With limitless love and guidance, even senior animals like Buddy can learn new things and develop strong bonds to make their life better.

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Known as Buddy No. 4, this 31-year-old Appaloosa isn't the first blind animal at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, nor is he even the first non-sighted horse to pass through its gates. Founder Kathy Stevens, who grew up on a horse farm, opened the sanctuary in Saugerties, N.Y., 20 years ago so at-risk animals like Buddy would have a forever home—even if they had one before. 

"We were contacted by Buddy's owner, a woman who'd had him for his entire life. She was not in a position to care for him as a blind animal and was going to euthanize him," Stevens tells Daily Paws. "This is an extremely common phenomenon—folks don't have the knowledge or patience [for these animals], or they don't want to make the adjustments to make their pasture/barn safer or sometimes, they simply don't understand that a blind animal can live an incredibly full, joyful life. They think that euthanasia is the most humane option."

Buddy arrived at the sanctuary in early October, and the affectionate equine immediately responded to Stevens' gentle but repetitive direction that helped him understand his new surroundings: changes in terrain, when he's stepping in water, where his food is, and how to move into his trailer. She says that although he was loved before, he still has the capacity to learn, even as an animal advanced in years. (The average lifespan of a horse is 25–30 years).

woman kissing Buddy, the blind horse
Credit: Courtesy of Catskill Animal Sanctuary

"Working with him was truly a matter of applying common sense when answering the question: What additional support do blind animals need in order to feel safe and confident?" Stevens says. "And oh my goodness, he's incredibly smart! I was blown away by how quickly he 'learned his words': up, down, stop, choppy, water, and so on."  

Buddy's making headlines now because of an inspirational viral video—with more than 2.5 million views!— that shows the incredible bond he and Stevens have formed in such a short time. "Teaching Buddy language also communicates loudly and clearly that you've 'got their back,' so it's an important trust builder," Stevens says.

As you can see in the video below, it's truly amazing how quickly Buddy understands the cues—and even runs!—by having faith in the love and dedication he receives from Stevens and her team.

"It takes patience and time to build trust, but oh my, what a payoff it is!" Stevens says. 

'Growing Old With Joy and Dignity'

Approximately 25 percent of all Appaloosas develop equine recurrent uveitis, an auto-immune disease that causes blindness, and Stevens says they're eight times more likely to have the condition than other horse breeds. Coincidentally, one of Buddy's best mates at the sanctuary is Buddy No. 3, also a blind Appaloosa who, at 35, is the sanctuary's oldest resident. After days spent wandering the pasture, Stevens says, "at night, their stalls are next to each other, and we cut a large window in the wall so they could nuzzle and feel less isolated."

However, not all rescued residents of Catskill Animal Sanctuary are horses, or blind, for that matter. Buddy No. 4 is making friends with Mario the pig, Chester and Arlo the wonder goats, and Tucker the Holstein steer. However, the team at the sanctuary specializes in geriatric animal care, so our new pal Buddy receives a customized senior diet and holistic treatments, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and unique pine bedding to cushion him as he ages.

"Every animal is remarkably individual. While most of us only understand this about dogs and cats, it's the same regardless of species," Stevens says. "Every pig, every chicken, every blind horse, every cow, no matter their age, wants their lives as we want ours, and much like our companion animals, they require extra support to grow old with joy and dignity."

After a long life, it sounds like Buddy No. 4 is in retirement heaven!