We were delighted to be contacted by British rider Caroline Murphy recently, to introduce us to her beautiful mare, Coco. The pair has a big social media and horsey following, thanks to Caroline’s documentation of their adventures together. Coco is an Irish draught mare, and Caroline and Coco do a variety of riding activities together, including flatwork and jumping. The pair is particularly inspirational and notable however, as both are partially sighted.
Coco is blind in her right eye due to a melanoma and detached retina, and also partially sighted in her ‘good’ left eye, due to overhanging melanoma (see photo, below), which is being treated – the prognosis for this issue is thankfully good. The pair trains with eventer Jonty Evans, who himself experienced a serious brain injury after an eventing fall, in addition to training sessions when feasible with Sir Lee Pearson CBE; Caroline also loves to venture out on drag hunt hound exercise (pictured – photo by Darryl Owen.)
‘The blind leading the blind’
Coco’s besotted owner has her own health issues to contend with too however, suffering from a neurological condition known as IIH, or idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which results in an over-production of cerebral brain fluid that has permanently damaged her optic nerve. Caroline is also now blind in her right eye, with limited vision in the left, and jokes ‘It’s the blind leading the blind’ for herself and Coco.
A beautiful connection
Caroline also suffers from hypermobility, Myalgic Encephomyelitis (ME), degenerating discs and some challenging mental health issues, some of which can be associated with her brain condition. She credits Coco with saving her life.
Caroline met Coco at a local riding facility and says that when she got on the mare, it was as if Coco knew her. “I’ve never felt a connection like that with a horse. It sounds silly, but it was as if she said to me: ‘I know what you’re going through’,” Caroline explains.
Deciding to buy Coco, Caroline found that her vet-check revealed some serious issues, including the mare’s blindness in her right eye, which explained some of the so-called behavioural issues she’d had like spinning around.
“We’re both visually impaired and blind in the same eyes; I thought to myself, ‘This is a new life for both of us’,” Caroline recalls of that time, when she was suffering from the effects of depression and other mental health issues, and had been suicidal.
“Coco is my world; she’s been through the mill, but she saved me, and has made me so much more confident as a person; so I’m trying to save her too.”
Caroline now advocates for horse-assisted therapy and mental health awareness, and is definitely an inspiration to anyone struggling to see a way forward from their current challenges, whether physical or emotional.
A multitude of equine dental issues
Bitting has often been a problem for Coco, not least because of the considerable mouth issues that weren’t addressed until she came into Caroline’s care. These include a diseased molar tooth that’s caused her difficulties recently, a wave mouth (misalignment of the molar teeth), short, soft teeth, and a melanoma in one of the guttural pouches, the little air sacs either side of the head.
Caroline explains that her mare has recently been going well in a Happy Tongue bit from the Bomber Bit range; the mouthpiece has a medium port that creates space for the tongue, relieving pressure, and allowing the horse to relax.
“We love the Happy Tongue. Coco has a fleshy mouth, & has never been happier in her eggbutt.”
” I have been getting some amazing work out of her since changing to the Happy Tongue, and I can’t wait to compete with her next year. My trainers are seeing a real difference, both via videos with Lee, and in-person with Jonty,” Caroline explains.
“Our old bit gave her mouth sores, and myself and the vet are so pleased that these have disappeared with the Bombers Happy Tongue,” Caroline adds. “Coco is so loose in the hand with this bit. I am even starting to get such a beautiful shape with her, working from behind in trot, whereas before it was uncomfortable for her, and she didn’t want to relax her head down and connect. My riding is improving with this bit, I am certain! I know my horse is comfortable, so I’m not scared to try a tiny little bit more contact instead of my usual washing line reins. I know she won’t end up sore, and I’m getting beautiful results and a happy horse who is literally dancing!
We wish her and Coco all the very best, and thank Caroline for sharing their story.
Caroline blogs at –
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