I noticed a few months back that my 18 year old appy mare's left eye has a cloudy lens . I always check that her eyes are 'healthy', not weepy and do not look like she's been rubbing them. This eye has always been fine. Anyway, had the vet out, and she is blind in that eye and I never even realized it when I was riding her ! I was still jumping her and everything. My guess is that it happened pretty gradually and she just got used to it.
My other appy went blind as he got older from uvetis. He was the best trail horse - he rarely spooked . I knew he was loosing his sight, so I taught him a 'listen up' signal - I shook the reins against his neck. Then he would carefully feel his way along until he found the obstacle - a log to step over, a downward slope, a stream, or a step up. He would reach down and touch it with his nose, then over / through we would go. He was a smart dude.
I'd like to revisit this thread if possible. I sent this horse to a trainer over the summer and he stayed there for 3 months. He had good days and bad days.
The last day I went to see him being worked was a very bad day for him and we decided to bring him home because there wasn't any real progress.
I haven't ridden him since he's been home. It was a really tough time trying to decide what to do with him. Of course we couldn't sell him because no one would want him, and it felt dangerous for me to keep trying to ride him. So he's just been hanging out being a horse. I still work him on the lunge line and long lines every once in a while to keep him stimulated. I've also sat on him while my mom leads him around the arena and he was great--no scary reactions or anything.
For some reason I still have this hope in me that I can at least get to ride him one day. I don't have to show him like my initial plan was, but I'd at least just like to be able to ride him at home. Is this a stupid idea or asking too much out of him?
I do remember one day I rode him in our arena while my mom was riding her mare. He seemed more relaxed and I got him to flat walk, and got a nice trot out of him. Should I try riding him while someone else is riding as well to see if that keeps him more relaxed? Or does this seem dangerous?
I guess I'm just wondering if I should give up and let him be a horse, or if I should keep trying.
I can add a video of the things he did while being ridden if you feel that would help gain some insight into his behavior. I have a couple youtube videos of him from when I first got him, where this behavior did not occur, some longlining/lunging videos, and then one video where I put together a bunch of his less desirable actions.
So I'm 99% sure I know which grey horse you have - my guess is it came from NC??
in any event, if you truly think its the "flashes" of light/shadows bothering him, could you try riding him (long line/longe first to make sure it's safe) with a full or almost full blinder cup over just that specific eye (they sell ones where you can adjust what kind of cups/blinders are on it, or you could redneck it and make the other half of a cup with duct tape lol)? That would hopefully cut out the flashes of light and maybe let you know if that truly is your problem. It's not a permanent fix, but might let you know if it is indeed the eye.
Sassy-that is actually what I did today. My mom walked her mare around in the arena, and I rode. My guy was more relaxed and actually flat walked for me, which was awesome.
RocketPony- Why yes, he did come from NC. Don't even get me started on that whole situation...
I do not believe that he sees flashes of light. That was what a trainer I talked to told me he thought it was, but I absolutely disagree. I've rigged a makeshift cup to put over his left eye and he still reacted the same way...
while I do believe his behavior does have something to do with his eye, because today when I rode him with his left eye to the rail he was more nervous and sped up a lot... I'm 100% sure he can't see anything at all out of that eye.
I would do what you did--ride him with another horse. Is he preferring the other horse on his blind or sighted side? What were the good and bad days with the trainer? What's his stabling situation? Is he alone or with another horse?
I find it's very helpful to have a seeing eye horse. My gelding had two and he would follow them around in the pasture, and they knew it was their job to keep him safe. I think mares are great at this. I could turn them out for a gallop in the arena, and he would gallop (blind) by their side to the inside, loose. I'm not suggesting that, but if you can get a bond with another horse, it can really help.
When he "lost" both of his seeing eye horses (one to death, the other to a sociopath) he bonded to another blind horse. They stayed together. It wasn't great, but they had the support of each other.
My guess on his reactions, which you haven't been specific about, is he ended up hitting or smashing into something on his blind side and hasn't had an opportunity to overcome that. If you posted a video of what he is doing, I could probably give you more specifics.
Also, even if someone else is not riding, ponying another horse off of him might help a lot--moral support.
Beenthere: yesterday when I rode him he preferred the horse to be on his blind side. When I rode him second way (blind eye on the rail's side), he sped up and started cantering, but I did get him to relax and have a nice slow trot for a time around--then called it quits because he was such a good boy.
Good days with trainer=being able to trot and canter on a circle, and trot the full arena.
