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View Full Version : Spinoff--vision and spooking



vineyridge
Jul. 26, 2011, 03:21 PM
I had a horse with an old injury in one eye that left him with a small, very small blind spot. He'd always spook if something unusual came up on that side--shadows, ditches, funny lines in the dirt, you name it.

General Chamberlin in Training Hunters, Jumpers, and Hacks made a big point of checking vision when looking at horses to buy. He says that horses may have blind eyes that simply do not show any signs.

He wants to see the horse first in its stall.

While in the stall if visibility is good, in addition to studying the expression of the eyes, a minute examination should be made to be sure that no cloudiness impairs the vision. Also, while standing a little to the rear of the horse's head, move a hand quickly upward, close to and past the eye, carefully noticing whether it blinks as it should. (Page 8)

Next the horse should be led outside the stable. Closely study the eyes again just as he comes into the bright daylight. An eye may be totally blind from a paralyzed retina and yet appear clear and normal. Many a horseman has failed to find this defect until weeks after a purchase. Only by noting the contraction which the light causes in the pupil of a good eye, and the blinking which occurs when a hand is passed close to it, can one be certain that this type of blindness does not exist.

Is this really as big a problem as he seems to indicate? Have any of y'all ever had a horse with a paralyzed retina? Heard of any? It's not something that I'd even think about. How much do PPE's focus on things like vision? Do many of you do ongoing vision checks?

Beam Me Up
Jul. 26, 2011, 04:15 PM
I think part of the problem is that it is very hard to tell how well horses see, without vision tests etc. Blind isn't that hard to identify, but limited vision seems hard to diagnose, since they don't have the eye chart etc.


I owned a horse for 5 yrs who had a detached retina.

At the PPE (age 6) vet examined in a dark room, said it was a small cataract, that horses can almost always see around them, shouldn't be a concern, they tend not to progress quickly and he will probably be very old before much vision impact. He was just off the track, so no performance record.

Later on, my vet felt it was most likely a misdiagnosis at the time, that he had always had a detached retina rather than a cataract, but who knows . . .

He was spooky, but not abnormally so--I've owned much worse. (Trainer said he was the most nervous horse he had ever owned at the track, so it may have been a factor there too).

I never noticed anything to make me think he saw better on one side or the other--he didn't carry his head off-center or spook one way more than another.

Initially he was very afraid of water--it took a long time before he would just go in and not put in a first stop. He was also a careful jumper, not necessarily in a bad way (gorgeous form, never rails), but I wasn't sure how bold he was going to be.

Aside from the water issue he had a pretty normal early career at N/T. Jumped around half a dozen prelims, then had a relatively minor mishap at one (@ Marlborough--downhill 2-stride with the 1st element on the crest of the hill--he jumped the 1st, then sort of slid into/chested the 2nd). Retired on course, but he was never the same--just didn't want to do it. Dropped him back to novice starter trials and couldn't get him around. He'd jump a fence or two and then quit.

So, did some jumpers with him, he was quite successful in the high AA and modified A/O, and it was at my selling-as-a-jumper PPE that they identified the detached retina, felt he was virtually blind in the left eye.

Thinking back, the hints were there. He was spooky, had a water issue, gave up on xc after a mistake (perhaps he didn't see the fence in time and that was what scared him). There was also a more recent weird sj stop that I had attributed to me getting too greedy and putting to much L to R angle on the fence, but that was probably vision too.

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have known that Chester's wasn't, but at the time nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. Just an OTTB who was a bit spooky and chicken and would rather stay in the ring. Now I feel really guilty for all I put him through.

vineyridge
Jul. 26, 2011, 04:39 PM
I honestly think I'd rather have a horse with one completely blind eye than one with spotty vision in one eye. If you know the horse has a blind eye, you can compensate and so can the horse.

But if the vision is spotty, learning to compensate is almost impossible because things go in and out of the blind spot so quickly.

BTW, I knew D had spotty vision when I bought him, and he never threw a dangerous spook under me except once, and that was when we were on asphalt.

LookmaNohands
Jul. 26, 2011, 05:25 PM
One of my horses had a VERY large problem with his eyes last summer that has left him with a blind spot or two in one eye. So far no spooking but his soundness has been limited too so I am not sure how it will work out under saddle. He is sounder now.

My 27 yr old is developing cataracts. He does now spook occasionally. He almost NEVER did before.

One thing I do know after more than 20 years of working with Linda Tellington-Jones and doing TTouch on horses is that TENSION in the poll and head area can negatively affect VISION!! And once you release that tension, they will spook less because they can see better. People who have bad headaches know this. I have had sinus issues for years and that has definitely affected my vision. I just had sinus surgery last week so it will be interesting to "see" how things change!

Any eye check in a PPE would be VERY important.

But one also has to consider the shape of the horse's head and the placement of the eyes because this is VERY important too and almost NO ONE talks about this. LTJ is the only one I have ever heard consider this.

