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What am I doing wrong? This horse forgets everything!

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  • What am I doing wrong? This horse forgets everything!

    Sometimes I wonder if I am the thick-headed one around here. Some of you may remember Chester, the horse we "rescued" from neglectful neighbors? We have had dear-hearted Chester for about 6 weeks. He is navicular, and he does seem to have what I would call significant pain walking. We are working on it, but the old boy has good days and bad days.

    Well, I am not sure that Chester was ever the brightest crayon in the box, but he certainly has been neglected for a long time. He was sad and lonely, depressed and ribby, not to mention lame when we got him. He is a happy boy now, very very loving, grateful for any and all attention, with a shiney coat and sparkley eye. But sometimes ... he seems extremely dull.

    You see, they told us that Chester would not go into a barn, would not stay in a stall, etc. Well! We've got him coming into the barn just fine. And yes, I am spoiled that Eli and King are the geniuses of the equine world. (I swear either of them could program computers if they just had opposable thumbs!)

    Well, Chester walks into the barn and EVERY. DAY. he turns to the right. He acts like he has never been in the barn before. Every. day. His stall is to the left. I shake the feed bucket. He looks at me like, "what is that?" and ambles over to the hay. I shake the feed bucket again, cluck at him and he walks in the general direction of the stall. Eventually, he sort of stumbles inside.

    Going out? We have a set routine. He can't make it from his stall to the paddock without a halter and lead rope. He watches the others, we do the exact same thing every day ... but every day he acts as if he has NO IDEA what he is supposed to do. Tonight, even with a halter and lead rope, he would take a few steps, then stop and look around. And I mean, he seems genuinely puzzled. Not stubborn. Just like he has NO CLUE what is expected of him next.

    Am I being too easy on him? Too hard? Too impatient? My goal would be that he would walk into the barn and go into his stall to eat, just like the others. And then, when finished, he would follow everybody outside. It works so nicely with the other two ... and I do remember it was not always so. Perhaps my memory is time-compressed and it took longer to teach the other two than I recall? Life was just so much more efficient before the horse-with-no-clue.

    (It's really okay, he's old and loving and I don't really mind explaining to him 5,000 times that it's time to go out. I just wonder if there is a better approach?)

  • #2
    Have you checked his vision?
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

    Comment


    • #3
      How old is he?

      I've noticed with some of the very elderly horses (25+), I swear they get some senile issues. The oldster I care for will occasionally try and go into a stall he hasn't lived in for probably 10 years. When I try and gently coax him away from that stall, he gets quite insistent that no, that's HIS stall.
      Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

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      • #4
        Be patient. He will eventually get it. He may be focused on watching the activities of the dominant horses and staying out of their way so he is not kicked or bitten. Eventually, he won't worry and will be able to figure out the family routine.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Ghazzu, his vision seems fine and his eyes are clear. But that's a definite thought.

          How old is he? Another excellent question. Neighbors said he was 20. Doc thinks closer to 30. Hard to tell.

          I feel so bad for this horse. He is such a sweetheart, but I sort of think he is mentally damaged from spending so many years all alone. He was just left out in the field, no horse companions and no people companions. He spends about half of his time with King and Eli, and about half of his time alone. Eli doesn't run him off anymore and they can all hang out together just fine. But sometimes Chester needs his "alone" time, and you can see him way far away from everyone, all by himself.

          He is totally bonded to David, and if he even catches a glimpse of his dad he will come a-running (well, a-walking pretty fast... well, sort of fast ... okay, a little faster than standing still).

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, do check his vision - I have a horse with nice, bright clear eyes and he is almost as myopic as I am. He looks askance at a new bucket, has trouble finding things that blend into the background and starts at things that appear from nowhere - people, cats, horse eating weeds, moose, almost anything. In and out of the barn can be a real challenge for him some days, particularly if it is really bright out, or at night, if I miss one set of lights.

            Give this boy time, and just be consistant. If his vision is defective, it just makes some things harder for him to learn - bucket placement, stall location and that can be really tricky if you have a light on in the stall or there is light in some other location that is a distraction, in short, most things. Once he gets used to things, never move anything, ever, in his stall. At any rate, as he has been ignored for so long, he needs to relearn many things, or at least try to remember them. Strict routine for in, out, feed is essential - not to say it must be done at the same time every day, but in the same way. He WILL eventually figure it out. Six weeks of good treatment and consistancy isn't really all that long in the scheme of things. His pain is probably also somewhat of a distraction at times and I would suspect that on his worst days. he is more gimpy than on his better days.

            Having to be led in and out isn't all that bad - maybe, in his former life prior to where you got him. in and out with a halter and rope may have been all he knew, and isnt used to navigation on his own to and from his stall or corral/pasture...it does happen.
            Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

            Member: Incredible Invisbles

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            • #7
              awww....

              I would suspect both vision and/or senility issues. And he may have long term effects from isolation. Certainly humans do. I don't know of any studies with horses, but there have been enough on humans isolated/solitary confinement etc.

              You are so kind.
              InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

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              • #8
                Going from bright light to shadow or shadow to light, can be difficult for horses, because their eyes don't contract and dilate as quickly as ours do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well, at least you can blame it on his age.

                  My jr horse had the memory of a goldfish. If she had a fishbowl and a little plastic castle, she would have gone in circles, going, "Ooooh, hey, look, a castle....oooh, hey, look, a castle....oooh, where'd that castle come from?"

