BY TPH STAFF
The jumper ring is a place where new trends often come blazing out first, but sunglasses for horses?!? That’s a new one.
But if you see Lauren Kolbe’s horse, Cloudy, sporting his goggles on show day it’s not for style. Cloudy, named for his cloudy eye, suffers from ERU (equine recurrent uvitis), also known as moon blindness, which prevents him from being able to see out of his left eye. In order to keep his condition from worsening, he wears fly masks and special goggles to keep his eye completely out of the sun.
According to UC Davis, 60% of horses affected with ERU are unable to return to work. Cloudy is the exception, largely in part to his “cool” gear. Even with his condition, he still managed to compete with Kolbe in the 1.30m Jr/Am jumpers throughout 2019. The pair even ended mid-circuit champion at DHP in 2020.
Starting his career in the jumpers, he excelled in the jumper ring. But as he got older, they decided to retire him from bigger fences and try him in the equitation. He proved that one-eyed horses can be competitive in the big Eq ring. “It was such a cool moment for us as he started out as my equitation horse in 2018. We started with 3’0” equitation and moved up to the 3’6” as he taught me the basics of riding. It was my dream to do well and place in the big eq on him,” Kolbe explains.
Cloudy has overcome injuries and two eye surgeries, but is still one of the most honest horses Kolbe has ever ridden. Around the horse show, he looks like a snowboarder and gets a lot of attention. “Because of his ERU, he struts around the shows in his goggles and gets weird looks all over the show grounds. People stop and take his picture a minimum of 5 times per day and are always wondering what the goggles are for and if they need a pair for their horse. He basically has a fan club who are always cheering for him at the back gate,” she says.
Most recently Cloudy’s left eye was removed due to a tumor, which will leave him completely blind on his left side. But true to his tenacious nature, he recovered like a champ and is already back in work. “He hasn’t skipped a beat, and you would never know his eye is missing,” Kolbe shares.