Study: Most Senior Horses Have Eye Problems

To boot, researchers found that it’s not always easy for owners to spot ocular issues: Owners reported that fewer than 4% of the study horses had some sort of ocular disease, but researchers determined that nearly 90% of them did.

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eye problems in old horses
While ocular issues were common in senior horses, most did not appear to impact vision: Fewer than 6% of the horses had reduced vision on clinical exam. | Photo: iStock

You’ve owned your senior horse for a long time. You’ve been through ups and downs with him, and it’s clear as day when he’s not feeling his best. But do you know how well he can see? Recent study results suggest it’s not easy for owners to spot eye problems in old horses: Owners reported that fewer than 4% of the study horses had some sort of ocular disease, but, in fact, researchers determined that nearly 90% of them did.

“Horses are prey animals in the wild and are, therefore, good at hiding any signs of discomfort or any potential weakness that would made them more vulnerable,” said Fernando Malalana, DVM, GPCert(EqP), DipECEIM, FHEA, MRCVS, RCVS, European specialist in equine internal medicine, of the University of Liverpool Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital, Leahurst, in the U.K.

“A lot of chronic eye disorders can go unnoticed while the disease process and discomfort continue on in the background,” he said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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