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Anyone have a blind horse?

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  • Anyone have a blind horse?

    Well I just got some devastating news today. My PMU gelding rescue that has been in training for 60 days (he's been abused and has had a shady past), was examined by the vet today and it turns out he is 100% blind in his left eye, and 90% blind in his right (he can see shadows). He's coming home from the trainers. He can now be led most of the time without bolting, and he loves round pen work, and he functions well out in the pasture with a herd.

    I guess I'm just wondering if anyone has a blind horse and what you do to keep them safe (and yourself safe!). I doubt he'll ever be rideable because he's a very untrusting horse with a lot of psychological issues due to his past, but I would like to give him the best quality life he can have, I'm just at a loss though with this situation because I've never owned a sight impaired horse! He's only 5 years old and sweet as can be, but this definitely explains a lot of his behaviors.

    I look forward to any insight on how to handle him. I do know that someone said to put a bell on his pasture mate's halter so he can follow him. Another person said it could be moon blindness because his eyes are blue? I'm going to have my regular vet look at him when he gets home, for a second opinion and more information. Thanks so much!

  • #2
    I have a 29-year-old blind pony, who has lived with me for several years. It is amazing how well he gets around and functions with his two herd mates.

    The key thing we have found is to always talk to him when you are working in the barn. His hearing is excellent and he has taught himself how to orient to doors and feed buckets based on sound. He has also memorized the field layouts and knows where the gates and fences are located. He will trot and canter quite freely when he is in the center of a field, then slow to a walk as he approaches a chute or gate. He reaches out with his nose to verify if the gate is open before proceeding.

    A few years ago, he still gave lead line pony rides to the grandkids and never seemed stressed by it, provided the handler kept a firm grip on the lead line and talked to him.

    I do believe that how well any animal adapts to blindness or deafness is mostly a function of their core personality. Those who are calm and trusting of their environment and handlers adjust better / faster. Those who are fearful take longer to adjust.

    "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
    - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


    • #3
      Yep, I have a horse that has one eye removed, and she can see some shadows out of the remaining eye. I still ride her, she has a stall with an attached run, and the door between the two is a regular sized human door and she comes and goes without a problem. She does have a problem with running into the fence, so we put up a rope fence just inside the wire fence so she bounces off of that first. The big thing is to treat them like a normal horse. I started to baby mine when she first went blind, and she took advantage of it. Once I started getting after her, she returned to her normal self.

      And don't be so sure you'll never ride him. My horse was very spooky when she had partial sight, but now that she is mostly blind, she's not spooky. She was always very trusting of humans, but now she really has to trust us. I would start using voice commands now, step up, step down, step, and wall are all very useful commands. If we're about to go through a small door, I tap on the sides. I pretty much tap everything that she could potentially hit when she's in a new environment. I always walk perimeters with her, tapping things if I can. Find out what works for you, but really a blind horse isn't that much extra work. Turnout buddies and fencing are my two main concerns, otherwise, she's just a regular horse.


      • #4
        I had one when I was 7-12 yrs old.

        She was about 80% +or- in both eyes. She went blind because she was allergic to dust (yea.... a horse go figure)

        I rode her and even galloped her out on trail. She was 22ish yrs old when my mom got her. At that time she could see and all we did was move her from the Gov't owned horses to privately owned horses (she was a MCCDC Quantico owned horse at the time. The Marines could not handle the crazy appy mare so she was closed auctioned off and my mother got her. Me the 7yr old "lion Tamer" rode her a lot. All the men were shocked that I could tame the wild beast). Just the change in her stall started her blindness.

