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Experience with vision loss

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  • Experience with vision loss

    I am posting on this forum b/c I hope to continue to event this horse. So I am hoping there are other eventers that have been through a similar experience.

    I have an OTTB I bought in late summer 2007 - he has uveitis that affects both eyes. He's been in/out of work due to the flare ups, and in November 2008 he had surgery for cyclosporine implants in both eyes.

    In 2009 we were able compete some at BN, one Novice. And we did a clinic with Ian Stark. But due financial restrictions, I wasn't able to do alot.

    In March he had an eye ulcer, which lead to a major uveitis flare, and unfortunately resulted in complete retinal dettachment in his left eye just in the last 30-45 days.

    I am riding him and, although he's slightly a different ride, he seems to be adjusting to this recent vision loss pretty well...better than I am adjusting (emotionally). He's been ridden at home and at my trainers. He's not spooky, and this horse has always had a great work ethic, and tries really hard. I did a jump lesson with him over the weekend, and he didn't stop or balk, but we had some sticky fences in the beginning, and that was really b/c of ME. He was really looking to me for input and to say "yes, jump this", and I was riding expecting to have issues. But once my dear trainer got my head in the game, I rode more confidently, we had a good lesson.

    So I guess I am struggling with how to move forward. I'd like to continue with some goals to do some showing and clinics this summer, but I am an adult ammy that isn't the bravest rider for jumping, and this horse is still green, and based on the above hasn't done alot.

    Due to the recent vision loss, I am struggling with knowing what is right/wrong to do with him, and how and when to decide what is next.

    I know every horse/rider combo is different, so I know I have to listen to him and what he's comfortable with. But I tend to lean way more to the conservative side.

    So how did you know when it was ok to start getting back out and push the training/competing with your horse?
    Last edited by Hollywood; May. 12, 2010, 02:08 PM.

  • #2
    My first question would be what have the vets told you regarding what vision he has in each eye. There are several horses running around at mid-levels (training/prelim) that are compromised in both eyes. But if the horse has severe sight issues and is green and you are green/timid/nervous, perhaps he should just stick to flat and hacking. Somebody in the situation needs to make a decision about the fence and when to jump, so if you can't make that executive decision and stick to it, then perhaps it's safest he doesn't jump. If the vets think his vision is decent then don't worry about it and do whatever you would normally do.


    • #3
      I have to say I agree with the previous poster, and here's why. I have a former prelim horse who's 21 and in his first season of uveitis. Given the choice, this horse would jump and do trail rides and eat, in pretty much that order. He's been semi-retired for a while now and does caviletti and crossrails with 13-year-olds and is my solid as a rock, introduce beginners to the trail, horse. This winter I had to figure out what he could see and do, because the vet observed cataracts when she was examining the uveitis and suspects he actually sees very little.

      If I bring him in to a fence that's painted white against a dark background, and give him a clear aid to approach it and jump, he will jump whatever I point him at but doesn't always judge the height well unless there are several painted poles. The second time around, he gets it with less help from me. Change the exercise and he anticipates, as usual, but needs direction. He totally trusts me and I totally trust him from years together. I don't know if he'd jump anything of substance for anyone else even if he could see it!

      For kids doing caviletti and crossrails, he sort of hurls himself around toward the white thing and lurches over it. On the trail, he'll lead if I'm riding him or follow if someone else is. He doesn't trip - he never has - unless I forget and ride him into suddenly uneven footing. He doesn't spook - never has.

      Cross country is going to be interesting this summer. I think as long as I under-face him somewhat, we'll be ok. I need to be careful not to take him into anything big enough that if he underestimates the height because he can't see it, that we'd run into trouble. We have the basic logs and barrels and easy XC jumps at our barn and he's jumped them all a million times, so it's hard to know what he's doing from habit vs. not. Would I take him XC schooling elsewhere? Maybe if I needed to supervise a bunch of beginners and needed a totally safe horse to ride myself, or if we were going someplace nearby and I thought he'd have fun taking a field trip. But, the answer to that would probably be the same if he hadn't developed uveitis this year and if I didn't know he had cataracts.

      Good luck with your horse. Don't underestimate what a good TB will do if he totally trusts you - for better or for worse!


