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Training advice for a one-eyed horse

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  • Training advice for a one-eyed horse

    I recently had to have my young (2 1/2 year old) Clydesdale gelding's eye removed due to a fungal infection that did not respond to treatment. The loss seems to bother me way more than it does him! I am ready to move forward and want to work on training him. I have worked with him a lot since he was born, trained to lead, go in cross-ties, get clipped, groomed and worked a bit in the round pen. It is his left eye that is gone. Do I now teach him to lead from the side he has vision on? Other than that, do I just work on training (round pen, long-lining) the same as if he had both eyes? Since he is a draft, I don't plan any actual "work" until next year, but want to get him started now. Advcie from those who have been through this type of situation would be gladly appreciated. I know he can still be a productive member fo society with only one eye and plan to train him to ride and drive. I am certainly not giving up on him and realize a lot of horses with only one eye have done well in many diciplines.

  • #2
    I had my 23 yr old lesson horse's eye removed today. Much worse for me than him also. Not my first one eyed horse though. Trust is a key issue.


    • #3
      Had to have my mare's eye removed last year for the same reason. I just continue to lead her from the left side as always. I did find in the beginnng it helped if I kept a hand on the halter or actually physically on her when I was leading her just to remind her that I was there as opposed to only holding the lead rope. In the beginning since she couldn't see me it seemed she tended to forget I was there.
      "You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of
      ignorance!" Officer Beck


      • #4
        What Lori said. My now 6 y.o. gelding had very limited vision in his left eye when I got him as a 2 y.o. It quickly diminished to no sight in that eye. Other than leading him (I either talk to him or keep a hand on his shoulder), I haven't changed anything in the training process. He took alittle bit longer to train to stand at the mounting block, but we have a process where I scratch him on his butt before I put foot in stirrup. He absolutely trusts me and is a solid citizen. Has shown, trail rides, everything a normal horse can do.


        • #5
          A lot of it depends on how well the horse adapts to the lost vision. I've owned 2 different OTTB horses that were blind in their right eye. The first took to the loss perfectly fine. I never had to change a thing. Could lead from either side, walk up on blind side without him knowing, etc, and nothing phased him. Could crank up tractors on blind side, etc, and he never spooked. I even got him jumping up to 3' fences, and the lost vision never hindered him. I never made exceptions in how I handled or rode him because of his vision. He was truly a once-in-a-lifetime horse, had absolute trust and faith in me, and was a complete saint in my mind.

          The second horse was a little more flighty. In the beginning, I did have to be cautious on his blind side, and find ways to gently let him know I was over there, but he gradually got better. He would get very nervous when he could hear other horses approaching or going by on his blind side. He was never as quiet as the first guy, but he did calm down. However, because of his more flighty instincts, he was never more than just a pleasure/trail horse.

          I would say go with how your horse reacts and let him tell you what his limitations are. Use your voice a lot in training in the beginning, especially on his good side so that then he'll learn what you're asking/wanting on the blind side when he can't see your body language. Good luck!


          • #6
            I had a 1-eyed horse. She had her right eye removed when she was only a few months old so she was totally adjusted to life with 1 eye.

            I bought her as a mostly unhandled unbroke 3 year old. I figured that I would only be able to lunge her on her sighted side, but she surprised me by being able to be lunged on her blind side as well. Of course I didn't even try this until she understood the concept first. I learned to help her with additional voice commands ("OUT" meant move away on the circle), and I also would place the lunge line where she could see it (i.e. hold it up behind her, or "shush" her out on the circle by flicking it well in front of her).

            Once she was a little more broke, I found that she liked to twist at the poll to try to see more of her blind side. I didn't hassle her about it. As she became more connected and "on the aids", that crookedness went away.

            Overall, I talked to her a lot as I worked around her. I'm still in the habit of jabbering at my horses as a result.

            Sounds like your boy is being just as sensible about his partial vision as my mare was. Trust your judgment, be sympathetic, and don't be afraid to be creative.
            "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince


            • #7
              Here's my success story....

              A couple of months after I bought my 5 yr old OTTB in 1989 Jimmy lost his sight in his right eye due to incorrect treatment for an eye ulcer that turned into fungal and bacterial uveitis. We never removed the eye because once healed he did not have any discernable discomfort, although he lost all sight in that eye.

              I was devastated as he was going to be my competition jumper --- I assumed that would no longer be possible. My trainer gave me some excellent advice once we began riding him again. Treat him like he has sight in that eye and he will become confident again and able to go back to jumping as he always did.

              Except for making sure I allowed him to see the jump with his other eye, we did nothing different with him and he went on to be a very successful jumper, doing the tight turns and roll backs just like always.

              Whether that will be the case for your horse, I can't tell. But Jimmy went on to do hunters, jumpers and eventing for the rest of his 26 yrs with no loss of enthusiasm and confidence.

              (Because of this positive experience, I just adopted a pony who had recently lost an eye, believing he too will be able to live a full productive life)

              Best of luck to you.


