T-bred with one eye ribbons at rated show

Heather Young of Ottawa, Canada never gave up on her ex-racehorse Norman, even after he lost an eye.

Heather Young of Ottawa, Canada never gave up on her ex-racehorse Norman, even after he lost an eye.

Like a conquering hero riding into battle, Norman, a one-eyed ex-racehorse, drew cheers from fans and caused his owner to weep as he competed in his first sanctioned horseshow last weekend.

The 17.3-hand bay gelding ribboned for second and third-place in the 2-foot-3- Jumper competition May 25 at the Bronze Level Equine Canada Sanctioned Show, marking the end of a long, dark chapter, and the beginning of a bright future.

“Everyone was cheering when they announced it was Norman on the course,” says owner Heather Young of Ottawa, Canada. “He competed against 13 other horses in each class under his coach Vanessa Honey of VH Equestrian. And he was amazing. He looks so great that people don’t even realize he doesn’t have his right eye until they see him up close.”

Race name: Alydeed’s Leader
New name: Norman
Sire: Alydeed
Dam: Sounding Joy
Foal date: April 26, 1999
But what looked easy as Norman tucked his knees, pricked his ears, and conquered oxers and fences, was a long time coming on a journey fraught with hardship.

Norman’s right eye was surgically removed in July 2011 after a stromal abscess destroyed his cornea. Nobody was quite sure what caused it, but veterinarians surmised that a fleck of dirt might have triggered the destruction.

At the time of his diagnosis and subsequent surgery, Young and Norman had only been together for a year. In her, Norman had found a loving owner after living alone in a field for two years, growing thin and forgotten.

Heaven Can Wait Equine Rescue eventually rescued the statuesque animal, boarding him at the charity’s property until Young adopted him in July 2010.

Prior to surgery to remove his eye, Norman began showing signs of acute distress.

Prior to surgery to remove his eye, Norman began showing signs of acute distress.

Possessing a sweet temperament with not a mean bone in his body, Norman packed Young around for her lessons, always taking care with his novice rider.

And by the time of his surgery, she would ignore suggestions by friends to euthanize him and start fresh with another horse.

“This was a horse who had been passed around and neglected,” she says. “I couldn’t give up on him.”

At first veterinarians tried injecting medications directly into his affected eye. For 48 hours, Norman waited patiently in a hospital stall, with tubes attached to his face, as medicine was delivered through his eyelid. He never flinched, but did show the doctors he was hip to their poking and prodding ways.

“He quickly figured out if someone with a white coat came in, they were going to poke him or do something else. So he’d turn his back to them and wouldn’t let them near him,” she says. “The vets would have to leave, take off their jackets, and return to his stall with treats”.

Those doctors eventually removed his eye, and Norman was sent home with a protective cup covering the socket.

After a month he was cleared for light riding. But Norman struggled to get his feet back under him. “He tripped over everything, he tripped all the time, and he was constantly lame,” Young says.

Norman the one-eyed Thoroughbred showed May 25 in his first rated show. Vanessa Honey of VH Equestrian pilots him in the 2-foot-6 division.

Norman the one-eyed Thoroughbred showed May 25 in his first rated show. Vanessa Honey of VH Equestrian pilots him in the 2-foot-6 division.

But even after these issues cleared up, and the determined T-bred had his feet under him, another, more perplexing one emerged. Whenever she tried to mount him from the mounting block, which was positioned on his left side, his “good side,” he reared up.

After two weeks of trying to puzzle this out, Young brought in a natural horsemanship coach who cleared the matter up in a flash. They moved the mounting block to Norman’s blind side, and Young marveled at the reason.

“It was explained that Norman trusted me, but he wanted to be able to see what was coming at him,” she says. “So, it was fine for me to stand in his blind side, and for him to be backed up to me, and a mounting block. He just needed to see the rest of the world. When the coach explained it to me, it made perfect sense.”

From that point on, it was a slow but steady progression. And eventually, Norman and Young would prove that even with one eye, Norman is as worthy a show horse as any other.

“Watching Norman and Vanessa was one of my proudest moments,” Young says. “It made everything that he and I went through, and all the second guessing myself, fade into the past. It also made me appreciate what an extraordinary animal he truly is.”

Heather Young has written two children’s books based on her amazing horse. Please click this hyperlink to read more.

