Chapter Two

Earlier this week Lynx traveled the first few miles of his journey to a new life. On Thursday he gamely he walked up the ramp of my trailer. In a few short minutes he was rolling away, leaving behind the soil he was born on and the only horses and humans he’d ever known.

Claire, my wife, had come along in the role of photojournalist/person who keeps things together and receipts from flying out the window. She is also head cheerleader for Lynx. I have the feeling he will need one. We arrived back at the ranch just as darkness fell, unloaded Lynx (who by the way, took the two hour ride like an old pro) and did our evening chores. Doing chores in the dark is a common occurrence around this outfit…

Over the next few days I had a chance to evaluate our new friend. Losing one eye is different for a binocular species like horses than it would be for a monocular species like us. Just covering an eye with your hand is not going to give you an equivalent perspective. I don’t know this of course, since I’m not a one-eyed horse, but I think it would be more akin to covering one eye and then attaching a 4’X8’ sheet of cardboard to the bridge of your nose, completely blocking out half of your range of vision. This might look a little closer to the world Lynx now sees.

Physically Lynx is a good looking fella—my first thought on seeing him was, “WOW, that’s a nice horse.” Those folks at the Flying H know how to breed horses! Lynx is a grey, stands 15.1 hands high and he’s put together to move. He has excellent feet too, with no wear patterns that would belie anything off in his gaits. His damaged left eye remains in place but is shrunken and discolored. It weeps slightly and I have little doubt that someday some veterinarian will want to take it out. Fly season hasn’t come yet but I’m sure I will soon be digging out a fly mask to protect it.

Lynx walks with his head tilted for a wider, more forward range of vision. This I expected, but it’s not as pronounced as I thought it would be. And something else surprised me even more. He is still left side dominant, meaning he still prefers to keep things on his left if he can. As you probably know already, most horses will put you on their left sides if possible. If you don’t believe me walk straight up to one’s face and chances are you’ll soon be standing on his left side. I assumed that it would be different for Lynx and cleverly introduced myself to his right side first and when leading him to where my trailer was parked, I even more cleverly tried to do it from his right side. I’m not sure if he could have been less impressed with my brilliance—in two steps he had me on his left. You’ve probably also noticed most horses are left side dominant in more than just vision. They tend to be stronger on the left in everything from picking up leads at a lope, to circling, to just about any maneuver you can think of; they’d rather it be on the left or to the left. This includes scary things, they’d rather those stay on the left too. I assumed that with Lynx losing his left eye his sighted side would become dominant but it hasn’t, at least not yet.  I’ve introduced a few new things to him since he’s gotten here and it seems that while it’s easier to startle him on his left, he would still rather start from there. Psychologically speaking, his left side may be spookier than it used to be but his right side is still his right side. I am intensely curious to see if this will change over time.

Actually meeting him for the first time, getting a glimpse of who he is and how he is, is almost as daunting as it is exciting. I am left with more questions than answers and even more doubts. There is a fire burning in me to help this horse but I wonder if I really can. I’d feel much more confident if it were his other, less dominant eye that was blind. Then I think about him in that trailer and how game he was. After all, the window to the outside world was on his blind side and a solid divider was on the other. He couldn’t see what was coming but he accepted it with equanimity. Maybe there’s a lesson in that.