Horse shot in the eye loses bullet 18 months later and returns to work

  • A horse who was shot in the head — and retained part of the bullet for some 18 months — has cheated the odds to return to work.

    Jo Burnett’s Irish sport horse gelding Fred lost his eye at the end of August 2019, and the bullet responsible this January.

    Jo told H&H she was told Fred was injured at about 6am on the bank holiday Monday.

    “I had a call to say it looked like his eye had been blown out,” she said.

    “At the time, we didn’t realise he’d been shot. There was blood all over the field; the whole thing was so traumatic.

    “Someone said we might never know what had happened, we just had to focus on getting him better. This story isn’t about blame; the horse is alive.”

    The vet came and Fred was stitched, and “it all looked good”, Jo said. Six weeks later, Fred was in good condition but Jo noticed a lump just below his eye.

    “A scan showed a bone fragment, so the vets were going to go in and take it out,” she said.

    “A week or two later, we took him for a CT scan. They showed it to me and I said ‘What are all those sparkles?’ They said: ‘That’s metal’. There were fragments all through his head, and they said it was either a metal fence post spike that had gone in his eye, or a bullet. I thought ‘Oh my god’.

    “The vet said he didn’t know how he was alive.”

    Fred underwent operations on his face but the small frangible bullet, which did not appear to be causing him any issues, was left where it was.

    “Then in January this year, his cheek bone had swollen up,” Jo said. “I took him in for a scan but they couldn’t find the bullet, it had gone and I never found it. He must somehow have discharged it through his nose.”

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    Jo, who also asked a friend to perform some spiritual healing on Fred, which she believes helped his recovery, is now bringing the 11-year-old back into work.

    “Whether we’ll do as much as I’d hoped for, I don’t know but he’s well and I’m riding,” she said. “If all we ever do is hack, that’s good enough for me.

    “I want to tell Fred’s story as it’s a story of hope. Every day I went to the yard, I didn’t say ‘You poor horse’, I said ‘You’re amazing’. And he was, every single day.”

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