              • #8
                Originally posted by retrofit View Post
                ("OUT" meant move away on the circle)
                I've always said "move out" to my horses when I wanted them to make the circle bigger on the longe. It's always come in handy, but it's especially handy with my one-eyed mare, Ilen. She learned to longe before losing her eye, and then went right back to it as if nothing had ever happened.

                Ilen is also missing her left eye, and for the most part, I lead her exactly the same as I always have. The only difference is when I'm trying to navigate through a somewhat tight turn with her. Then I tend to stop her first, and use my hands on her a lot more. I have to be careful turning her towards me into stalls and such too quickly, because she's way too trusting, and will just plow on ahead and bump into walls if she's not lined up correctly. So generally I do try to stop her first, but it's not nearly as much of a production as it sounds like.

                She got lots of handling out of necessity on her left side right after losing her eye, since shortly before her eye infection she jumped out of her pasture, ran around the farm, and got a nail in her left hind hoof. Thankfully it was small and off to the side, so not as bad as it could have been, but it abcessed a lot, and I was constantly soaking, poulticing, and changing bandages even right after her enucleation. There was really no choice but to get right into it, since it needed to be done. And she was totally okay with it.

                The only time she's at all jumpy about being handled on her blind side is when I'm out in the pasture with both my mares, and my older mare and I are both on the blind side of Ilen. Then if I touch her and she's not sure if it's just me or her mother being bossy, so she'll go scooting off rather than risk the "wrath of mom."
                "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                -Edward Hoagland


                • #9
                  Treat him like he has two eyes. And go.

                  Seriously. My friend has a one eyed mare who is the best kids horse ever. Mare is a fearless jumper, boldly leads trail rides, etc. you'd never know she only has one eye. She was never treated any differently and doesn't act differently.

                  We also have a one eyed carriage horse that pulls a carriage downtown. Again, he's treated just like the others and doesn't act any differently.


                  • #10
                    made an interesting discovery with my unicornea mare today :-) Had the horse dentist out for floating and she was really acting up on us. Fussing, tossing her head and just really being a brat.

                    I know when the farrier is working on her, she is happier when I am standing on the side where she can see me so I decided to stand on her other side (sighted side) and wouldn't you know it, she settled right down and let the dentist finish up with almost no fuss at all.

                    So just a heads up to others, something to keep in the back of our mind for the future!!!
                    "You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of
                    ignorance!" Officer Beck


                    • Original Poster

                      Thank you, everyone, for the great advice and especially for the success stories! Rickey had a bit in his mouth for the first time and did fine with it. I was planning to long-line hin but we had a big storm and I decided to wait for more perfect conditions. I have alsi been watching him in pasture. He is still very self confident. He has started hanging out with his dad in pasture and doesn't take any crap from the stallion, but he seems to enjoy galloping around with him. I think he is going to do great.


                      • #12
                        Black Ice, one of the top eq horses in the country back in the 80's or 90's only had vision out of one eye. He hurt it somehow and lost vision in it after he was an established show horse so it wasn't as if he was used to it from an early age. They fitted him with a lens type thing to hide the cloudiness. He did just fine.
                        The Evil Chem Prof


                        • #13
                          I had my 21yo paint's eye remove last march. It is his right eye and so far, he has been fine! As others have said, it seems like worse for me than him! I am attentive to his blind side and definitely let him know I'm there,but he has been very calm, still bossy with the other horses, and still wonderful to ride-has been on trails and in the arena.I'm still not sure if he prefers his blind side to the out side or insideof the ring, maybe it doesn't matter, but he is going fine. His was removed for squamous cell carcinoma, so of course I am watching his remaining eye like a hawk. A former BF's dad roped with his one eyed horse, very successfully!!


                          • #14
                            trian the horse in the normal way- but now you have to make your commands stronger meaning
                            use your voice as in tones more, no room for errors must be direct signals of command be that from aids, or voice

                            speak - touch, - i have re habbed serveral one eyed horses and had blind horses

                            think the horse as blind person- make sure in his stable his comfy zone everything is in it place likewise field as well, have and stick to the ame rountine when feeding

                            speak to the horse when hes in or before your going to do something to him like catch him to turn him out or goorm or tackup and ride, if hes not facing you and your approaching on the left then speak loud enough for him to hear you then touch him - for example he could be nose down eating hay in a stable and didnt see you come in- so speak touch let him know your there and tell everyone hes blind and if they are cleaning him out for you or tending to him when darker evenings /mornings he might knock you over by mistake as e didnt see you- this has happened- all beause people didnt talk and balmed the horse for being knock over

                            most horses accept blindness of any kind quite easily - some do not
                            however yours is young and some horses knew anyways as if the problem with yours was there and hes grown used to it anyways of not seeing very well so having no eye wont make much difference to him as more than likely pain free now as some eye conditions are most painful

                            horse can live normal lives with one eye and do very well know a few bn sj and hunters so career can continue

                            triaining educate like i said in the normal way - use more of your voice as this your biggest aid and asset and tones of voice
                            legs when legs are need just press slightly harder if one wants to encourage the horse more so- horses look to there riders for guidance and confidence

