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Kathy & her horse "Traveler" - 09-16-2002


I have a beautiful 6 year old gaited gelding named Highway Traveler.  He is called a Kentucky Saddle Horse and is a black roan with 4 white stockings and a very sweet disposition.  I got him as a yearling from our family in Kentucky who has raised this breed for many years.  I broke him myself and he was doing just perfect when he turned 3.  It was spring and as we were leaving a camp area one day he stumbled and fell to his knees, and broke his fall by hitting his nose on the gravel drive, skinning his nose. We continued on our ride and within minutes he began dipping his head suddenly and sharply.  I thought it was because the flies had begun and he had not got used to them yet.  


Unfortunately, this behavior continued all summer and got worse and more severe.  When fall came, he stopped the behavior and I hoped the head shaking was gone for good.  Well, early the next spring we began riding and he was doing great when suddenly, about April, he began the behavior again!  To sum things up, over the next 2 years, I tried everything to find the key to stopping the behavior: 3 different trainers, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, magnet therapy, different shoes, bits & saddles...everything! Nothing helped and I began trying to decide what to do with a horse that couldn't be ridden the 6 months of the year when riding was possible in Indiana.  I prayed and prayed and cried many times in disappointment.  His behavior was so bad it was dangerous and I could not in good conscience sell him because I was afraid someone would be hurt.  I thought many times about putting him to sleep.  


Well, the fall of 2001, my dad saw an article in Horse & Rider magazine about this problem.  I began searching the web for more information and after many dead ends contacted by email the veterinarian who wrote the article. He was with the University of California Davis and he suggested I contact Dr. Phoebe Smith of the same university.  She said Traveler could qualify for their study and they would do it for free if I could get him there or I could gather lots of data and work with my vet and participate in their research.  I could not afford either and declined.  Dr. Smith then suggested that a new mask called the Guardian Mask had proved helpful in many cases and I could find their website and learn more.  


In the meantime I had found someone who would give Traveler a good home and had them on standby, knowing all they were getting was a horse for a pet. I had given up but decided to contact the Guardian Mask.  I found the website and even contacted Sid Eby by phone.  He gave me hope that even though my horse fit the description of the worst case, he only did this while riding, that the Guardian Mask could help him.  I was cautiously optimistic but did not want to get my hopes too high again.  I ordered the mask with 95% UV protection because Sid believed that light entering Traveler's eyes triggered pain down his face causing the diving head reaction.  I got the mask and began using it immediately.  He was a little better after a few days but still not a pleasure to ride.  I called Sid and he persuaded me to give it longer so I did.  I kept the mask on all daylight hours and rode with it on also.  After 3-4 weeks I did notice that I could ride Traveler without so much of the dipping but he was still agitated and snorting.


I was riding with my father one day and by accident I got behind Dad's horse and Traveler got his face right in the tail hair of Dad's horse and immediately became as calm as could be.  We rode that was for 45 minutes and he stayed calm.  I went home and fashioned a mask out of an old mop that hung from the brow band and nose band completely covering Traveler's face.  I tried riding him with this dressed up bridle and he rode with the same effect as with the horse tail hair in his face.  I went to a western shop and bought 2 brow bands with nylon strips designed to use for fly protection and replaced the mop with these and found they not only looked better than a yellow mop but were just as effective.  


I now use the Guardian Mask when Traveler is turned out, but when riding I just need the bridle with the nylon strips covering his face.  I'm sure after a hard frost I can go back to a basic bridle but I will always use the Guardian Mask in the spring & summer months when he is pastured and with the bridle with nylon strips covering his face when riding.


I have to credit my husband, Sherman, for encouraging me not to give up on Traveler. Many, many times I was ready to throw in the towel but he would tell me to hold on a little longer in case we found help.  And then we would pray together for God to touch Traveler.  And as I wrote earlier, He did.  Thanks to my dad for patiently trying with me, all the "cures" I thought I found.  Thank you Sherman for your encouragement. Thank you Sid Eby for your discovery on this wonderful mask. And thank you God.

And when you pray remember - Delayed Is Not Denied.


Kathy Boles



A lot of team effort went into helping Traveler and has paid off.  Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story Kathy.  Your family's help with Traveler is a blessing as well and may you have many more years of success in the future.


Guardian Mask

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