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Symptoms of vision problems in young horses

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  • Symptoms of vision problems in young horses

    I've had no luck finding anything on google that had a list of what to look for in a young horse before calling out a vet if you suspect vision problems. I need to compare symptoms and discuss them with a vet. I don't think I could just say "well I suspect this horse has something going on but I don't really notice any symptoms that would lead me to believe this..."

    I am long term care leasing a young horse(age 7-8) who seems to have his hearing sensitivity tripled and who only spooked at things he senses he sees(maybe shadows)and not really tarps or anything you think a horse would be afraid of to look at. It's mainly slight noise of another animal hitting it's hooves on a door or something even a mile off or a car coming down the drive. He is ok with super loud noise and settles in it's the slight noises when it's calm and quiet outside with no wind that make him jump straight in the air or leap sideways 3ft in the arena off the rail on the lunge or with a rider. He has started to trip more at the canter and then freaks out from his own tripping(this only happened twice). I don't notice much tripping though.
    He seems to get very confused and nervous going to a different stall or a different pasture on the farm. He calms down anywhere if he can eat the grass though and if he's in his regular stall. The only signs that i've noticed getting worse are him craning his neck around when being led or on the lunge. He used to be good with jumping small crossrails and now recently he's started to clip them. My trainer has me riding him as I normally would and getting him to relax and I haven't had any major spooks while riding him because I've been very attentive but now that he's worse on the ground I don't know if I should give him time of or continue riding him.
    I still ride him around when the tractor is out, there's other very loud things going on and the wind is blowing and he wasn't too bad so far. It's just after today I suspect something is wrong. It was a quiet day no wind no noise but the littlest things made him spook out of nowhere and then he would continue to get back to normal like nothing happened. So does anyone think or have a similar experience and found out your horse actually was loosing eyesight or had an eye problem? Maybe I am noticing this more because his left eye is slighty red and he was rubbing it today. it's happened before once but the vet looked over him last time and just prescribed some eye drops.
    Last edited by moonlightride; Nov. 17, 2009, 06:26 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by moonlightride View Post
    Maybe I am noticing this more because his left eye is slighty red and he was rubbing it today. it's happened before once but the vet looked over him last time and just prescribed some eye drops.
    Unless your vet is an eye specialist with all the equipment to do a thorough eye exam, serious problems can be missed.

    I don't know if your horse's spookiness is being caused by an eye problem or not but given your above observation that should be ruled out. For example, here are some of the symptoms of uveitis in horses:

    Clinical Signs

    Horses with ERU can exhibit many different clinical signs. The most common ones are: increased tearing, squinting, AND/OR redness and/or swelling of the conjunctiva, AND/OR cloudiness.


    What breed is your horse and what are you feeding him?


    • Original Poster

      I am not sure on breed. I'm thinking morab. He's on the same orchard and grass hay he usually gets. I'm thinking im seeing more things going on now that one of his eyes is definately red and bothering him so he's itching it on a post, etc. He's also itched his eye(don't know which one) on his legs. I'll have to find a specialist I suppose that can tell me if it's an allergy to hay or dust or a vision problem. A while ago I would have said that he wasn't a spooky horse. This is pretty newly developed. I can still get him to walk over a tarp and throw one on him and do normal despooking things but like I said it's mainly tiny little noise like miles away that he senses something. Or he twists his head or neck around to look somewhere. I don't know how to exactly describe all this. He's ok with a handler right by him and a rider can calm him down. It's just last time I was out things seemed to get worse.
      I think this is something that was slowly developing but now maybe speeded up or got worse that's making him have some panic attacks.


      • #4
        Is it just one eye or both? Do you notice more problems with leading to left or right, for example into a stall on the right or the left.

        Try leading over small cross rails by making a sharp turn to left and to right to cross them. Does he startle as he comes to the rails more on one side than the other? Sometimes, there is no detectable problem, but definitely some vision loss. Hard to tell if they're seeing shadows or exactly what is going on.

        Just had the same thing with a young OTTB mare. Kept tripping over the threshold into her stall on the right (had to pad it, she hit it so hard). No problem going into a stall on the left.

        Tried leading her over the cross rails and, sure enough, a sharp turn to the right and she startled every time. Don't think she was able to see them until she was right on them. One of the spookiest horses I've ever seen. Owner didn't want to send her to the veterinary ophthalmologist, so I'm not really sure what was going on.

        Suggest a referral to ophthalmologist, though just to make sure. Vision is a very precious thing and it can go bad in a hurry.


        • #5
          Horses adapt to blindness very quickly. My clue that my older gelding was losing his sight was when we moved to a new barn and he uncharacteristically bumped into me a couple times. Then it never happened again...

          ...until I moved to another barn a year later. Then I had the eye exam.

          In between, I would haul him out for trail rides and he didn't show any signs of blindness in a new trail area. He was always a little head-shake, spook in the wind. If I put a fly mask on him, it stopped. In hindsight, I realized that when it was windy small things (pepper tree flowers, leaves) would blow at his face and startle him.



          • Original Poster

            I think it's both eyes Laura. His right side has probably been that way for a while and I think he got used to anything going on with that side. And now that the left side got red(last time it happened he had a swollen shut eye)he is acting like it's terrifying or bothering him. He's got his stall and pasture memorized so no bumping into things there. Hmm after reading and thinking more about it I do think he started getting more spookier as his left eye started looking red. I just noticed that it was red when I was last out but he may have felt it coming this past week and that would explain the more rapid spookiness happening.


            • #7
              I have had a handful of horses over my years of having racehorses that had differing degrees of vision loss. Some of the symptoms I have noticed are as follows;

              Turning their head completely around to look at something with the farthest away eye.

              Never looking at you when you are up close and personal on that side - not tracking you with that eye.

              Not blinking when a hand is waved behind the eye - hard to describe where exactly, but wave your hand from the rear towards the back of the eye. Wave it up and down and then move the hand from far away in towards the eye to see if the horse blinks.

              We recently had a young racehorse in that was mostly blind in one eye. Didnt keep him from winning a race.
              All the best.
              Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
              Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
              Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne


              • Original Poster

                Jessi he was doing that turning that you described in the cross ties. It was odd because he's never done it before. It's like he's trying to look at everything with his right eye because his left eye is cloudy or is seeing shadows. maybe?


                • #9
                  That was the first "aha!" moment I had with the most recent "vision challenged" horse that we had in to train - he turned his whole head around to the right in order to see something with his left eye. I talked to the vet about diagnosing his vision "issues" and the vet told me to do this: Set up a mini obstacle course, with a bucket, wheelbarrow, rake, bale of straw, whatever is handy. Walk the horse through it, then put the horse in the stall and re-arrange everything. Walk the horse through it again and look to see what it hits, what it misses, and what it ignores or appears not to notice. I didnt bother doing that because I could tell he had pretty obvious vision loss in the right eye, I only had him in to train for a month then he went back home. I told his owner/trainer about his suspected vision loss but it hasnt affected his racing ability as long as he wears blinkers.
                  Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
                  Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
                  Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks I'll try to set some obstacles up to see what he does. But he's pretty trusting of someone to walk him through anything so I may not really see anything obvious.