For Heather Young, the one-eyed horse is king
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
How often do you hear little girls asking their parents for a pony as their birthday gift, only to get stuck with a life size stuffed animal?
Heather Young’s interest in horses began when she was only five years old at a summer camp in which they learned to ride. She attended such camps right up until she was 13, every year gaining more knowledge and more appreciation for the animals.
“I just adored it,” said Young. “I spent about a month every year at these horse summer camps.”
Three years ago, she renewed her love for riding and began taking lessons in Mississauga. At the same time, she had learned about Heaven Can Wait Equine Rescue, a horse rescue centre in Cameron, Ontario that adopts horses that have been rescued for various reasons.
They also have barbecues, and equipment sales. Young needed a helmet.
“I always thought it was a pipe dream to own your own horse,” she said.
Young got her helmet at the shelter and before she left she decided to take a look at the horses.
“Norman came up to me and put his forehead on mine, and I was like ‘OK, sold’,” said Young as she recalled her first encounter with Norman.
So for her birthday, Young got not a pony, but a horse.
Norman, a thoroughbred who is now 13 years old, had a great racing career previous to bumping into Young. He is the son of Alydeed, the winner of the Queen’s Plate in 1992, and quickly started to make a name for himself as Alydeed’s Leader after being bought at an auction in Alberta for $12,500.
In his 40 career races, Norman won twice, placed ten times, and showed five times. His last recorded race was on May 23, 2005 in Fort Erie in which Norman finished seventh. By then, Norman had a new owner, who surrendered him to Heaven Can Wait in 2010.
“When I met him he was skin and bones,” said Young, explaining how Norman’s last owner had neglected him for so long.
Heaven Can Wait, which is an independent organization that relies on donations and fundraising, listed Norman on their website for adoption shortly after receiving him. Young explains that someone else had actually adopted Norman, but found him to be difficult and returned him to the shelter within two weeks.
On July of 2010, Young officially adopted Norman, and brought him to his new home at Foxhunter Equestrian Centre in Stouffville.
“He was so sweet and gentle even though he stands at 17.2hh,” said Young. That’s 17 hands and two inches – about 5’9” or 1.75m – tall. “You would think he was a puppy because of how sweet he is. I couldn’t leave him.”
In June of 2010, Norman developed an issue with his right eye that had been missed by his opthamologist. He had began to squint and started tearing a lot, prompting a visit to an eye doctor in Newmarket. He was put on drops that he had to take three times a day, something Young said was difficult to do as time went on.
Because his condition wasn’t improving, he was taken to an emergency facility at the University of Guelph where they did an overall assessment of Norman. They concluded that an abscess had caused the infection, and that options were limited, and included euthanasia.
Through the ordeal, Norman showed everyone just how smart he was by not allowing anyone in a white coat near his eye. The veterinarians had to step out, remove their white coats and approach him with treats to get a look at his eye.
After consulting with many people including his trainers and veterinarians, Young decided that removing the eye was the best option.
“I decided to keep him alive, and take his eye…and see how he would fare and just give him that chance. And I’m glad I did. I would not change it for the world,” said Young.
Norman’s recovery progressed very nicely, and before long Young got back on the saddle with him and started riding him again. It was difficult at first, she explained, as Norman wasn’t comfortable with her approaching him from the sighted side. This left Norman exposed on the blind side. Young had learned a method of natural horsemanship, Pirelli, and was able to easily mount with minimal issues.
Last April, Norman participated in his first horse show only a month after Young started riding him again. He came in first place in both classes, which rate the rider’s skills as well as the horse’s in listening and following instructions.
Norman is now jumping three-foot obstacles with ease and his coach is thinking of entering him in jumping events. “His potential is just off the charts,” said Young.
Norman’s next show is on June 17, where he may do a jumping class.
“There’s no ceiling and there’s no limit as to what we can do with him…just because your horse has one eye, it doesn’t mean he’s disabled,” added Young.
Young plans on writing a children’s book on Norman, hoping to teach the lesson that no matter how different you are, you can accomplish anything while celebrating differences.
“Kids relate so well to animals, I think Norman would leap right off that page,” she said. “He’s so good with kids…he just adores them.”
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