                            this is where you must not make any errors- in a horses mind hesitation is a fear factor as it creates a doubt a doubt creates confusion another fear factor

                            horses only really have 2 fear factors -1st is to flee 2nd is to advade you when ridden or handled or driven

                            like i said when leading out with horses that are blind it really depends on the

                            horse your sounds like he had a good up bringing so i doubt he would trample you or spook or panic so you should be able to lead him out from both sides if not the stay on the sighted side for your own well being

                            make sure now that in summer tyou have fly mask and fly sheet on him
                            asits one thing being blind but being constantly bitten and bugged by lfys doesnt help also it will stop the conjuctivitis that occurs for flys and direct sunlight or wind

                            keep the horse in and away from direct sunlight and windy weather

                            keep the horse on shavings rather than straw
                            and buy a small spray water bottle spray the air in his stable after mucking out and before you bring him in this will help keep the dust particals down
                            and dampen his hay or use haylage or feed from the floor with hay

                            as now you have to think a bit more - hanging haynets up creates particals tha can get into his eyes or good eye should i say so you need to adjust to either smaller holes - or feed from the floor so its less likely to get an irratation in the other eye

                            just think a bit before you do things- but when you do talk to him as another human- not as namby pamby baby cooc coo stuff horses dont understand that anyways but when you dealing with a blind horse your voice is so much more important- and dont chop his whiskers off they are echo sounders when hes walking about noise bounces back so he had find his way and around objects
                            hes young he will still be a good horse to ride

                            so be positive -----


                            • Original Poster

                              Rickey lives in pasture. He went into a stall when he came home from the hospital and it did not go well, so I let him go in the pasture with the big boys (all Clydes right now I think). We also ended up putting the (very well behaved) stallion in the pasture and now Rickey hangs out with his dad mst of the time. He and dad are going in in bad weather, but in thge breeding barn that has bars between the stalls so they can see and visit each other. An odd situation, I know, but it seems to be working. It is difficult to keep a young draft horse stalled full time. In the warm weather he will wear a fly mask. I am concerned about the remaining eye and will be watching it REALLY closely.


                              • #16
                                I had a one-eyed event horse who went to the World Championships in 1982 on the Canadian team. I'm pretty sure he was one-eyed at that time. I rode him Preliminary in his older days and just always had to make sure he could see the jumps. That was it. Good luck!
                                blogging at HN: http://www.horsenation.com/
                                check out my writing: http://jeseymour.com
                                Just out: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-p...ead-poisoning/


                                • #17
                                  My horse had to have his left eye removed in September, at the age of 17, also for a fungal infection in a corneal ulcer. Honestly, the biggest issue we had was loading him into the trailer to come home from the vet school after the surgery, because he kept stepping to the left and scaring himself. After about a week, he completely settled in, and I forget now that he can't see out of that eye. I started back riding him the day the stitches came out, and based on what I had heard of other people's experience, expected him to be drifting toward the side he had lost sight on, a little spookier, etc. My vet did have me Ace him for the first two rides just to ensure that he had good experiences, but I suspect he would have been fine without that. He walk/trot/cantered the first day, did perfect flying changes - totally could have jumped him that day but didn't out of fairness to him. We did start back jumping him a few weeks later, and he hesitated slightly over the very first cross-rail, but hasn't given it a second thought since. Truly, he goes EXACTLY the same as he always did (we were actually hoping that it would back him off just a bit to the jumps, but no such luck :-)), he is still the boss of his pasture, and he is generally no different than he was with two eyes. I was told that it was actually best to keep leading from the left side, since he was an adult and used to it, and other people would tend to handle him that way - and also because it is easier for both you and him to know that you are watching out for any obstacles on his blind side. Everyone told me that it would be harder for the people to adjust than the horse, and so far for us that's been completely true. My vet told me to think of it this way - horses don't really "know" that this isn't normal - for all they know, they just lose an eye at some point as they get older. So if you treat it as normal, he probably will too (obviously that's a bit more thinking than horses really do, but for whatever reason the way she phrased it helped me to act around him as if it was no big deal, and I think that's probably part of the reason that it's been such a non-issue for him).


                                  • #18
                                    I know this is an old thread, but a friend of mine has a horse who may have to lose his eye, and she would like to talk to people who have gone back to riding a horse after losing an eye. Specifically, how to go about preparing him to be ridden again, if possible.
                                    I can try to point her to this board, but I think she would like to talk to somebody one-on-one. Please let me know if you would be willing to talk to her.


                                    • #19
                                      I haven't personally trained a one eyed horse from the ground but I think that he will adjust quickly as he is young and it shouldn't be to big of a problem


                                      • #20
                                        My gelding lost vision in his left eye last April due to an injury. He turned 20 on Saturday. He transitioned without a problem, so I would think a younger horse would be fine as well. I didn't do anything differently after the vision loss versus before. I still lead and tack up from the left side. I figured due to his age and being used to everything going on the left side I would continue. With your horse you have the freedom to start on the right with no big difference I'd think. My gelding was jumping again 6 months after the injury (we had a rough 3 months of healing). I think it bothers us more than it does them!