A Lifelong Bond Keeps This Blind General Going Without Eyes

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Photo © Kirsten Ziegler

BY SARA HOLMAN

May 9th, 1999. The day General’s tiny hooves touched the ground. My uncle brought General home to his farm at 15 months old, when I was ten years old. That was the day I met General for the first time. He was mine.  

My mom helped me do all of General’s groundwork and training because I was not strong or knowledgeable enough to be training a baby. Still, it was a great experience for us to be doing it together. As General and I learned and grew up together, our bond solidified. There were plenty of learning curves and tears shed during our time growing together, but it’s amazing how much we trust each other now because of all the struggles we faced together.  

General at 15 months old, our first time seeing each other.

My mom signed my sister and I up for 4-H in 1998, and we started going to shows every weekend. We did the county fairs, local open shows, trail rides at our state park, and even costume classes. As we got older, General gave me even more experiences. We helped pony my mom’s young horse during trail rides, we worked cattle, rode in town parades, won the Posse Queen title, qualified for State fair in North Dakota and Minnesota, and carried the American flag at a demolition derby. 

When I went off to college, I decided to live at home so I could still ride General regularly. When I graduated in 2014, he came with me to Kentucky. Kentucky has been our home for the last 6 1/2 years, and we plan to stay here. We have explored streams and creeks here, trail ridden all over the hundreds of acres we’ve boarded on, taken countless pictures and videos, and have enjoyed the weather, warmer winters, and lush grass Kentucky has had to offer.   

General’s eyes started causing him problems when he was 13. He was diagnosed with Equine Recurrent Uveitis. I kept his eyes healthy with ointments for many years, but they finally reached a plateau where the meds were not helping anymore. He had his first eye removal surgery in August of 2018. This is when he met Butters. Butters was a rescued mini at the farm we boarded at. They had stalls right next to each other. They quickly bonded and became inseparable during General’s recovery and stall rest. 

General and Sara showing at Lakeside Arena in 2019.

His other eye was taken out in June of 2019. Butters was with him during this surgery and right next to him for all of his recovery. Even after these surgeries, the three of us did many fun things together: our first horse show in 9 years, rides where we galloped together, short trail rides around the farm (so Butters could keep up), and of course endless pictures of the three of us. Butters gained his wings in April of 2020. It was very hard to watch General grieve over the loss of his best friend.

Photo © Katlin Karsen

Even though he is totally blind, General and I have tried a few new things this year. We have been graciously trailered off the farm to trail ride at our local parks here in Kentucky. We completed a XC course set up at our boarding facility where we walked around all the jumps—except one we were able to walk over!  

General cantering with Butters in 2019

I’ve taught General a few voice cues to keep him safe while riding and walking over things, like stepping into a trailer or over obstacles on a trail. He hasn’t missed a beat since losing his eyes, and a huge part in that is how brave he is and how much he trusts me. He also lost his vision gradually, so he adjusted to his loss of sight over time. 

Photo © Kirsten Ziegler

I have had General for 20 years now, as he just turned 21 in the spring. We have experienced many things growing up together, here’s to many more years.


Sara lives in Lexington, KY and works as a Sign Language Interpreter in the public school system. She has 5 rescue cats, 2 with special needs. To follow General’s journey check out his Instagram at Chexinthemail or to see memories of General and Butters visit their facebook page at General and Butters.

Photo © Matthew Donohue