“My eye burst and all the fluid was running down my face.”
Kent, England, farrier Charlie Madden had just suffered one of the worst injuries that a London eye specialist had ever seen.
“The doctor said it wasn’t good,” he told Horse & Hound, “but they wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until they operated.”
Like a Shotgun
Farriers who suffer work-related eye injuries often are the result of a forging accident or a horse’s swishing tail. Madden’s injury occurred because of an equipment failure.
“I’d done the front feet and the horse was fidgety, but not too bad,” recalls the 13-year veteran farrier. “I went to put the [hindfoot] down and felt him pull back a bit. As I turned around, he pulled right back. The string didn’t break, but the headcollar did. The metal cheek ring catapulted off, like a shotgun, and went straight into my eyeball.”
Madden’s sight darkened in a matter of seconds.
“It felt like I’d been punched in the face,” he says, “but then it didn’t hurt.”
Doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London saved Madden’s eye after a 3-hour surgery. While the eye fluid regenerated itself, he only has 5% vision in it.
“The iris had started protruding out of the hole, so they had to push it back in and stitch up the globe,” Madden says. “If you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell, apart from the fact that I wear glasses now. I’m just pleased I didn’t have to have the eye taken out.”
Recovery can be Fleeting
Nearly 40 years ago, International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame member Dan Bradley found himself in a similar situation as Madden. While practicing for a competition, a piece of metal broke off his pritchel, ricocheted off the anvil and embedded in his left eye.
“It bounced off the retina twice,” says the Jefferson, Texas, farrier, “and lodged itself against my optic nerve.”
Although Bradley’s eye was saved, he has persistent, long-term vision problems — in both eyes.
“I have macular degeneration in the right eye,” he says. “I had so much damage in the left eye that over the years, the right eye was trying to compensate. It overworked the right eye and the blood vessels behind it went kaput. So, I can’t see anything out of the center of my eye.”
About 5 years after the accident, Bradley suddenly lost vision in the left eye after he developed an instantaneous cataract because of the trauma.
“If you take a glass and wipe Vaseline on it, that’s what it looked like,” he says. “I couldn’t see anything out of it.”
While there are surgeries to repair these types of vision problems, Bradley didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to pay for the procedure. He remained partially blind for the next 5 years. After doctors surgically replaced the damaged lens, his vision was restored. However, Bradley has limitations.
A normal eye automatically focuses on objects near and far. While reading this article, your eyes are focused on the words on the page while objects in your periphery are out of focus. When you look away from the article and look at an object, such as a clock across the room, your eyes automatically readjust and focus on the new object so quickly that you are unable to discern that it is doing so. After Bradley suffered the injury, his autofocus stopped working.
“I lost all my depth perception,” he says. “The left eye has a lens in it that is locked in at a certain distance. When you lose a lens, there’s no way an eye can adjust. It can’t focus. I don’t have autofocus anymore.
“I had it so bad when I went blind in my left eye, I was going to have T-shirts made up that said, pass on the right side only,” Bradley continues. “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve bumped into because I forget that I can’t see.”
Eye Protection is a Must
Not surprisingly, both Madden and Bradley strongly advise the use of eye protection.
“I have no sympathy for anybody who loses an eye while shoeing horses because it does not have to happen,” Bradley says. “There’s no excuse for not wearing safety glasses.”
Safety glasses might feel uncomfortable or an inconvenience, but it’s better than the alternative.
“You don’t realize how important your eyes are till something like this happens,” Madden says. “Now, I don’t go near a horse without my glasses or safety glasses on. I just want to get my story out to encourage people, not just farriers, to wear eye protection as much as possible because this could happen to anyone. It could happen just tying your horse up.”
- Do You Wear Eye Protection?: Tell us in the American Farriers Journal online poll.
- Protect Your Eyes: In this video, International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame member Dan Bradley discusses the need to protect your eyes in the process of farrier work.
- Copper Sulfate Use by Farriers Raises Safety Concerns: The common thrush treatment can be dangerous to farriers, horses and the environment.