Without Dr. Leslie Easterwood and the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science’s Large Animal Hospital (LAH), the success story of one horse and a ten-year-old girl named Codybelle wouldn’t have happened.
“Charley is one of those horses we run across every now and then that’s just different,” said Terry Smith of the horse, Charley. “He definitely has some quirks, but with those come extraordinary abilities that you don’t see too often.”
Charley, who belonged to Smith’s brother-in-law at the time, badly injured his eye in the pasture one day. With the eye in terrible condition and a fear that vision might be lost, Smith and his brother loaded Charley up in the trailer and took him to a veterinarian in Seguin, Texas.
“When we originally took him to the veterinarian in Seguin, he said they would need to take the eyeball out. It was in really bad condition and they didn’t think they could save it,” said Smith. “When I asked what other options we had, the veterinarian said to take him to Dr. Easterwood at Texas A&M.;”
Smith kept Charley at his place to try and treat the eye some more before taking him to the LAH. When Charley arrived to see Dr. Easterwood, Smith feared there was no hope in saving Charley’s eye or vision.
“After Dr. Easterwood examined the eye, I asked her, ‘So what do you think?’ She responded, ‘Oh, I think we’re going to save this one,'” said Smith. “That’s when I knew we had made the right choice.”
“When I first saw Charley, his pupil was constricted tightly and there were inflammatory proteins in the eye that might have kept the pupil from dilating if they had remained there,” said Easterwood, who is a clinical assistant professor at the college. “Despite appropriate diagnosis and treatment by the referring DVM from Seguin, his eye needed medication to get that fibrin out of the anterior chamber so that the pupil could dilate.”
Easterwood performed the necessary procedure, and Charley’s eye responded well. Within 24 hours of his hospitalization, the pupil began to dilate.
“We continued topical treatments for the original fungal infection that was present within the layers of his cornea, and he has had a complete recovery,” said Easterwood. “We’ve rechecked him several times and his eye has recovered very well!”
Smith was nothing less than ecstatic that the procedure was so effective. “I know the hospital does tons of surgeries, but that was the best I had ever been associated with,” said Smith. “Without the help from Dr. Easterwood and her team, Charley wouldn’t be where he is today. It sure made me a believer.”
Before his eye injury, Charley had been trained for barrel racing by Kay Blanford, a friend of Smith’s, who has been at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) several times and is well known throughout the area. With a loss of vision in his eye, barrel racing would have been difficult for Charley, and he would never have met Codybelle.
“I have this strange thing that I don’t like selling any of my horses, but I end up giving them away because I like the people,” said Smith. “This is essentially how he came into Codybelle’s hands.”
Friends of Smith’s called one day explaining that one of their horses got hurt, and they were in need of another for their daughter, Codybelle, to ride and run barrels with.
“This adorable little ten-year-old comes over and asks me, ‘Can we be partners?’ She was as cute as can be,” said Smith. “Of course I said yes, but I explained that I had never seen this horse run barrels in my life.”
Smith, unsure if Charley was right for Codybelle, was hesitant to give him up. However, the two formed an immediate bond.
“The very first time Codybelle rode him, Charley just absolutely fell in love with her,” said Smith. “She even took the saddle and reins off of him in the yard, and Charley just followed her around; everywhere Codybelle went, Charley went.”
It wasn’t long before Codybelle and Charley were winning everything. Placing in the top three or four at almost every barrel racing competition, the two were a match made in heaven.
“If Dr. Easterwood hadn’t saved his eye, this would be a completely different story, and Charley wouldn’t be the way he is today,” said Smith. “You can tell that Dr. Easterwood has a passion for what she does and loves these animals. That means everything in the world to us.”