Calming/working with a horse slowly loosing sight? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 04-16-2012, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Calming/working with a horse slowly loosing sight?

So Miss Lacey is having a rough rough week. It's been a little over a week since she had an attack of Moon Blindness and I can tell that there's been some definite MORE sight loss due to that, and she's not really adjusting super well.
At least, she's not fine with it right now. I think she's doing better than probably a lot of horses would be in this situation but she's definitely not chill about this.

Basically, I'm concerned because while she's naturally spooky in the spring, she's taking it to a whole new level. It's not her usual "I feel great so I'm gonna spook and use that as an excuse to prance around" spooks, it's like "I'm legitimately scared right now so I'm spooking out of my mind" spooks.

She's confident when we're together, for the most part. More so when I'm riding, less with me on the ground, and she's less confident than she used to be but is still pretty confident in her field. However, take her out of the field, into the neighborhood and oh man, terror strikes. She's fine once we get to our trails but getting there has been a trial.

Anyway, I'm just not sure what to do to encourage her that things are fine and she'll be ok. She does trust me and she's glued to me when she can be, but obviously, I can't live in her field.
I am starting to use words for topographical changes on the trail and in her field so that when/if she goes totally blind, she'll have some level of confidence...

I guess the thing that really concerned me today was that Lacey, a generally VERY un-touchy mare (she literally had a 6 year old sit down under her belly and start playing with her udder because the 6 year old wanted "to know what they felt like"), nearly kicked me today when I was on her "bad" side and grabbed her tail. Thankfully she hadn't committed to the kick and she put her foot right back down when I said something (I had forgotten to talk to her as I walked around her). However, the fact that I was nearly kicked for doing something I do practically EVERYDAY says that we need a little help, I think.
She also spooked and ran away from me today when I was carrying her blanket out to her in the field. She usually/used to will come right over when it's raining, she doesn't have a blanket on, and I bring her blanket out. Once I called her her enough, she realized it was me and, though still scared, stood still for me to put her blanket on.

The vet is coming out on Friday to do shots and I'm thinking I'll have her peek at Lacey's eyes again and hopefully give me a sight percentage for each eye, so I know what we're dealing with.

But yeah, does anybody have ideas for things I can do with her to ease the transition?
Should I take her out more (scary for her) or should I let her fully adjust to her field, then start taking her out more? I'm inclined to start taking her out more so she can look at things and realize that everything is the same as they used to be but I've never dealt with a blind/going blind horse in my life.
I'm thinking more ground work, lunging through/around "scary" objects (apparently yellow is the scariest color ever, even though she used to be 100% fine with it...good thing I have 3 yellow buckets!) that didn't use to be scary, that sort of thing?

If anyone has links to stories about people helping their horse through this, that'd be totally great too. :)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-16-2012, 11:49 PM
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Wow, that is trully sad - the poor dear. I have never dealt w this, and my suggestion might seem really stupid - but I wonder if it wouldn't help to read articles written by or to talk to humans that have gone blind - just to get a perspective? I hope their is some way to arrest it. Prayers for Miss Lacey.

There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-17-2012, 07:53 AM
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My mare is losing sight in her left eye, and it's been an interesting year (bought her last week, been leasing her since last summer).

When I started leasing her, you couldn't do very routine things without scaring her, such as moving the mounting block a little closer to mount, or walking past her left side with the broom.

She's much better now with the routine things, and it's very rare that things like that scare her now. However, now she's scared of drastic light changes. If we're working in the indoor and we ride past the door on a sunny day, the shade to sunlight difference will scare her. If there are new objects in the outdoor arena, we have to pass them several times on her good side in order for her to accept them on the bad side.

Now, obviously it helps that she has one eye still functioning normally, but what has helped the most is working through the issues slowly. I didn't ask her to ride past the scary light changes until I knew she trusted me enough to keep her safe from the ground. If others try to move the mounting block, she may spook, but not with me anymore.

I guess what I'm saying is, try to conquer one scary thing at a time. It really helped for us. Even though she trusted me before, it took a whole new level of trust to start working through her sight issues.
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post #4 of 9 Old 04-17-2012, 07:56 AM
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I'd suggest PMing kait18.. she's got a horse blind in one eye who has no issues etc after training... but I'm unsure of her methods.
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-17-2012, 08:12 AM
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Because of her losing her eyesight are you overcompensating with the petting to soothe her? If so, she sees this as a reward for her spooky behaviour and it will get worse.
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-17-2012, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Missy May, that's a good idea! I'll look into that. I did some digging last night and was able to come up with 3 really meaty articles on caring for blind/going blind horses so hopefully they'll have some nuggets of wisdom. :)
Unfortunately there isn't a way to stop it, it's just a matter of how long/short of a time it'll take. It might take absolute years or she might be blind by next year, there's no way to tell. :(

Thanks RaiRainy! That's an excellent perspective, one scary thing at a time. I'll work on thinking of it that way! I'm glad to hear your girl is adjusting ok, that gives me hope. And congratulations on buying her!!