Wide set eyes give the horse great vision to the side or rear but gives them. potentially, a larger blind spot in front. Eyes place closer to the front in a narrow head will limit vision to the rear. Offset eyes are probably most troublesome because the view is from different angles. I met a horse years ago that was very difficult who had one small eye and one normal sized eyes.

One of my horses had a very crooked looking face especially when he was younger. Nothing matched or lined up evenly including his eyes. He was VERY difficult but has gotten better and better over the years. Interestingly his face has become much more balanced looking and even.

Hilary
Jul. 27, 2011, 07:12 AM
I had a horse who had a very specific spook and I think it must have been vision related although nothing was ever diagnosed. Always on his right side, and one day hacking I realized that as we approached a scary object on the right he moved his head around- up and down and then finally way around to the right so his left eye could see it - I could tell he was trying to get his head in a spot that allowed him to see it. If I moved his head (nevermind leg yeilding and obedience, just his head, this was an experiment) wayy to the left so he could see it only out of the back part of his right eye, he did not spook. Nor did he spook once his forehead had passed the object, so something didn't work in the front part of his vision on the right side. Once I understood that, I could make our lives easier by positioning him in ways that he wasn't seeing poorly - except in the dressage ring where the flowers and letters came up anyway.

He evented at preliminary, so he functioned but he often blew in dressage about the flowers.

Galadriël Fëfalas
Jul. 27, 2011, 07:16 AM
I honestly think I'd rather have a horse with one completely blind eye than one with spotty vision in one eye. If you know the horse has a blind eye, you can compensate and so can the horse.

Good point!

I read a post elsewhere from a woman who's mare kept spooking randomly - a veterinary student used the mare as a guinea pig to practice doing eye exams on horses and found a dark "floater" in the mare's eye - which is what she'd been spooking at...

subk
Jul. 27, 2011, 10:49 AM
How much do PPE's focus on things like vision? Do many of you do ongoing vision checks?
I know my current youngster had a routine vision check in his PPE, that was 2+ years ago. Since he does get a bit spooky I had his eyes stained and checked in most recent annual. I really didn't think his spookiness was vision related, but was happy to spend a few dollars to rule it out.

Peggy
Jul. 28, 2011, 02:03 AM
<snip>
But one also has to consider the shape of the horse's head and the placement of the eyes because this is VERY important too and almost NO ONE talks about this. LTJ is the only one I have ever heard consider this.

Wide set eyes give the horse great vision to the side or rear but gives them. potentially, a larger blind spot in front. Eyes place closer to the front in a narrow head will limit vision to the rear. Offset eyes are probably most troublesome because the view is from different angles. I met a horse years ago that was very difficult who had one small eye and one normal sized eyes.

One of my horses had a very crooked looking face especially when he was younger. Nothing matched or lined up evenly including his eyes. He was VERY difficult but has gotten better and better over the years. Interestingly his face has become much more balanced looking and even.
Having owned one spooky horse with wide-set eyes and ridden or known a few more I agree with this. I gave up jumping the one I owned and he was much happier as a dressage horse.

Napoles
Jul. 28, 2011, 09:36 AM
Yup.. imported a super talented horse once who turned out to be super spooky and nappy. Eventually turned out that he had cataracts. Three vets missed them. :(
Now, whenever I hear of a super nappy horse I always consider it as a possibility and would certainly always push to have the eyes VERY carefully checked..


I had a horse with an old injury in one eye that left him with a small, very small blind spot. He'd always spook if something unusual came up on that side--shadows, ditches, funny lines in the dirt, you name it.

General Chamberlin in Training Hunters, Jumpers, and Hacks made a big point of checking vision when looking at horses to buy. He says that horses may have blind eyes that simply do not show any signs.

He wants to see the horse first in its stall.



Is this really as big a problem as he seems to indicate? Have any of y'all ever had a horse with a paralyzed retina? Heard of any? It's not something that I'd even think about. How much do PPE's focus on things like vision? Do many of you do ongoing vision checks?

GingerJumper
Jul. 28, 2011, 12:40 PM
One of the first horses I ever rode had super spotty vision... and he packed me around western games and barrels without a spook. The owners didn't tell me until I'd moved on and up, since they weren't sure how my little 6yo self would feel about that. He took a little more guidance than the others I rode but he was a golden little thing.

I've ridden lots with bad eyes that were wonderful, and lots with good eyes that weren't.

I think a lot comes down to how the horse handles it, and perhaps how it came about as well. (I.e., if the horse suddenly had poor vision or loss of sight from an injury and had no time to adapt to it, as opposed to a horse who gradually lost vision due to age or a degenerative condition).

I've also got to agree about the eye width thing, at least for the most part. My guys both have narrow faces (eyes set appropriately to their face size, but their faces are just very narrow) and they're both brave and unflappable. So are most of the other more narrow-set horses I know.