      • Original Poster

        Thanks for the response mjrtango.

        By no means would I even consider this without consulting the vet. I know what his vision and restrictions are, and if he were to show any signs of not wanting to do the job, I wouldn't pursue it.

        The ophthalmologist feels the sight in his right eye is good enough today to continue jumping. Basically advised to proceed based on the horses response.

        I agree with your comments about the decision making, and actually my trainer was very adamant about this same issue when we did our jump lesson.


        • #5
          Sounds like your on the right track then, just remember vision issues change rapidly. So with this type of horse I would always have your vet check his eyes twice a year when he is doing shots. Doesn't have to be a full exam just make sure things haven't spread to much.

          FYI- My young rider ** horse had uvietus and all sorts of "fun" eye issues. She was insanely brave and scopey and besides having to make sure she actually could see the fence, was fabulous! Not spooky, kind of hot, and just amazing to sit on. She was completely blind on the left, and only had about 65-70% vision on the right. Never seemed to bother her much, just had to be careful with her in the dark as she also had moon-blindness so she couldn't be out at night. 11 years later the girl that owns her now still rides her but she is essentially blind at this point and just hangs out with her pony.


          • Original Poster

            Actually this horse is on the plan to see the Ophthalmologist every 3 months to monitor the right eye. He has complete vision loss in the left eye, and they see changes in the right eye, but he stil has good vision...hence the reason for the on-going eye exams.

            You give me hope to hear about your **horse. I have no aspirations for that level, but this horse has the talent, scope, and heart for it, too bad he was dealt this card on the eye issues. All I hope for with him right now is BN/N...I had goals for a T3D at some point.

            BetsyK - you have what I don't in this situation - years of experience and a partnership with your horse, both personally and at competing. That's why I struggle on the right thing to do...and that's why I plan to keep it simple and straight forward for now, and just looking to hear about what other's have experienced.


            • #7
              Sounds like you have a good attitude about it. Trust your horse and listen to him, but don't cut him *too* much slack - maybe he doesn't know how much he can do, either! BN or N may be totally reasonable, especially if you can school on the courses so you and he have an idea of what the jumps are going to be like. I'd worry more about XC than stadium - white painted poles are your friends! Another thought is, do you have another horse you can ride in lessons so you keep building your skills and confidence, so you will get on him ready to be the leader?


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by betsyk View Post
                Sounds like you have a good attitude about it. Trust your horse and listen to him, but don't cut him *too* much slack - maybe he doesn't know how much he can do, either! BN or N may be totally reasonable, especially if you can school on the courses so you and he have an idea of what the jumps are going to be like. I'd worry more about XC than stadium - white painted poles are your friends! Another thought is, do you have another horse you can ride in lessons so you keep building your skills and confidence, so you will get on him ready to be the leader?
                LOL - um, yes, I do have another horse, but he just came off the track in October! My riding and leadership skills are always tested - and really with me it's a mental thing. I guess if I *want* to do this I have to dig deep and find a way. I have great instruction...and she knows me and my horses quite well.


                • #9
                  Wow, alot of parallels with my own experience. I'll try not to write a novel.

                  My horse has alot in common with yours: great work ethic, a real trier, not spooky and has the best brain between his ears. We did up to recognized novice together. We were both new to eventing and I tried to make sure we had the right training before we went up a level. It took us years to go from BN to recog. novice. We did as many clinics as possible with BNR's. My horse typically jumped clean in both phases but we were usually out of the ribbons due to our dressage scores.

                  The short story is that last year we fought uveitis, ulcers and a cataract in his left eye and after unsuccessful cyclosporine implant surgery, the eye was enucleated in February. It was horrible, mostly for me. My horse, as usual, handled things with much more style, grace and dignity.

                  We knew he had vision loss in his left eye prior to the surgery, but we didn't know how much. He might well have been jumping for years with compromised sight in the one eye. He just never told anyone as he was always brave, confident and FORWARD on the jump field. Then again, he has a heart as big as the all outdoors. It was in the last year that the uveitis became really aggressive and the cataract showed up. He was starting to be more painful than not, the flares were just coming one after another, ulcers would plague us... his vets and I talked alot and ultimately decided he would be a happier horse without the eye. And he was. When he recovered from surgery I could see the change in him right away.

