HELP­ING THE ONE-EYED HORSE

EQUUS - - Handson -

Al­though it may seem like a big deal to us, a horse who loses an eye to in­jury or dis­ease rarely has trou­ble adapt­ing to the change. Horses do not re­quire both eyes for depth per­cep­tion as hu­mans do, so af­ter an ini­tial pe­riod of ad­just­ment, they can al­most al­ways con­tinue to jump, run bar­rels or ne­go­ti­ate trails just as safely as they did be­fore. In fact, in cases where the re­moved eye had been a source of dis­com­fort, the horse may perk up and even be­come eas­ier to han­dle once it’s gone.

That said, you can do few things to make the tran­si­tion eas­ier. In the days af­ter surgery to re­move the eye, try to stick to your usual han­dling rou­tines. Lead the horse in the same way, feed him in the usual lo­ca­tion and groom him in the same se­quence. Scratch his with­ers at the place he’s al­ways liked. Main­tain­ing such con­sis­tency will re­as­sure him that noth­ing has really changed.

If he’s al­ways got­ten along with his herd, you can turn him out once he has clear­ance from the vet­eri­nar­ian. If he’s a lower rank­ing mem­ber, you may want to pair him with a buddy for a few days in a smaller pad­dock be­fore putting them out to­gether, but that’s prob­a­bly not nec­es­sary. Horses are too big and noisy to ef­fec­tively “sneak up” on each other, even when one has a blind side.

You, how­ever, are smaller and qui­eter than a horse, so you’ll want to be aware when you’re ap­proach­ing your horse on his newly blinded side. Avoid star­tling him by of­fer­ing an ex­tra kind word be­fore you put a hand where he may not see it. Most horses will de­velop their senses on that side quickly, but this is a good habit to keep.

If a horse isn’t adapt­ing to the loss of an eye af­ter a few weeks, it’s pos­si­ble the re­main­ing eye has its own vi­sion is­sues. Horses can be­come ac­cus­tomed to to­tal blind­ness, al­though that tran­si­tion will take longer and re­quire more spe­cial­ized hand­ing. If you are wor­ried about a one-eyed horse’s re­main­ing vi­sion, call your vet­eri­nar­ian to sched­ule a full eye exam.

ADAPT­ABLE: If given time to ad­just, most horses who lose an eye can re­turn to their pre­vi­ous ac­tiv­i­ties with­out trou­ble.

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