Even with the newest treatment options, eyesight is occasionally lost due to injury or disease. When a horse does go blind, there is a period of adjustment, typically a couple of weeks to a few months, as the horse learns to adapt to his or her new circumstances. While each horse responds differently depending on their temperament, here are some practical tips on managing a completely blind horse:
- Blind horses do great with one or two gentle companions. Putting a bell on the companion is helpful. Select a new buddy quickly if the companion horse must leave the farm.
- Blind horses rarely thrive well in herds due to herd behavior and pecking order establishment. Being chased away from food in a blind panic can easily lead to injuries and underfed horses. Horses also get cues from the herd’s body language. If these visual signs are ignored, the horse is likely to be bitten or kicked by a dominant horse.
- Don’t clip a blind horse’s whiskers. They use their sensitive muzzle to gain information from the environment.
- Avoid using electric or barbed wire fences.
- When introducing the horse to a new pasture, show him around by tapping the fence line and remember to show him the water source.
- Keep the water source along the fence line and don’t move it. Routine is very important.
- Cut low tree branches and remove unnecessary objects from the field. Place an old tire or different footing around trees or poles to help the horse sense the object.
- Use verbal cues such as: “Step up”, “Step down”, “Whoa”, etc.
- Talk often to let the horse know where you are. Avoid quiet/sudden contact or loud noises.
Many horses can live happy lives being blind when only a little extra patience, planning, and understanding are needed. There have been many hopeful cases where the right blind horse and rider combination can have a trusting under-saddle experience, and even be used in competition.
For more information, visit these websites:
www.blindhorses.org or www.rollingdogranch.org.