Caring for the Blind Horse

Most horses adapt well to vision loss but still require special management in a safe environment.
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Caring for the Blind Horse
There are many causes of blindness in horses, including injuries and diseases. A horse might lose vision in one eye or both. Fortunately, most horses adjust well to vision loss and can be managed safely. | Photo: Photos.com

Most horses adapt well to vision loss but still require special management in a safe environment.

When you rode your aging gelding last week he stumbled a few times, and you assumed his old joints might be getting stiff. Then today as you approached him in his pasture he was momentarily startled when you spoke, even though he appeared to be looking your direction. When you led him into the barn, he nearly ran into the wheelbarrow you’d left near the doorway, even though you gave it a wide berth, and the clues started to fall into place: He’s losing his vision.

There are many causes of blindness in horses, including injuries and diseases. A horse might lose vision in one eye or both. Fortunately, most horses adjust well to vision loss and can be managed safely.

“Often horses with chronic and insidious diseases that slowly debilitate their vision become almost completely blind before you realize they can’t see,” says Richard McMullen, DVM, DrMedVet, CertEO, assistant professor of ophthalmology at North Carolina State University. “It is incredible how well they can adapt

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Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at https://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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