        She was great and I clicked with her. During those years she never fell or anything. I think it was a lot of luck because I did some crazy crap with her. I did let a good rider get on her. The girl ran her through the fence because she was use to riding normal horses. With Jen you had to direct her 100% of the time. After her last allergic reaction she did have to be put down... she ran into her stall doors and had arthitis really bad.
        Draumr Hesta Farm
        "Wenn Du denkst es geht nicht mehr, kommt von irgendwo ein kleines Licht daher"
        Member of the COTH Ignorant Disrepectful F-bombs!*- 2Dogs Farm


        • #5
          Also consider that if he's been blind for most of his life, he may not know anything else and may not even realize he can't see much. I would guess he compensates well enough in familiar surroundings that you didn't notice he was blind, right - so keep your expectations high and take your time and see what he can do. If he gets along in a herd, where he would have to depend on some amount of vision to read other horses' body language, he's probably well on the way to coping with it.

          I've known several horses over the years with varying amounts of vision loss, and they seemed most limited by their owners' assumptions, rather than their blindness.


          • #6
            Great website for blind horses..


            • #7
              I have a blind horse, Dusty, as most of you are probably sick of me talking about, LOL! Dusty the Wonder Horse. Man I love that boy! He's a handfull.

              He is in a pasture right now with Dolly, a 28 yo mare with heaves and a gimpy hip. A crotchity old mare but she wont hurt Dusty (turnout buddies are important, they can't see warning signs (pinned ears, snaked head, raised foot, etc) and soon are kicked and bitten.) Dolly pins her ears and shakes her head when Dusty comes bumping into her. But that's all she'll do. We have a breakaway collar on her with a small cow bell. I wondered if Dusty would figure the bell out (this was something new we just did, put him a new pasture rather than his dirt paddock) and he learned by the end of the day Bell=Buddy.

              I still ride him, people don't believe he is blind! He is a handfull, pulling, pawing, wanting to run, yet listens to every move my body makes. We can go through hilly, rocky, rooty terrain and run full speed down dirt roads. I just have to shift my hip and knee (like I'M walking) and he will step around a rock. If the trail inclines up I say "step UP!" and he picks his feet up, a log I slow him almost to a stop and say "step OVER!" and he touches his toe on it and then steps over.

              Now steep inclines down I REALLY have to work to convince him we are NOT stepping off a cliff. He will put his feet out and down and feel nothing (the incline is just under where he was reaching) then he'll pull his feet back up and stand tall like he's saying "Nope. You're stupid. That's a cliff. You're the blind one." We have to work and work and then eventually will go down (I also have to announce the bottom "Step UP!")

              You would think it's a lot of work to ride a blind horse, as you have to watch his every step, but it's really not and have had several people trail ride him and they can't stop grinning. He is a NICE freaking ride!! So fun, and he's a saddlebred/paso fino so great gait too! And he listens so good to your body you just shift and he goes that way.

              To trailer him I walk him to the edge, tap the floor and lightly tug on his halter downward, he'll touch the floor with his nose then jumps right in.

              I have to be carefull leading him, which I quickly learned when he first started going blind, to lead him AROUND the doorways (man I felt like a heel when I lead him into the barn doorway) keep your hand up near the shank, no slack.

              He is a punk, he is spoiled and he knows it. He still can untie a leadrope or unlatch and open a stall just as well as when he could see, LOL! He will try to push you around and then I do have to correct him, then he's good for about 17 or 18 seconds. Just kidding, he'll be good at least till the end of that day.

              When you change something like move the water trough I have to splash my hand in it till he finds it, if I throw hay out I have to rustle it till he can put his nose on it.

              He comes when he's called, from wherever he is, in his slow careful way, which I think is so cool as all the other horses will come only when called in for dinner, kinda like ME, LOL!

              I could go on and on about him. His trust in me sometimes makes me want to cry. He's my boy, my favorite, I love him so much, even though I am only a servant to his Majesty, Dusty the Wonder Horse.
              I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

              Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


              • #8
                Also in the pasture you can put mulch or gravel about 3 feet from the fenceline, when they hit that they learn to stop.
                I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


                • #9
                  I've got a precious little teenaged Appy mare, Bambi, that came from a rescue in FL a few months ago. She's completely blind in her right eye and about 80% blind in her left. She had/has uveitis.
                  She does not do well by herself, she wants a buddy for comfort, so I put a bell on Buttercup, the Craigslist pony I got back in November, and Bambi keeps track of her by the sound of that tinkling bell.

