Tired of applying sunscreen and covering your
white-faced horse with a mask every time the sun
threatens? A new innovative technique may solve
your horse's eye problems - permanently.
By JENNIFER WOODS
The scorching days of summer are upon us and although the incandescence of the sun brings beauty and happiness to many, it can also cause much suffering. There are thousands of horses in North America who suffer daily from photosensitivity or over exposure to the sun. Until now, the problem was often dealt with after the fact, as there were few alternatives for prevention. Currently, a new breakthrough which combines veterinary practice and the age-old practice of tattooing has provided an inexpensive and relatively un invasive avenue of relief for the owners with bald-faced horses. Using human tattoo equipment, Paint Horse owners are embracing this newest concept of eye tattooing in an effort to permanently eliminate the agonizing effects of the sun on their Paints. The procedure is much simpler than you may imagine - just ask Carol Williams of Stravely, Alberta.
Williams battled the harsh effects of the sun on her tovero Paint Horse stallion, SmokenCaCtus Kin Leo (Cactus) time and time again. Like man other tovero horses, Cactus has a partial bald face, which has left the skin around his left eye with no pigment. The combination of a blue eye with the lack of pigmentation has caused Cactus problems with eye irritation and discomfort. (If the eye was brown there would be no problem.)
GUIDELINES FOR TATTOOING
Consult with your veterinarian before making the decision. Be sure they are educated on the procedure.
Choose the tattoo artist carefully. You want someone very experienced in human tattooing. don't hesitate to check out their shop and watch them tattoo people. If you are not comfortable with the artist, find someone else.
The reflection of the sun and snow off of the white skin around the eye causes the horse's eyes to continually water and become irritated. The skin will often sunburn and well, causing even further discomfort for the horse. In worse case scenarios, they will develop skin cancer or squamous cell carcinoma.
For the past four years, Cactus has had to wear a mask to protect his eyes from the sun.
This has been the only option available to the Williams' as well as other white-faced horse owners - until now. For these reasons, Williams decided to give the new eye-tattooing procedure a try. Similar to the concept of dark paint under a football player's eyes, the tattooing procedure is an attempt to eliminate Cactus' discomfort and avert skin cancer.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The first request the American Paint Horse Association received for the tattooing was from a breeder in the Bahamas in the early 1980's. He was raising black and white tobianos and owned a stallion who threw tovero colts. The colts were having severe problems with eye-watering. After some discussion, the APHA decided to allow the eye-lining.
Since that time, the APHA has received numerous calls from owners and veterinarians concerning the procedure.Even though most calls come in from the sunny southern states, the problem is just as prevalent in the northern region, where horses have not only the sun, but also the glare off the snow to contend with.
The procedure falls under Regulation 121 in the APHA's official rule book. It is handled the same as scars and brands and it is requested that the owners submit a photo showing the tattoo so it can be recorded on the horse's registration certificate. The tattoo must be black in color or it will be considered cosmetic surgery and unacceptable.
CACTUS' NEW EYE-LINER
Williams says when she first called Dr. Wilkie at the Okotoks Animal Clinic, he sounded a "tad bit skeptical" about what she was proposing. He has never heard of tattooing but agreed to look into it for her. Williams faxed him a story out of the Paint Horse Journal, and he began making phone calls.
Dr. Wilkie contacted the Arizona veterinarian mentioned in the article, and soon realized the tattooing was a legitimate and effective procedure. Even though this type of tattooing has been performed on collie-type dogs for the past 20 or 30 years, less than a handful of horse in Canada have had it done. Coincidentally, all eye-tattooed horses in Canada are located in Ontario.
The next step was locating a tattoo artist willing to do the procedure. Human tattoo equipment must be used because it is important to produce lines that are fine. You also want to choose an artist who is experienced with a tattoo gun and knowledgeable about tattooing humans.
Dr. Wilkie located Shawn Perry of Fine Line Tattoo in Calgary, Alberta. Even though Perry had never performed the procedure, he was familiar with it from an article he had read once and was willing to work on Cactus. Livestock was not a far reach for Perry as he had tattooed buffalo several years before.
Williams brought Cactus into the Okotoks Animal clinic, where he was repared for the procedure. Dr. Wilkie examined him and gave him a light sedative. He then administered nerve blocks to the eye area to inhibit any blinking. The eye area was scrubbed and disinfected.
After Perry arrived and set up, Cactus was taken into a procedure room and put under anesthetic. He was laid down on his right side to allow Perry full ccess to the left eye.
An anti-bacterial ointment was then administered to the eye and the tattooing began. Dr. Wilkie held the skin around they eye tight, while Perry began his work. A non-toxic, 100% carbon ink is used which is harmless to both the horse and the environment.
Perry continued around the entire eye, making the line approximately two to hree millimeters wide. Twenty-two minutes later Cactus had a flashy new tattoo around his eye.
There is basically no recovery period required for the tattooing alone, but it is crucial for the horse to recover properly from the sedation. Once the horse is sent home, it is recommended that the eye area be kept clean and a mask kept on it to prevent irritation and scratching.
It is not uncommon for some swelling and redness to occur in the first few days. Scabbing may also occur, but they generally fall off within a week. After two weeks, everything should be completely healed and your horse will no longer have as much difficulty with the sun.
There is no guarantee on how long the ink will last. There have been cases that have required the tattoo to be reapplied, but owners are finding the medical benefits of the procedure greatly outweigh the cost. The price of the tattooing may range depending on where the procedure is done. The total cost for Cactus was under $500.
What was related above is simply one of many articles concerning the practice of tattooing the area around the eye of a painthorse with no pigmentation around the eye. The procedure is accepted by the APHA for registered painthorses and is completely safe with no ill effects for the horse.
Here in Parker and the surrounding counties, the problem is finding a reputable tattooist who can and will do it.
At New Covenant Ink, we would like to make this procedure available for you. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Steven at (817) 594-8044
The procedure must be done at a licensed Veterinary Facility capable of treating horses.
The horse's owner is responsible for the transportation of horses to and from the facility.
The horse's owner is responsible for any and all veterinarian fees.
The horse must be under a sedative during the procedure.
The fee for this procedure is $350 per horse if I have to travel less than 30 miles to complete the procedure. If you can provide 4 or more horses for treatment at the same time, the fee per horse decreases to $300 per horse.
Click Here to read an article in the painthorse journal concerning equine tattooing. We would love to help your horse have a better quality of life.
Q&A Concerning the Procedure
Q: Is the horse conscious when you tattoo?
A: No. After the licensed Veterinarian does a health assessment, the horse will be sedated and then intubated. During the tattooing, the horse's vital status will be monitored at all times.
Q: How long does the procedure take?
A: The actual tattooing takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes per eye, but plan on a total of two hours. This includes time for sedation.
Q: What is the healing process?
A: The horse's eyes will be tender for several days. The tattooed area may ooze clear or slightly red fluid during this time. You should clean the eye area with a warm, damp cloth several times a day for 2 to 3 days. After each cleaning, you should apply a light coating of antibiotic ointment to the area, being careful not to get any ointment in the horse's eyes. After 3 to 5 days you will notice that the tattoo will become "flaky". The top layer is basically a scab and needs to come off. The resulting tattoo will be slightly lighter in color.
Q: How long does it last?
A: All tattoos fade! The rate of fading may be different for each horse, depending on many variables. Most of thime the fading does not require re-application of the tattoo