Equine ophthalmology for kids

April 3, 2017

Derrick the Jumping Horse Has Eye Surgery is a childrens book with its hooves planted in reality and a desire to encourage readers to discover their true purpose.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to the UC Davis Equine Ophthalmology Department and to the National Eye Institute. Photo courtesy of Terri Herrera.In 2014, Terri Herrera imported a Dutch warmblood gelding named Derrick from the Netherlands with hopes of training him to compete as a hunter. According to an article in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Winter 2017 newsletter, these hopes were interrupted when, at age 7, Derrick developed a cataract in his right eye.

Herrera's veterinarian in Southern California encouraged her to make the eight-hour drive to the UC Davis veterinary hospital where she met Mary Lassaline, DVM, PhD, MA, DACVO-a connection that would later save Derrick's life.  

Lassaline inserted cyclosporine implants in both of Derrick's eyes to ease his uveitis flare-ups. Despite the impairment in his right eye, Derrick was able to participate in several competitions and even placed second in the United States Hunter Jumper Association National Hunter Derby at the Verdugo Hills Spring Fling, says his owner.

It would be his last show. Derrick's vision continued to worsen, and with a cataract in his left eye and blindness looming, Herrera decided to euthanize the impaired horse to spare him from hurting himself or others.

Lassaline changed Herrera's mind, however, and she and her team performed cataract surgery on Derrick and cared for him for 40 days. Though Derrick ultimately lost his sight, Herrera credits the UC Davis team with saving her horse-a horse that now walks and trots under saddle.

Herrera's experience moved her to write a children's book about Derrick's experience titled Derrick the Jumping Horse Has Eye Surgery.

“I hope Derrick's story and his new life's purpose will encourage others,” Herrera writes on the book's website. I thought Derrick's purpose was to be a champion hunter. Now I know the truth: Derrick's purpose was-and still is-to inspire others to discover their true purpose, which oftentimes is not what it initially seems.”

The books are $9.95 and can be purchased at www.derrickthehorse.com. All proceeds will be given to the UC Davis Equine Ophthalmology Department and to the National Eye Institute for pediatric research.