Bad days with trainer=spinning, breaking into canter, freezing up with head straight up in the air and wouldn't move at all, trying to bolt out of the arena.
His stabling situation here is a stall with a 30' attached run that he has free access to day and night. He is in the end stall, so his one neighbor is another Saddlebred mare. They like each other when they are separated by panels, but have a major battle if they are turned out together.
I have no knowledge of what happened to him, so you could be right in guessing that he may have ran into something on his blind side. I will never know what happened though, the seller would not tell me.
Here is the very first time I rode him. Since this video I have switched to a different saddle that fits him better and I got a better pad that does not make the saddle dig into his withers like you can see in this video. It's not the prettiest ride ever, but it does give you an idea of what he was capable of when I first got him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qNQo1KgFYU
Here is a video of what he was doing. At first I thought maybe it was the light shining through the windows, but he reacts all over the arena. Also, the video above shows him going through the light with no problems. This is also the type of stuff he was doing at the trainer's. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipwEuhPUgFM
When I rode him yesterday he did not do any of that. ^ When I first started walking him he did stop and do a little spin, but I corrected him and then he walked on like a good boy.
Beautiful horse, I see why you keep working at it. I also don't see a problem with your riding in general and yeah for being a saddlebred person in a helmet!
Since he is good sometimes and good long lining and you have made sure he can't see out of that eye at all I am going to diagnose him with "lack of wet blanket itis" He has no trust or confidence in you and is quite simply being a big jerk. He needs to be ridden as often as possible by someone with a solid seat and good hands and pushed past his stupids until he behaves. He will probably always be slightly difficult. It may have something to do with not trusting you to take care of his blind side, but I suspect he would be a bit hard to ride anyway.
I would suggest riding him dressage so you can take more contact and push him into contact in a simple smooth snaffle with his head in a lower frame.
Thank you... I think he'd look spectacular in the show ring-he has such a presence, but that is not likely to happen!
My brain is very important to me, I graduate college in December so I want to keep my head intact!
I totally understand what you are saying... but then I have a question for you about that--he was at the trainer's for 3 months and was ridden 5-6 times a week. These trainers are top of the line in our area and do a fabulous job with their training horses. Surely in 3 months they should have gained some trust and been able to work past his naughty days? But maybe it will take longer than 3 months?
At the moment he is in a copper slow twist, but I have ridden him in a smooth snaffle-I can switch back to that and try to start working with a lower headset. Yesterday when I rode him I tried not to focus on his headset and tried to keep his head lower, but he naturally carries his head very high. His low back makes his neck come up straight and he pretty much keeps it there himself most of the time.
I've mentioned that he has been checked out by the vet more than once. Lameness and eye exams have been done. He has had a chiropractor work on him and his teeth have been floated by an equine dentist. He has been poked and prodded all over his body with no reaction at all. Like I mentioned above, the saddle I was using has been switched out for a flatter one that does not dig into his withers. I also have a different low back pad set up that I use that does not slide around and keeps the saddle where it needs to be.
Honestly? my grey mare looked EXACTLY like that under saddle and it took a solid 6 months before anyone wanted to be in the arena with me and a year before she was mostly trustworthy and she would still be very hot and spooky if the weather was cold or if something changed.
She was MUCH better away from home in strange places.
The lower and slower you can get him the better he will be although I understand that isn't your discipline.
Well I have a lot of time to work with him. So if it does end up taking 6 months to a year then I'm prepared to do it. As long as I see some type of progress within a couple weeks... the fact that he slowed down and relaxed after a couple times around going second direction gives me hope that 5 days a week of riding for 10 minutes will benefit him.
Slow is my goal. Fancy motion or headset is not in my brain right now. That can come later.
Wow. I am NOT used to looking at Saddlebreds. We do not have them there. So, keep that in mind as I give you my thoughts on riding a blind horse.
It makes sense he is comfortable riding with a horse on his blind side. It gives him the security he needs.
I still get the impression somebody beat the crap out of him from the way he's reacting, and that equipment would seem to make it worse---holding his head in a position with the martingale, and a slow twist seems brutal to me. If that stuff is normal to the top trainers in your area, maybe that's why it didn't work. He already has a lot of fear, his head is being held in a position, and he's got a nasty ass bit to slam into. I can imagine him not being able to see, the rail on his blind side, hitting something without seeing it, and being nailed in the mouth as he tries to get away.
I'm guessing he's blind on the left, because he stops and always moves his head and body away from the left when he's afraid, so he's never moving into something he doesn't see. He ALWAYS bends his neck to the right, never to the left.
