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‘Don’t give up’: mare wins at show weeks after eye removal

The rider of a mare who was competing — and winning — weeks after her eye was removed wants others in the same situation not to give up hope.

Molly Stretton’s 15-year-old part-bred Irish sport horse Ruby won a showjumping class on 26 July, just over a month after the mare underwent surgery.

Molly told H&H she first noticed an issue with Ruby’s eye in early April.

“I’d hacked her out in the morning and she was fine, but when I went back about 6pm to turn her out, her eye was completely clouded over,” Molly said.

“I called the vet straight away and I don’t think he quite believed that I’d seen her that morning as he said that sort of thing doesn’t build up as quickly as that; it was completely blurred.”

Ruby was put on steroids, and her eye was dyed and scanned repeatedly to no effect, until on her last scan, a cluster of antibodies was found.

“It’s like an autoimmune response,” Molly explained. “My vet said it happens in cows but he’d never seen it in a horse, and they’re normally caused by something like a tumour, but there was nothing like that.”

On 2 June, the decision was made to remove the eye, and the surgery was carried out on 19 June.

“It was heartbreaking,” Molly said. “She was poorly afterwards; she had to be heavily sedated for the operation, and she’d never been sedated before. She colicked twice and wouldn’t put her head down to the floor to eat; she dropped a lot of weight.

“The vet said to start riding her, and it was as if she suddenly realised she had a purpose again, and started eating. She’s never been out of work and the vet said maybe she thought it was the end.”

Molly got back in the saddle on 23 June.

“She’s no different,” she said. “I did a lot of research before she had the operation and everything seemed negative, people saying horses changed, and wouldn’t be able to do as much as before but I can honestly say she hasn’t changed at all, it’s amazing.”

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As well as winning her jumping class last Sunday, Ruby also scored 70% in a dressage test at the same venue. Molly and Ruby had evented at BE80 level last year, and Molly, who had planned to step up to BE90 this year, has entered an event at Eland Lodge at the end of August.

“Ruby’s always been brilliant — I was only going to keep her for a year when she arrived, and that was nine years ago as I just couldn’t sell her — and there’s no change I can see,” she said.

“It’s such a relief and I just wanted to let people know that things are possible, and not to give up.”

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