as soon as we would finish, she would have her head down searching for fresh grass. We began building our blind horse habitat and in the process, adopted Grace, a 20 yr.old Appaloosa mare, also blind but tame...Grace's right eye was deteriorated, infected and painful... The vet decided that it was medically necessary to have her eyeball surgically removed.. Within a month of adopting Grace as a companion to Lakota, she had the operation.. It was very much of a big deal ( for her as well as us ) to have an eyeball removed. After a tough month and a half, Grace finally was healed.After five months of living in the corral, Lakota and I had made progress. She now allows me to touch her face, neck and back.. She moves toward my voice and will "answer" back when I call to her.
When we completed the fencing for the blind horse habitat, we moved Lakota's corral as close as possible to the driveway, connected corral panels to the new enclosure, opened up the corral and Lakota MOVED HERSELF across the street and into the new area. Now Lakota and Grace live together happily.They spend their days grazing, swatting flies and enjoying the shade of the big oak trees... and from a distance, no one would ever know that they are both blind.. Lakota and I continue to bond a little more each day as she permits me into her world, which is a calm and relaxed place compared to the terror of the darkness she previously endured. I am honored that she chooses to accept my presence and my good intentions despite what humans have done to her in the past. She was living wild and free then she was captured, freeze branded, adopted out and sold off and put out to pasture. With Lakota's experience with human beings, it amazes me that she could trust people again. For sure, she is more forgiving than a lot of people that I've known in my lifetime.
Update: Lakota has made fantastic progress since she came to live with us in 2007. Lakota proves daily how little we humans know about trust, patience and life's struggles. She and Grace live together in our Blind Horse Habitat. The new Habitat Barn was completed in September 2010.