“At first we were perplexed, then increasingly astonished, at how many of these people were calling about blind Appaloosas.”
We started the non-profit Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in 2000 as a special place for disabled animals. Our ranch covers 160 acres in the beautiful and remote Blackfoot River Valley of western Montana.
We were living in Seattle and working for Boeing – Steve as a communications executive, Alayne as an attorney – when we decided to establish this sanctuary. Our original plan was to take in disabled dogs and cats. Yet a few weeks after moving to the ranch in Montana, the first animal to arrive turned out to be a blind American Quarter Horse named Lena. She had lost her sight to trauma from training abuse. Then came Shasta, a big Appaloosa who was going blind from ... you guessed it, uveitis.
More Blind Appaloosas
Once word got out that we were taking in blind horses, the calls and emails started coming in from people around the country, asking us to take their blind horses. At first we were perplexed, then increasingly astonished, at how many of these people were calling about blind Appaloosas. Certainly the majority of the requests to take a blind horse involved Appaloosas – perhaps as many as six out of every ten requests.
It got to the point where we’d routinely ask the horse owner on the phone – before they had told us much about their blind horse – “Is your horse an Appaloosa?” There would be a long pause, and then they’d respond with something like, “Why yes, it is an Appy, how did you know?”
But it wasn’t until we purchased a copy of Equine Ophthalmology, the comprehensive textbook published in 2005, that we first learned there was more than just anecdotal evidence about the breed’s risk for uveitis and blindness.
Raising Awareness About The Risk
Today, we have 70 disabled animals at our ranch, including many blind horses — several of whom are Appaloosas. Now, we are not exactly scouring the countryside looking only for blind Appaloosas.
As the requests to take in blind Appaloosas continued to stream in, we realized we needed to raise awareness about the breed’s increased risk for this terrible affliction. Something needs to be done, and soon, to reverse this course.
So this Web site is dedicated to our own blind Appaloosas – to Hannah from North Carolina, Rocky and Hawk from Missouri, Guadalupe from Washington, Scout from Idaho, and Shasta and Bridger from Montana, to name just a few. These wonderful animals were the inspiration for BlindAppaloosas.org.
Steve Smith and Alayne Marker
Co-founders, Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary
The sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that is supported entirely by private contributions. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.