                  When I rode him post surgery he seemed like the exact same horse. For the first month he was slightly more reactive to stuff. But I took it really slow with him; I didn't want to take anything for granted.

                  Finally I thought it would be OK to test him over over jumps. We were doing well over little bitty stuff so I took him to a clinic with a BNR to get educated eyes on the ground when we attempted bigger stuff. Still, we didn't jump anything over 2'6 just to keep things positive for him and give him a confidence building experience. My horse rocked, took me to the jumps in his same old style, with zero hesitation. He was holding his head an angle, that was the only change.

                  Emboldened, I signed up for a xc school with the same BNR. I've been riding with her for years and she knows me and my horse quite well. She's never steered me wrong. The first jump we schooled was a BN house. My instructions were to ride him just like before. I tried to do that but my head got in the way, I was worried for my horse and he refused it. Twice. He didn't feel right, it wasn't the same horse who had jumped in the clinic. We popped over a smaller jump but it wasn't pretty. We tried the smaller jump again (still not pretty) and then on to the BN jump. He took it from a long spot, twisted in the air and landed funny. He felt off immediately and I pulled up in 3 strides. He bowed a tendon.

                  I feel the mistake I made was in not listening to him. He tried to tell me things didn't feel right and I pushed on. I'm still so utterly frustrated with myself. I ignored everything I knew about my horse, but he tried because I asked him to. It makes me clear sick if you want to know the truth.

                  He'll be fine, eventually, but I'm not doing that again. No more eventing for us. Heck, no more jumping. He's 17 and I'll find a semi-retirement job for him. He's given me so much over the years he doesn't owe a thing. Had the xc schooling gone well we would have entered a HT at a level or two below N and seen what happened. I was prepared to retire on course the instant things were NQR.

                  Well, it seems I wrote a novel. It's all still pretty fresh, so this was a bit like therapy, just getting it off my chest. Thanks. With your horse you will know best. It will take some time for him to adjust to his new way of seeing things and negotiating the world around him.


                  • #10
                    I bought a horse with a detached retina off the track. PPE vet misdiagnosed as a cataract, not impacting his vision.

                    Without knowing he had any vision impairment, I evented him for years. He was spooky on the trail, and very careful o/f (great in sj!), not quite brave enough to be a good prelim horse, though he jumped around a few.

                    I sold him as a CH/AD and mod A/O jumper, and it was not until that PPE that I learned he had no vision in that eye. (Or, as the vet said, worse than no vision as he might see some shadows and distortions, but nothing correctly). Thinking back, I'm sure that being a spooky trail horse and not the bravest x-c horse related to his vision, but at the time he seemed within normal limits (not every horse is a trail horse or a prelim horse).

                    He had already adjusted to his condition, probably, by the time I got him, but while it may have limited him in some areas, it didn't prevent him from having a useful life, and he never seemed dangerous o/f or to judge them poorly.


                    • #11
                      My horse was blind in one eye, the result of some sort of blunt force trauma that he suffered (probably) as a foal, in any event long before I got him. We evented through Novice and probably were ready for Training if a slew of other issues hadn't caught up to him... We also did H/J shows, schooled up to 3'9" and never had any problems due to his lack of sight in that eye.

                      To be honest, I was 13 when I got him... I knew that he couldn't see out of one eye, but it wasn't something that I thought about during our day to day rides (like, oh he might spook or refuse this jump since its in the shade and we're turning his "bad" direction) and it never really did seem to affect him. He was as honest as the day is long and saved my butt too many times to count. He did stand with his head tilted and had a tendency to "pop" out his right shoulder and gallop at jumps that way (which may or not have been him compensating for the lack of sight in his left eye or it may have just been a little quirk, but looking back it does make sense that he would want to be really facing the jump with his "good" eye).

                      Good luck with your boy! It sounds like he's already compensating really well
                      'Not all those who wander are lost.'


                      • #12
                        We ran horse 5 years with one eye, through Prelim. He outjumped the TB's, up to 5'2". Never an issue, except you had to be careful to let him see skinnies with the good eye (e.g., sometimes required a counter-bend). He just lost the last eye last fall, but we feel very blessed to have had him.