Today we hosted Dr. Heather Kaese, a veterinarian and ophthalmology researcher who is working to understand the genetic links between uveitis and Appaloosas. As we documented in our new Web site, BlindAppaloosas.org, Appaloosas are much more likely to get uveitis, the leading cause of blindness in horses, than other breeds. Consequently, blindness in Appaloosas is, sadly, far too common. So Heather and her research team are trying to find out why Appaloosas are at such risk for this disease.
Heather is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and a resident in ophthalmology who currently practices in Kansas City. Earlier this year we sent Heather and her research colleagues blood samples from all of our blind Appaloosas. Her visit today was to do actual eye exams on each of them to confirm that they are in fact blind from uveitis. If any of them had turned out to be blind from something else, it would skew the research data.
Dr. Erin Taylor, our equine vet who is a board-certified surgeon, and our small animal vet, Dr. Brenda Culver who has a special interest in ophthalmology, also came out today to work with Heather. In the photo above, you see Erin on the left, Brenda in the middle, and Heather on the right holding the slit-lamp. They're examining blind Rocky, one of our 13 blind Appaloosas. Heather confirmed that all of them were indeed blind from uveitis.
Our horses are just a small part of the data sample that the researchers are collecting, and we're delighted to help in any way we can. Now if only we could get the Appaloosa Horse Club, the official breed association, to acknowledge this problem in the breed and devote any resources to the research effort ... that would really be something.