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Advice for blind horse

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  • Advice for blind horse

    I need advice from anyone who's worked with a blind horse before. My 17-year old Appy/TB cross had been blind in one eye for about four years, from recurrent uveitis. Last week, a new horse was introduced to the herd, and he was kicked in the, you guessed it, good eye. He went to the vet school that night, they said the eye was completely destroyed and there was no chance of saving it, so we opted to remove the eye because it was extremely painful and had a high risk of infection. He came home the next day, and so far has done very well. He goes out in a small paddock with his half sister (the two of them adore each other, and she has been doing her best to look out for him.) She has bells braided into her mane to let him know where she is, and I have taught him to touch anything I bang on with his nose, so he can feel where solid objects are. I used this to show him the perimeter of his stall, and of the paddock, and to let him know where food and water are. We hope to eventually move him back to a larger field, where he originally lived, and put him back on 24-hour turnout. Can anyone give me advice on other things I should be doing, how long you waited to try to ride your blind horse, (if you did) or any pitfalls I should be looking out for? He's a sweet horse with a great attitude, and I want to give him the best chance I possibly can to succeed at this. Thanks for any help you can offer!

  • #2
    Keep his environment as consistent as possible and put him in a turnout situation where he won't be bullied by other horses, a small herd type situation like you have now is a good idea. Obviously safe fencing and a turnout free of hazards are a must as well. Put his feed and water in the same place, but it sounds like you're doing a good job with that already.

    My boss has two completely blind horses who have lived together for years and they do great- one even bucks and plays in the field and from a distance you wouldn't know he was blind. They have 24/7 turnout in a paddock attached to the barn and their stall doors stay open so they can come and go whenever they want.

    I can't speak to the riding part other than that a client has a completely blind Appy that she does dressage with (not sure if they compete or not) who does great under saddle. I'm sure others will chime in about adjusting to riding blind horses.

    Comment


    • #3
      First, I'm sorry that happened. I have a horse that is blind in one eye and I live in fear that he will have an accident with the good eye. I would have freaked out.

      ANYWAY, I think one of the best ideas I have heard from someone with blind horses is to give the horse some kind of cue that they are getting near fence lines, so they aren't afraid of running into anything and thus being unwilling to move freely. They dug a very shallow trench a few feet in from their fences and filled them with gravel; somewhat like the bumps they put alongside the highway to tell you you're drifting off the road. This way the horse knows it's time to put the brakes on.

      Good luck!
      As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.

      Comment


      • #4
        I would also line the fenceline with a strip of gravel/lyme/something drastically different than grass a few feet out so the horse knows where to stop.

        I've known several blind horses that do just fine. A friend of mine has a blind Appy who lives out 24/7 with her ancient show horse. She trail rides the Appy and you'd have no idea he's blind. He's actually a great 'husband' horse.

        Another friend actually jumped her blind mare up to about 2'. She trail rode her pretty extensively as well. Other than some really odd head movements, you'd have been hard pressed to tell she was blind either.

        Comment


        • #5
          My 29 year old horse has been nearly blind for 4-5 years now and has recently gone completely blind. It is really amazing how well they adapt. I did not think he would get along so well without his sight (he used to be a hot head!), but at times now I forget he cannot see!

          As others have said, the most important thing is a consistent environment. My guy is out 24/7 in a field he knows well. When I bring him in the barn, I am very careful to get his whole body through the gates and stall doors. I really have to remember to keep his hips straight so he doesn't swing them into things. I stop him completely and say "step" when he needs to step up or down. He caught on to this quickly and knows to feel his way at that time.

          I don't ride him anymore, but if I did, I would just take a lot of time to work with him on the ground and get him to respond to verbal cues so you can be his eyes for him.

          Good luck!

          Comment


          • #6
            The bells on the compainion horse are perfect - I did that with my blind horse's
            pasture buddy and it helped him tremedously. He really did learn to depend on
            his 'seeing eye horse' and did very well for a number of years.

