HELPING THE ONE-EYED HORSE
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.