By Megan Palsa
It is often said that dogs are man’s best friends, but sometimes a horse can be a boy’s best friend. Throughout history, humans and their horses have shared a unique bond. Drawn to their overwhelming power and mystique, they continue to be an integral part of our lives. Ten-year-old Kaden Ramirez and his horse, George, share a bond that is deeper than most.
Growing up immersed in the rodeo culture, Kaden’s love for horses was almost predestined. However, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with autism at the age of six that rodeoing became more than a hobby; it became his therapy.
“It took almost two years for George to fully learn Kaden, which is a feat considering that the process of buying and training a horse for him is very intensive,” said Kimberly Ramirez, Kaden’s mother. “People would stop me and say, ‘Wow, it looks like Kaden finally learned that horse,’ and I would say, ‘No, George finally learned him.’”
The dynamic duo has been rodeoing together for a little over two years now and began excelling in barrel racing all over the region this past year, recently claiming the all-around title in La Grange. Not only has rodeoing with George brought Kaden extraordinary pleasure, doctors have confirmed that participation in rodeos has helped his symptoms.
On the night of September 20, 2014, George had an accident and poked his eye with an unknown item in the pasture, resulting in an emergency trip to the veterinarian. After being treated by their referring veterinarian, the eye was not progressing as they had hoped, so George was sent to Dr. Leslie Easterwood at the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital.
“George came to the Large Animal Hospital with a five day history of a puncture to the left eye after showing little progression. Dr. Sam Williams, a Texas A&M graduate who had been treating George in Victoria, Texas, sent him for an injection into his eye that is not commonly done out in private practice,” said Easterwood. “He had some fibrin (inflammatory material) inside the anterior chamber of the eye that was preventing his pupil from opening. If the fibrin remained in the eye, the pupil would remain closed, and he would not be able to see once the puncture was healed.”
Although a horse can typically function and perform various activities with the loss of sight in one eye, it would be dangerous for the duo to continue barrel racing unless George regained enough sight in the eye. The extensive veterinary procedures have led to costly medical bills. Easterwood and her team decided, however, that they would do all in their power to keep this duo together.
“After hearing the story about the bond between George and Kaden, we were moved, and agreed to keep George in the hospital to help provide him with the best chance at sight. George would be a very good teaching case and could offer our students the opportunity to follow the case the whole way through and see the effects of our treatments,” Easterwood said. “Although the Ramirez family had not asked for any help, we were more than happy to provide it. The family’s friends also started a GoFundMe account to help with expenses from both our hospital and the charges from Dr. Williams.”
Easterwood and her team kept George over the weekend, performing ultrasounds on the eye to monitor progress with the fibrin, and over time, the pupil opened and George became responsive to light. “These are both good signs that we will hopefully have a sighted eye once the corneal healing is over,” said Easterwood.
An entire community waits anxiously for an update on George’s condition, but none more so than 10-year-old Kaden. Regardless of the outcome, this dynamic duo will stay strong.
“The Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital is a wonderful and caring place,” said Ramirez. “Dr. Easterwood, her team of students, and all of the staff were very dedicated to not only George and Kaden but also us as a family. I feel they all went above and beyond the call of duty, and we will always have a special place in our hearts for this animal clinic. They have made Kaden a big Texas A&M fan, and he now keeps up with all of the football games and wants to get everything in maroon; A&M has made a friend for life.”