            It's really amazing how well they do adapt to their handicap. He will just need some
            time to adjust.

            I too rode my old gelding when he was completely blind, although not often as
            he had other medical issues. He was very full of himself because I think he
            knew that I wouldn't allow him to trip over anything. I taught him that when I
            rattled the reins against his neck, it meant that there was Something in front of him.
            He would take itty bitty steps with his nose low until he 'felt' what was there -
            be it a hill, or a stream to cross, or a log to step over.

            Keeping him in small area to start is a good idea, and with the same companions
            who will not pick on him in turnout.

            Comment


            • #7
              A friend has a completely blind upper 20's TB who does amazingly well. He has been in several turnouts, the smallest of which is probably 2 acres. They have trees, uneven footing, run in sheds, and he gets around fine. Initially they put a bell on the companion horse's halter. Now that's not necessary. I have always thought that if I had a blind horse I would mow really short near the fencing, or leave the grass extra tall....something to do with mowing anyway... to alert the horse to the fence - easier than gravel or windchimes. But Elvis never had any special fencing treatment other than being led around the perimeter of new pastures. Cute blind horse story: He once broke the hotdog stall chain (or the snap holding it up) across his stall door, probably from rubbing his chest on it. Well being blind he didn't realize nothing was stopping him from leaving the stall. I get to the barn that afternoon and there's sweet Elvis standing alertly at his stall door as if the chain was still up

              Comment


              • #8
                Like everyone said, they adapt really well. My Appy was mostly blind until about 20 , then went completely blind until I lost him at 31. He showed Intermediare 1 until 29 , and I didn't stop because he couldn't do it. All of the pasture ideas are great-- mine was in pasture, too. A good buddy works as a seeing eye horse.

                You just need to remember to cue them when leading and riding. Mine would do Man from Snowy River trails and was very safe. You can use verbal cues for going up, over, steps. Etc. so, for example, a sharp "up" meant he had to lift his feet up to go up a hill, "over" meant to step over something like a log, "easy" meant take short, collected steps for things like uneven ground or steep downhill.

                They learn very quickly and will teach very quickly because thy respond to everything you do, whether you meant to tell them or not. You become very aware of everything you do.

                Oh yeah. No lunging. Not fair. They get dizzy and fall down.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                  Like everyone said, they adapt really well. My Appy was mostly blind until about 20 , then went completely blind until I lost him at 31. He showed Intermediare 1 until 29 , and I didn't stop because he couldn't do it. All of the pasture ideas are great-- mine was in pasture, too. A good buddy works as a seeing eye horse.
                  Sorry to get off topic, but Beentheredonethat, did you own/ride Bymbeaux? There can't be that many I-1 blind Appaloosas....
                  As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes. He was the only one. I lost him five years ago now. I was schooling the tempis the day before I lost him. (Kinda on reason the name--I've pretty much done one of about everything.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                      Yes. He was the only one. I lost him five years ago now. I was schooling the tempis the day before I lost him. (Kinda on reason the name--I've pretty much done one of about everything.)
                      AHHHHHHHHHHHH! *jumps up an down*!
                      That makes me so happy! I was just a kid learning a little about dressage years and years ago and my trainer (RIP) would take us to watch the rated shows at Rancho Murieta and I always looked for Bymbeaux. I loved your horse! (I thought he was a mare...) We'd talk about not needing the fancy horse to do well, since I had (and still have) a QH. I always looked for you guys and Chelsea Sibley's Ijsselmeer (trainer was never a fan of that combo but I loved his flashy socks).
                      I'm sorry that he's gone, but he had a long, full life with you!
                      You made my day
                      Last edited by CrowneDragon; Jun. 4, 2013, 01:13 AM.
                      As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Aw. You're making me sad happy smile. That's one thing about having such a distinctive horse--EVERYONE remember us and can "spot" us. And we were not very intimidating. Especially as he was getting into his 20's, we'd get a lot of peole just amazed he was still around and a little fan club. I probably rremember you from Murrieta. We had so many people come up to us.