17 responses to “T-bred with one eye ribbons at rated show”

  1. Karen

    I just loved this story about Norman and Heather. I hope to attend a show that Norman will compete in and become another supporter and fan.
    I also have an adopted retired thoroughbred whom I love with all my heart. He can’t be ridden but we both are learning trick training and Justice will show anyone a learned trick
    His favorite is bowing then looking with pleading eyes for that piece of carrot or apple that just might emerge from a pocket.
    The love that they give us and their compassion and intelligence is an experience that I hope others will get by reading your story and perhaps adopting a horse that will allow them to give a horse another career after racing. If cannot be ridden they can still enjoy life and teach us so much about “life” Thank you for your beautiful story and much luck to Norman in his new career.

  2. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Go Norman. Bravo!

  3. Kristine

    Norman is a fantastic and beautiful animal and his owner is pretty great too. I knew nothing about horses when Heather got Norman but now, you can bet that I was one of the people crying and clapping when he won those ribbons a few weeks ago. He has wormed his way into my heart!! I love them both and am so incredibly proud to be part of their lives and to be known as “Auntie Kristine”.

    1. Heather Young

      Thank you “Auntie Kristine”. We love having you in our corner and at our shows xo

  4. MP Clark

    Norman is gorgeous and that is a genuine tribute to his owner. She has worked with this very handsome horse and paid the bills, after the rescue did the first step. Now, look at the work pay off.

    This is exactly why slaughter has to end. We are losing our best equines to a tax scam from Congress and corrupt industry. For Americans, the best action to take to guarantee access to more ribbon winners is to force Congress to pass existing bills The SAFE Act and The PAST Act. Use http://www.USA.gov and hammer Congress.

    We have no time to wait before the next assaults on America from the corporate slaughter industry. The history is detailed by Vickery Eckhoff in her Forbes.com series on horse slaughter. Animals Angels USA and Mercy for Animals gives us facts to use. Auctions are a source of killbuyers using aka’s to obtain useful equines and other animals for the kill industry. These buyers are simply criminals.

    Live horses generate income. There never was and is not any reason for the existence of the slaughter industry. The USA sends at least 60% of horses for slaughter to Canada. The US has a real problem and Congress is a big part of it. The GOP has a major role in this scam and that has been proven over and over. Check opensecrets.org for reports on who gets paid by which industry in Congress. That may help.

    If we intend to see this scam, costing Americans 123 million a year in lost tax dollars end, we have to act on Congress. Tell everyone you know to act on Congress directly through http://www.USA.gov and force change.

    We have about a year before the killers attack us again here in the US. I suggest that we all act and make it clear that we will not tolerate this national disgrace which is foisted on us by this dysfunctional and corrupt Congress.

    Every five minutes, another friend is tortured and dies for no reason but fast cash to the slaughter industry and their buddies sitting in Congress. Act now. Save their lives.

  5. Anne Streeter

    Super story – beautiful creature!

  6. Callie1983

    What a fabulous story! What a gorgeous boy! What a lucky gal Heather is! This definitely brightened my day.

  7. Laureen

    That is interesting that he had some problems finding his feet after surgery. I have a TB who had to have her right eye removed 9 years ago, she is still going strong today. What is bizzare is that 3 weeks after her surgery, we went for light rides around the property, she did not trip over anything, it was as if nothing happened. Today we continue to go on trail rides in the mountains, she is amazing. Horses with one eye are amazing, please ignore anyone who recommends putting them down. If we are without vision, are we put down. No, because we are human, animals don’t have the same “value” apparently to some people. Thank goodness this woman did not give up. He is beautiful in every way!!!

  8. Heather Young

    Sue thank you so much for this great article and for letting people know about Norman and not giving up on a horse with a “flaw”.
    Heather and Norman xo

  9. Ashley

    Best of luck to Norman and Heather. May their success continue!

    1. Heather Young

      Thank you very much.

  10. Linda R. Moss

    Wow – what a touching, beautiful, BIG Story and OTTB! And great lesson in when we don’t have, we go without, but we still do it anyway.

    One year after I had my OTTB, he had colic surgery 🙁 He too is a fighter and Milyone is now back in full training for his Jumper career. We are all so lucky and blessed!

    Sue – hope you are well – you make my day – LOVE what you do!

  11. SusanA

    What a gorgeous horse he is! Wishing you many happy days and years together!

    1. Heather Young

      Thank you

  12. Jill Ramsburg

    Wow! Super story!! He is beautiful!!!

  13. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Here’s to “Norman the Conqueror”-wishing him many more successes in the show ring and in the field of life. With love and trust he has overcome the obstacles that life has put in his path.

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