My guess is with you on the ground and long lining him, he feels more secure because he knows where everything is.
I would ride him with another horse as much as possible on his blind side, especially with them on the rail. I think even ponying while you ride would help. I would get ride of all of the saddlebred stuff and put him in a nice snaffle that feels safe for him.
I would also maybe try to do work in hand with carrots and such where you are getting him to stretch to his sides and between his front legs and such, especially on his blind side, so he gets used to turning in that direction and trusting you and getting treats. Then, incorporate that in the saddle. Give him a verbal signal to turn his head to you and he knows he'll get a reward.
They can be way smart about verbal signals as long as you're consistent. My guy knew "up" meant to pick up his feet and go over it (like a log), "easy" meant small quick steps for uneven ground, etc. (He was totally blind and a great trail horse as well as doing I-1 dressage.) But, I had him for 25 years and he went slowly blind, so the trust was astounding. He would gallop for all hell out on trails, just assuming I would not run him over a cliff or into a wall.
What a beautiful horse; I can see why you keep trying.
I will preface my comments by saying I am not that familiar with your discipline, but I do have a horse that had one eye euncleated after I had him for a couple of years.
I don't actually see the behaviour as being necessary vision related. He acts up initially to the right, and at first it looks like he is reacting to the light strips, but then goes through the next one without a change in demeanour (still looks tense, but doesn't spook or sidle at the light).
When you go to the left, the behaviour continues, although it is a bit more pronounced... difficult to know if it is directionally related or just an escalation in behaviour as we don't see him going back to the right again.
If you can long line him successfully and he is well behaved in hand, I don't think you have a vision issue. I think you have a rideability under saddle issue. A couple of things I see (keep in mind I ride jumpers) -
The bit seems designed to encourage him into a high head carriage, yet the tight running martingale is contradicting that. You need to him to soften and go forward and the tack set up you have is prohibiting that as it is conflicting.
Your saddle looks a bit far back (again, could be discipline related) - it looks like when he balks, you are tipping forward to compensate. You need to sit up and send him forward.
When he acts up, as in the last video, don't try to make him walk or trot around the outside of the ring. Mix it up with circles, changes of direction, serpentines, etc. He looks like he has your number a little bit... make him think more about what you are asking rather than letting him continue around the outside fussing sideways/spooking/balking. You don't have to be mean - you look like a very compassionate, gentle rider, but you need to redirect him. A small circle, than a big circle, then a change of direction, walk, praise, trot another circle, change direction... get him thinking about what you are asking. If after 10 minutes he has been good, praise, repeat the next day.
Have you tried using your voice as you ride him? Not a constant commentary but verbal praise and correction? Horses that are lacking one of their senses have over developed their other senses... voice could help.
Regular riding schedule - is he on one? Horses that are ridden once or twice and then given four days off (hand walking or grazing doesn't count) often act up. I'm not saying he needs to be ridden 7 days a week, but a consistent five days a week will probably help. It may be beneficial to keep a journal of when he is good and when he is bad... you may see a pattern!
A couple of things that helped my horse - be definite in where you want him to go. With a horse with one eye, you can never assume that they know you are circling as opposed to crossing the diagonal. They need to know exactly what you want. They get insecure if they don't know. You must be 110 percent definitive.
When my horse had his eye removed, we wondered if we would ever be able to do more than flat work again. Here he is in the jumper ring:
Beenthere: I don't know anything about him being beaten or anything like that, but I suppose it is possible. I am not suggesting that the seller abused him, but I do not think very highly of her.
A martingale with a slow twist does not seem brutal to me. Nor does it seem like a nasty bit to me. Just a difference of opinion and discipline I guess. Its rather common for a martingale with a slow twist or twisted wire to be used in SS. The trainers experimented with different bits, they did not solely use the set up I've had him in.
I've had him in a plain old snaffle bridle with a fat, smooth snaffle and he has held his head in the "saddlebred position" on his own. He naturally has a very high head carriage.
Mocha: yes I do talk to him when riding. I praise him regularly and also just talk when I feel him get tense. I try to keep the corrections to a minimum because he visibly gets more anxious if you raise your voice. Before I sent him to training he was in a consistent work schedule. He was ridden and long lined five days a week. Now that I've seen he can be a good boy I'm going to start up a more consistent schedule again.
Thank-you both for the tips and comments! I am riding him tomorrow so cross your fingers that I can get another good ride out of him.