                  They are in a 3+ acre pasture, and I hand walked Bambi around it a couple of times when she first got here, and she spent a couple of days tentatively exploring.
                  Now that she's figured out where her boundaries are, she can actually gallop around out there now, you'd never know she was blind.

                  At feeding time she unerringly goes to her feeder under the barn overhang.

                  As long as I can control the uveitis , I expect her to be just fine.
                  Save lives! Adopt a pet from your local shelter.


                  • #10
                    Wow my blind mare was a handfull also. As soon as you got on her she depended on me as her eyes. She would prance and want to go!go!go!

                    Moonblindness is what apps commonly get from what i heard (correct?) the mare i had went blind because of moonblindness and allergy.

                    Blue eyes have nothing to do with moonblindness.
                    Draumr Hesta Farm
                    "Wenn Du denkst es geht nicht mehr, kommt von irgendwo ein kleines Licht daher"
                    Member of the COTH Ignorant Disrepectful F-bombs!*- 2Dogs Farm


                    • Original Poster

                      Yes now the bolting through doorways etc and gates explains itself. A LOT of things are adding up (like him just trying to go through the round pen and ripping his leg open..it was his first night in a new place and he just tried to run right through it. He's becoming aggressive to the horses at the trainer's because they are alpha mares and pick on him, so whenever he hears a noise he goes into defense mode.

                      My gelding has heaves and is old and a little bit crochety, and they like each other. My gelding is very gentle with him, the younger guy is actually more rough on him than vice versa.

                      So I'm working on bringing him home this weekend so he can settle back in. He technically has a week left of training but I want my vet to look at him and get him back in familiar surroundings.


                      • #12
                        I have an 18 year old TWH mare who is blind in her right eye and has pretty normal vision in the left. I try to awlays approach her on ther left side. I make sure to talk to her if I have to approach her from the right. She will turn her head toward my voice and use her left eye to look at me.

                        I rode her in the local Mardi Gras parade this year without any problems. I have had her about a year. Her former owner gave her to me last year when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Until his strength failed, he would come to visit her about once a month. She had been trailered and trail ridden as well as used for dog field trials. He did not even realize she was blind in the right eye. My vet examined her and said she was probably 100% blind in that eye. Unfortunately, her former owner passed away last week.

                        She stays in a pasture with two younger geldings and she is the boss. The only problem I have is if she gets ahead of me at feed time and crosses over so that I am then on her right. If she then bumps into me she will shy away because she is startled when she bumps up against something on her right. To avoid this, I usually talk to her or start whistling if she crosses over so that she is in front and to the left of me.

                        She is a wonderfully smooth gaited and level headed mare. I have a soft spot for the older, been-there-done-that horses. All of our horses are at least 13 except for a 3.5 year old Paso Fino that was headed to auction because his owner did not want to pay for his keep through the winter since he was not yet under saddle. I keep hoping that I will find him the right home, but for just $200, I could not let him go to auction.

                        Through the years, I have known several blind horses, dogs and cats. it is amazing how well they had adapted to their sightlessness. My daughter has a cat that was blind from birth and is now seven-- it is amazing to watch him jump up and down from chairs, the table, bed and couch. He even chases bugs that get into the house -- we figure he can hear them. He also has lots of toys that have bells or rattles that he plays with.


                        • #13
                          Oh! Forgot to ad, DON'T shave their face whiskers and eye lashes!

                          They use them to feel items close to the face, I watch Dusty touch with them and back off. Although he still thunks his nose a lot, makes me wince.

