All The Farm That Is Fit To Print

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shire Horse Operation

The pony that can prance again: Horse born blind can see for the first time after vets perform ‘miracle’ £6,000 operation

by Daily Mail

• Foal's blindness was cured after internet search revealed ground-breaking operation could be carried out

• Owners Donald and Jane: 'We have no regrets about it, we did it purely as it was a nice thing to do'

• Only 1,500 of the rare-breed horse is left in the UK

This is the moment an endangered rare-breed shire horse regained her sight after six hours of pioneering veterinary surgery and became the first horse in Britain to undergo the ground-breaking operation.

Shire foal, Mary Anne, faced being put down by vets after she was born unable to see.

Owners Donald and Jane McIntyre were told that the mare was worthless and faced a miserable existence unable to negotiate even the easiest of obstacles.

But the 62-year-old farmer and his 54-year-old wife from Bristol wouldn't give up on the foal - one of only 1500 left in the country - even when her mother, Faith, abandoned her moments after she was born.

After carrying out extensive research on the internet the couple discovered that new equipment had been developed to allow vets to perform cataract surgery on horses.

And when they were told that the foal would have an 80 per cent chance of curing her blindness the couple spent £6,000 for the sight and life saving operation.

Donald recalled the moment he saw Mary Anne alone in the paddock: 'We walked up to her and realised she was alive. We put her on the mare's teets and she started sucking like normal.

'But it wasn't until we got her into the stable when Mary Anne started to walk around and bump into everything that we suspected there was something wrong.

'The vet came out and examined her eyes and found she was totally blind. He advised us to have her put down because she wouldn't be able to guide herself around hazards.'

They even padded out her paddock and placed a bell on her mother's neck so that she could guide herself around the field without injury.

He added: 'Jane then did some research and found out about this ground-breaking piece of equipment that had been developed in Germany and was now being used by British vets.'

The couple made contact with vet Tim Knott, based at Thornbury, near Bristol, and he told them there was an 80 per cent chance of Mary Anne regaining her sight.

He said: 'It didn't make any financial sense but I guess we are big softies at heart.

'The operation cost about £6,000 and Jane had inherited some money from her late father so we used some of that.'

But it was the moment that Mary Anne was let out after the operation that they knew it had been a success.

Donald added: 'She was quite literally dancing around and jumping for joy. There was no stopping her.'

Sight and sound: Shire horse Mary Anne launches herself through her paddock after regaining her sight

Before, she would bump into hedges and fences but this time she was able to see them and stop in time.

'It was also the first time she could see her mother and it was obvious that made her very happy.

'She can now see up to ten metres in front of her which is quite adequate and means she is perfectly functional.'

Mary Anne's eyes were underdeveloped during her 11 month gestation period which meant she had white lenses in her eyes instead of transparent ones.

Vet Mr Knott made a two millimetre incision on the foal's corneas and used the revolutionary tiny, mini jack-hammer needle to turn the white lens into liquid and then drained it.

The transparent, artificial lens that has concentric rings and is like a lighthouse lens, was then inserted into the eyes and opened up like a flower to 22 millimetres across.

Mr Knott explained: 'Cataract surgery on animals has been around for 20 or 30 years but it has always been unsuccessful on horses.

'But due to research and investment, equipment to carry out micro-surgery on horses has now been developed in Germany and there are three vets in the UK using it.

'Mary Anne was one of the first, if not the first, to have this brand new lens fitted using the new equipment.'

Donald said: 'Mary Anne has settled down really well and she now has a strong relationship with her mum. You couldn't separate them now.

'We have no regrets about it, we did it purely as it was a nice thing to do.'

He said that they will not work Mary Anne or breed from her but will break her in to ride her.

Shire horses have been placed on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list of endangered breeds. The population is believed to be less than 1,500.

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