Thanks Duffy, I'll do that. :)

Saddlebag, I'm really not. I do find though that I'm being a little too harsh with her about things because I'm a little nervous about her reaction. It's like she gets scared, I'm already like "what is she gonna freak out about?", so as soon as she does freak out I'm, without thinking, like "Ah! Bad horse!" when it's really not her fault or intentional on her part. I need to work on being less emotional about the whole thing and a little more soothing than Ive been. Obviously not too soothing (don't want to encourage spooking!) but not angry about it because that's just going to make it worse.

I don't know, I have weird feelings about this. It's like Lacey is part of my heart and her part of my heart is totally nervous and anxious about this whole thing. I know that's not beneficial to her but I can't seem to throw myself out of it. :/

ETA- Also, any ideas to encourage her to eat more? She really isn't spending a lot of time eating and while she's happily eating her ration balancer+beet pulp+supplements and her 5lbs of alfalfa/day, she's not touching her free choice grass hay or really eating enough of the grass that's growing in her field. Therefore she's loosing lots of weight. Thankfully she was too fat to begin with so she's only just down to "I can sometimes see ribs" level BUT if she continues at this rate, I don't know.
I'm going to ask the vet on Friday when she comes out, but that's another concern I've been having. Lacey's probably lost 50lbs in the last 2 weeks and she's not a large horse.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 04-17-2012 at 01:28 PM.
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-17-2012, 01:27 PM
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Wallaby, If you really want to help your horse, grab something comfortable to sit on and just sit in her paddock/pasture and read a book and ignore her. The book diverts you mind so you have nothing "horse" on your mind. She will come to sense this and may chose to hang out with you. Don't talk to her or touch her. It's like two horses that hang out together, there's comfort in just being with another. She may even smell your hair and muss it a little and just let her do that. This exercise goes a long way toward building trust.
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-19-2012, 01:07 AM Thread Starter
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Lacey is so weird. Sometimes she acts like she can totally see and other times she acts like she's blind as a bat.

For instance, everyday she glances up when I get to a certain place in the road up to her pasture (the first place where trees/distance aren't blocking the view) but then when I'm actually close to her, if I creep around her and don't make any noise, she'll act super confused like "where'd you go?"... Like today, I got her grain all ready and went to feed her her "before grain" treat. She had gotten scared in her usual place (which was rather unusual by itself) so she was peering around the corner of the shed at me. When I came out of the feed room, she nickered very excitedly but went silent when I stopped making noise. She had her ears pricked towards me but didn't take any steps towards me. As soon as I moved my foot, which made noise, she returned to nickering and carrying on. Then, when I set her grain down (I always make her wait for me to say "ok" before she gets to eat), I crept off really silently and she was still waiting for my ok when I returned with her hay in about 30 seconds... She was completely startled when I spoke from behind her, with the hay. She just spooked a little forwards but immediately calmed down.

Yesterday we were working with a pole for her to step over and she was pro at stepping over it. Even when I raised it and she accidentally knocked it down and under her feet, she successfully out maneuvered it. Of course that pole has been in the same general area for months but I'd think that a blind horse should not be able to maneuver over a slowly rolling pole........

I just don't know what to think. Can she see, can she not see? Hopefully the vet on Friday will give me some concrete answers.

I've been reading every article I can find on blind horses and they've all generally been very comforting. It gives me hope that most likely, once she adjusts to this new change in her vision (whatever/however much it is), she'll be totally a-ok for her usual routine provided I step up as her new eyes.

I've decided as well that we aren't going to camp for the summer. I'm really bummed about it but I feel like she doesn't need the stress of camp along with her failing eyes. She also wouldn't have shade at camp which would definitely not be good for her eyes.
Now that I've really thought about it, a summer with just her and no constantly focusing on the kids on horses behind us will be really nice. It'll be a chance for us to just hang out for hours and maybe go for some really long nice rides if we feel so inclined. It'll be fun.
We haven't ever really had that chance to hang out long term since we've gone to camp together every summer, 3 out of the 4 years I've had her and in the 4th year I didn't have my driver's license yet so I saw her on a very limited basis.
Anyway, it'll be good. :)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 04-19-2012 at 01:10 AM.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-19-2012, 01:13 AM
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I know some people use a guide goat/companion for pastures Or use different footing around the fences so they know
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