Something About Bernie (aka Bernie) returned to the horse show ring on Saturday, July 15. The thoroughbred competed in a Maryland Dressage Association Show, placing 2nd and 3rd in his classes. This would not be news in itself, but Bernie fought his way back from a potentially blinding eye injury and illness through the expert medical care of Cornell University as well as the patience, care, and love of his owner, Paula Bollinger of Ellicott City, Maryland.
Last October, Bernie came in with a little scratch on his left eye. His veterinarians prescribed ointment a few times per day and he should be in good shape in about a week.
Four antibiotics later, and weeks of frustration by local veterinarians, including an internal specialist, Bernie was transferred to Cornell's Equine Hospital in Ithaca, New York. His condition was serious - especially since Bernie only had one eye, having lost the right eye years ago just after his racing career ended.
Under the care of Cornell Ophthalmology Resident Dr. Eric Ledbetter, Bernie was found to have a very resistant corneal fungal infection. Bernie was treated medically for several days via a medicine delivery system that allows liquid medications to go directly onto Bernie's eye. When the condition did not improve, Bernie had eye surgery under general anesthesia. Dr. Ledbetter and colleagues removed a deep "cone" of infection from Bernie's eye and covered the surgery site with donor tissue from the pink tissue surrounding Bernie’s eye.
After eleven days at the hospital, Bernie's aftercare at home included medication every six hours, stall rest, and several recheck exams at Cornell. His final recheck was in June and the prognosis is very good.
You might ask: Why all of this for a teenage, off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) with one eye? Because of that special bond between horse and rider. According to Bollinger, “I never thought twice about saving Bernie's vision.” That's why his show name is Something About Bernie.
Paula Bollinger is a native Marylander and graduate of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill School of Journalism. Bollinger has been riding for nearly twenty years and her horses are boarded at Merry Acres Farm in Glenelg, Maryland.
Eric Ledbetter, DVM, is a veterinary ophthalmologist. He graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and has completed internships at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Animal Ophthalmology Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Ledbetter completed a three-year Ophthalmology Residency at Cornell University this month.
To learn more about dressage and the Maryland Dressage Association, please visit www.marylandressage.org.