                          I saw a photo of a police horse in riot gear and they had this awesome face guard! I had bug plastic eyes and a rubber guard down the middle of their face to the end of their nose. Can't find them to buy, well I found one and it was almost 300.00 and I can't spend that. But sure would love something like that to protect his eyes and nose. I would paint the plastic black to shield the light out of his eyes. The iris is open wide and you can see to his retina and I use flymasks but I think the guard would be better, plus it would cover his nose and protect it from bumping.
                          I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                          Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


                          • #14
                            To protect the eyes, go to www.bigdweb.com, go to the racing hoods section and get the hood with the metal eye covers. I forget the # it is, but I bought one to protect my horse's eyes at a barn where there were lots of woods and trees, his head is shaped so he cannot wear the STB size and I haven't had an elastic insert put in it to make it large enough.
                            The racing hood is about 30 or 35 dollars and the metal eye covers are great, plus you can lace in other eye covers if you have ERU problems.

                            I think it is great that you guys keep your blind horses. I found that website posted supra, for blind horses when a friend of mine bought a little appy and it had ERU and was almost blind. (I told her not to buy the horse but her vet said he was fine, then my vet looked at him after she bought him and found he has ERU and is almost blind.) She kept him and she and her husband bought their own place where he lives with her other horses.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dawglover View Post
                              I've got a precious little teenaged Appy mare, Bambi, that came from a rescue in FL a few months ago. She's completely blind in her right eye and about 80% blind in her left. She had/has uveitis.
                              She does not do well by herself, she wants a buddy for comfort, so I put a bell on Buttercup, the Craigslist pony I got back in November, and Bambi keeps track of her by the sound of that tinkling bell.

                              They are in a 3+ acre pasture, and I hand walked Bambi around it a couple of times when she first got here, and she spent a couple of days tentatively exploring.
                              Now that she's figured out where her boundaries are, she can actually gallop around out there now, you'd never know she was blind.

                              At feeding time she unerringly goes to her feeder under the barn overhang.

                              As long as I can control the uveitis , I expect her to be just fine.
                              A match made in heaven! So glad she found you and Buttercup! And thanks for the updates! Bambi amassed quite a fan club in the few weeks she was with us!
                              Lori T
                              www.facebook.com/LTEquine for product updates on the lines I rep


                              • #16
                                My guy was blind for two summers, he's now vision limited in his right eye. I considered euthanizing him in the beginning because he was so frightened, but we clicker train and I targeted everything in his pasture from the gate all the way around. It seemed to help him. And, he and my mare became inseperable. He would gallop with her, she would stay to his left where he could touch her with his nose while they galloped in to eat.

                                When we went to the vet school for his opto exam she went, and he followed her everywhere he had to go.

                                He recovered and just has limited vision in his right eye. His problem? He ran into a stick with his eye closed and had idiopathic keratytis, then got a major ulcer the next year, and was kept fully dilated and blinded all summer for two summers.



                                • #17
                                  I've never had a blind horse, but I've known blind horses. Usually (based on what I've seen/heard), when you put them out in pasture with other horses, they will form a strong bond with at least one of the other horses and that horse will guide them around and lead them everywhere. They learn eventually where everything is in their pasture by feel, smell and sound. They will learn their way around their area.

                                  As for riding, I know one older gentleman who competes in Showdeo on his older mare who's completely blind. She goes just on his cues (vocal, seat, legs, reins) and man can she weave through poles and race around barrels! She's one of the BEST horses in the entire organization! What a great partnership they have. It's just amazing to watch them! Almost never knocks down a pole or barrel!


                                  • #18
                                    This is the first time I've tried to link photos, so hope it works. I had a 21 yr. old appy mare who was a rescue. She was blind in one eye, but was incredibly fun on the trail. The "after" photo shows her after a judged trail ride. She eventually went blind in her other eye, and we retired her to a paddock with a companion.


                                    • #19
                                      My DD's POA is blind. He has been for years. It was slow at first then BAM- light's out! I never ever put him anywhere he has not been all along. No new pastures or stalls. I ALWAYS have him with his seeing eye mini's - he panics with out them. He is still ridden on occasion by my DD - they adore each other. It gives the old boy a chance to gallop again. He trusts his girl completely as she would never steer him wrong. When it gets to be too much for him we will sadly put him down.

                                      I strongly advise getting him a permanent companion!
                                      "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there"