                  I bought her as a 3 year old, and sold her at 6, and every day was like starting from scratch. I have no idea how we made it as far as we did.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If he indeed is upset (worried about other horses) or just attracted to the right side of the barn (visible FOOD? Hay?) that could explain it. You've been able to see the horse in other situations and know if this is "normal" for him type of behavior.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hoofprince in Mud View Post
                      Going from bright light to shadow or shadow to light, can be difficult for horses, because their eyes don't contract and dilate as quickly as ours do.
                      Maybe he has particularly poor vision in the "dark" and that is why he wouldn't go into barns before. In that case, you've made STELLAR trust progress!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        KR

                        Let me start by saying how much I have enjoyed following your posts about Chester. You are my hero

                        I think horses are like people in that they tend to favor one side/direction over the other, right handed? I'll bet he is trying to please that he just shuffles the wrong way. He may just need to be escorted in and out--probably likes the extra touch too

                        If he was a person he would probably still be pinching himself saying "is this heavenly place and love really real?"
                        \"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.\" Anne of Green Gables

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Aww

                          I bet at some point, he's lived in a barn like yours and has gone back to that now he's getting looked after well.

                          Maybe teach him a left/right cue? Tell him 'Left' every time you take him in. Be worth a try.

                          Bless you for taking him on.
                          Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!

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                          • #14
                            It sounds like Chester simply can't see out of his left eye. If uveitis has been brewing in there, the outer appearance of the eye itself doesn't have to look odd for that to be the issue. He can see out of the right side, so that is where he goes. He doesn't see the things on the left side, so they simply don't exist. Hence, he turns right each and every time he enters the barn. Or he comes out of the stall, somewhat looky each and every time. Or he 'window shops' on the trail, with the head scanning left and right over the width of the trail as he travels along. (Some do this, others don't. Mine didn't, a friend's did.) All perfectly logical. My horse and I lived with this for years, and the outer appearance of his eye never changed. He was very smart, too. Just vision-compromised.

                            This is an incredible bonus on the trail. No predators ever exist on the left side. No snakes, no spooky rocks, no hikers or cyclists...hell, the deer don't even exist. So the horse just marches right along! You just have to watch for holes and unexpected tree roots, and keep the speed to a dull roar.

                            Not only would I get a vet to do the vision exam, I would take it a step further and get a veterinary ophthalmologist to check him out. In the interim, I would walk on the side of him that you know has good vision, as they spook away from things, and will take you out if you are walking on the side with compromised vision. Here is the link to the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. They have a veterinary ophthalmologist locator page on their site. www.acvo.com

                            Good luck with your horse!
                            "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                            http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Chief2 -- that is a very good theory. If it proves true, it would explain a lot of things.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Seven-up View Post
                                Well, at least you can blame it on his age.

                                My jr horse had the memory of a goldfish. If she had a fishbowl and a little plastic castle, she would have gone in circles, going, "Ooooh, hey, look, a castle....oooh, hey, look, a castle....oooh, where'd that castle come from?"
                                OMGiH - I just irrevocably sprayed my keyboard with coffee!
                                In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
                                A life lived by example, done too soon.
                                www.caringbridge.org/page/laurajahnke/

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  It's not a theory. I have had 3 apps with eye problems. The first had uveitis in the left eye. His best friend (our app #2) had a detached retina in the right eye. Their solution to grazing in a large field with 60 other horses running around them was to graze together so the compromised eye of each horse was to the inside, and the good eye of each horse was to the outside. Their idea, not mine. They were never bothered by antics in the herd. It was a stroke of genius, in my opinion, so we trailered them that way, too. Load the bombproof horse first, then add the buddy, good eyes to the outside.

                                  I am now on app number three with trauma damage in his left eye that was there when I bought him. His stall is on the right, so that is not a problem, but each time he comes out of the stall, we have to take extra time for him to survey his surroundings until he feels comfortable that there are no predators in the neighborhood, and then he will go out into the pasture. He has joined up with several horses who help to take care of him on his compromised side as well. When leading him in chaotic situations, or on the ground waiting to mount in those situations, stay on the right side of him, or he will travel 4 and a half feet to the left through the air and take you out if he is startled or frightened. Farrier work had to be adjusted so he could stand and see the aisle to his advantage, and that way he remains calm for trims. The vet works on him in his stall.

                                  All apps werevet-prescribed UV flymasks to wear throughout the entire year, and MSM (1 gram per day) daily to lower inflammation within the eye itself.
                                  "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                                  http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    SevenUp, that was hysterical.

                                    KR, I think you are getting great input. I had another thought.

                                    You have said that Chester has been a bit neglected in the past few years, and has been pretty much left to stand in his field. I would think that the dearth of interaction and stimulation in his day, combined with age, would easily make him not a quick learner. Don't the gerontologists say (of humans) that if we don't use our mental faculties, we lose 'em, or at least, they atrophy from underuse?

                                    I love to hear of your work with him. He sounds like a love.

                                    So would someone tell me how exactly one assesses equine eyesight? I mean, the obvious thing is to cover one eye and wave your hand around in sight of the other, to see if the eye tracks the motion. But I'm thinking one can do better than that, right?
                                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by ESG View Post
                                      OMGiH - I just irrevocably sprayed my keyboard with coffee!
                                      Me, too!
                                      "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                                      http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

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                                      • #20
                                        [quote=Lori B;4158158]

                                        "So would someone tell me how exactly one assesses equine eyesight? I mean, the obvious thing is to cover one eye and wave your hand around in sight of the other, to see if the eye tracks the motion. But I'm thinking one can do better than that, right?"

                                        You get a vet to check inside with both the flashlight and the slit lamp, or you just go on to the ophthalmologist. They can see inside where we cannot.
                                        "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                                        http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

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