                        I've known Chelsey since she was a kid. We both used to ride down the road to get to the public arena and ride there. Her mother made me swear she would get Bimbo (his real name) if I ever died.

                        Yeah. We were a perfect example of determination and keep working at it over talent and money. He never did have an extended trot, but he was so athletic, he could do about anything else. I wish my mare now (dad was in the olympics) could do tempi changes as well as him. Half passes, pirouettes, no problem. And the day he died he still had the best looking legs on any horse I've ever seen at 31 .

                        I'll pm you his story.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                          Aw. You're making me sad happy smile. That's one thing about having such a distinctive horse--EVERYONE remember us and can "spot" us. And we were not very intimidating. Especially as he was getting into his 20's, we'd get a lot of peole just amazed he was still around and a little fan club. I probably rremember you from Murrieta. We had so many people come up to us.

                          I've known Chelsey since she was a kid. We both used to ride down the road to get to the public arena and ride there. Her mother made me swear she would get Bimbo (his real name) if I ever died.

                          Yeah. We were a perfect example of determination and keep working at it over talent and money. He never did have an extended trot, but he was so athletic, he could do about anything else. I wish my mare now (dad was in the olympics) could do tempi changes as well as him. Half passes, pirouettes, no problem. And the day he died he still had the best looking legs on any horse I've ever seen at 31 .

                          I'll pm you his story.
                          Nawwww. No pm's. Start a new thread and share the story with us all.
                          You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Advice for Blind Horse-New problem

                            We were able to put my blind horse out in the pasture with his companion yesterday, and it went fairly well. I had to run out and get fly sheets because the companion was going nuts being bitten by horse flies and had them both running around, but I checked on them periodically throughout the day, and left in mid-afternoon to go teach a few lessons, and asked the staff to bring them in for the night since we were expecting bad storms. Went to turn them out this morning, and both were sporting a obvious kick marks, but nothing life-threatening. I was a little puzzled, but we turned them out anyway, and sat back to watch. My mare, Coca, proceeded to attack Spyder, the blind horse. She would nicker to him, then go up to him, neck arched, squeal a few times, strike at him, and then whirl and try to kick him. He would also squeal and strike when she did, but couldn't really kick at her since he couldn't see her, and she was clearly the instigator. This went on for an hour, and we broke up several incipient kicking matches, before deciding to put them back in the small paddock they have been in for several weeks. Same problem. Both are now in stalls next to each other. They are standing as close as they can get to each other, and nickering from time to time, but she is still squealing at him. She is not in season. These two horses have been out together for 5 or 6 years, with no problems, they adore each other, and up until yesterday, had been getting along great in a small paddock. Anyone have any ideas and/or suggestions? My only thought is that maybe his behavior changes because of the blindness suddenly seemed threatening to her out in a more open space. Help! I need these two to get along, because my only other alternative is to try to put a strange horse in with him, and I'm not wild about that idea either.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hm. That's odd. I can't think of why she would squeal. Both of my guy's seeing eye horses were mares and never did anything like, that, but they were never not with him, and he was always the lead horse before. Maybe just give it some time? I would think a mare would be a better companion with the whole motherly hormones there.

                              Maybe it's the change because he has to touch her to follow. My guy would sort of always be checking to see where the mare was. Maybe that's setting her off.

                              Maybe some kicking chains to discourage her at first?

                              Pj--I'm a little paranoid about putting too much out there. If you search, you'll find it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Could it be that the pecking order just got reversed or at least- messed up? When they have a pecking order and know who is the boss- they don't have to test it all the time- it can be reinforced with a look or a flick of the ear or tail... maybe he used to be the boss and he's not doing that anymore- and without him being the boss- she has no choice but to try to take the dominant position- only it's probably really annoying to her that he doesn't respond when she thumps her chest so to speak... so it has to escalate further and further till she can get a rise out of him.

                                Comment

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