Newly blind horse and care - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Newly blind horse and care

My mare was diagnosed with moon blindness this morning. She has pretty much nothing for vision now so the quest for safe environment is on full blast.

So I was hoping that I could find some tips/insight on a good fence. Her pen is fairly safe, actually the safest pen I've seen for a horse, but there are still some concerns with it. So we are planning on building her her own enclosure, one in a better location and what not.

Been thinking about the difference between putting in solid wood fence, or looking more at that thick, white fencing plastic like stuff which has more give if she runs into it. Also been thinking about how to set up a safe food bin that she can't get cast up in if she rolls to close, etc.

And then onto what to find for a pasture mate. I'm leaning towards a smaller donkey or a goat now. Something easier for me to lead along side her. But we'll see what we find.

I'll take any tips or stories about other's blind horses. I've never dealt with a blind horse, only one that had a lost one eye but that was at birth and she was fully adjusted by the time I had to deal with her.
My poor girl is only 7. Old enough that it will take awhile to adapt, but young enough she still has a lot of life to figure this blind thing out with.

Thanks in advance for any tips/insight on fencing/feed bins/companions/just anything that might be of use to help us with this.
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post #2 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 06:26 PM
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If it's a new onset can't it be treated? My horse had an episode of uveitis a few years ago & it was successfully treated & has not returned.

Last edited by natisha; 08-08-2013 at 06:31 PM.
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post #3 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 06:40 PM
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Heres a website I found A guide to loving and caring for blind horses
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post #4 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 06:54 PM
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I would talk to Wallaby. She's like an encyclopedia for blindness in horses
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post #5 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 06:55 PM
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Lots and lots of research out there to work with, but, a few observations in the meantime...

First, it is very important to keep things in place so the horse learns where things are. Don't switch around buckets, feeding areas etc. Never change the locations once she has them solidly in her brain.

It is also good that when approaching, talk to the horse, let them know you are coming. At first walk up slowly so they can adapt and figure out where you are. If she is completely blind movement itself may not be critical but if she is only partially blind, keep your movements quiet..nothing sudden.

A "service" animal can help as long as she gets along with them. Some use donkeys or goats, others use ponies or even other horse pals. A friend of mine had a horse that was completely blind..she put a small bell on her other horse when they got turned out together and the other horse acted as the blind horse's "guide horse."

Understand that strange noises like things falling etc are going to be scary for her because she won't be able to tell where the noise is coming from or what has actually fallen. Keep your hand on her at all times when you are around her so she knows where you are. Most horses will try to avoid hurting people but in one that can't see, they won't know where you are.

Be extra cautious.....
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post #6 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 07:57 PM
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Hold on to your hat, this is going to be long! haha

I have a mare with ERU as well [Equine Recurrent Uveitis is Moon Blindness' "technical" name - I just like to call it by it's technical name because it can be such a depressing disease and ERU makes me feel like I'm more in control of it, less at the whim of the disease. haha]. She's had it for who knows how long but she went undiagnosed until she had her first "episode" with me as her owner, then it was discovered that she's good as blind in her right eye and very close to blind in her left eye. Maybe that's similar to your situation?
My girl does really well blind. I had owned her for nearly 4 years before that episode, never knew a thing! haha

My girl, Lacey, just turned 28 so she's quite a bit older than your mare. Lacey isn't the average 28 year old though: we still regularly trail ride, we teach riding lessons to kids, you know the usual-ish stuff. No slowing down for Miss Lacey! haha

Anyway, right after she was diagnosed, I spent as much time as I could researching blind horses, Moon Blindness, and ERU. I printed everything so I could hold it in my hand and highlight interesting/vital information.
I lovelovelove that article LouieThePalomino linked to, that's one of the best I've found. Super informative but not depressing.
It's easy to start feeling really let down after that kind of diagnoses and so many of the articles out there ARE so depressing so I love that that one has such a hopeful tone.

So yeah, step 1: Google search every term you can think of that pertains to blindness/ERU/etc. Read everything. Get educated. You're your horse's advocate even more now. So many people and vets don't know a lot about uvietis, it's important that you know what you're dealing with.

On the pasturing questions, I've found that space seems to be a real need for these horses. Sure, they can function in a smaller space and Lacey did just fine when she was in a pasture that was a single acre. However, about a year ago, I moved her to a pasture, adjacent to her old one, that's 6+ acres.
Since the move, I've seen an increase in movement and she seems to feel safer. In the old pasture, she had a single "running path" that she could maybe fit 5 canter strides into and she spent most of her time standing in one corner of the pasture, next to said running path.
In the bigger pasture, she still has "running paths" but she has a solid 4-5 of them and most of them are long enough that she's regularly able to gallop.

Since she has more paths through the pasture [at least with her, she uses specific "pathways" - she'll graze off the pathway but she seems to use the path as a means of self-orientation] she spends a lot more time moving around and exploring.

I'm not sure how much of that has to do with pasture set-up either because this 'new' pasture is basically 3 separate pastures with one connecting "strip", but she has access to all areas. In any case, it's been really successful for her.

I can't be of much help with fencing because the majority of my fencing is high-tensile wire covered in blackberry bushes. The blackberry bushes seem to help her stay off the fence because they brush her before she hits the fence-fence! In any case, that's another thing that's worked out super well.
I would look into something that she'll "bounce" off of instead of breaking, as a fencing material. I've found that if my girl runs into something and it scares her at all [like a fence breaking might], she's nervous for days about the area where the incident took place.

Companions: I have 2 goats for my girl and it's the BEST. They each have bells on their collars so she can hear them at all times and they have a separate stall area that they can go into to be away from her/stay in at night when she's locked in her stall [I don't stall them together because there have been close calls where a goat will get too close to her feet and half trip her, etc] at night during the winter [I don't let her be out at night during the winter because her pasture is hilly and I don't want her injuring herself slipping on mud when no one can see her - the neighbors all have my number and watch out for her for me when I can't]. One of the goats, the younger one, was just 6 months old when I brought him home and he's latched on to Lacey like she's his bestie for forever. He, being the young guy he is, will often "lead the charge" when they go places and Lacey will walk behind him with her head down next to his rump, letting him take her wherever. The older goat is quite a bit shier of Lacey. I think that probably works out to her benefit since two goats bouncing around her, feeling totally comfortable, might be a little overwhelming for Lacey. It's a good mix.
I do work hard to keep Lacey from getting herdbound too much on to the goats. It's great that they help her in the pasture but I need her to be focused on me when I'm taking her places, not on her buddies that we left behind. So that's something to be mindful of. Herdbound horses are no fun and blind herdbound horses can be downright dangerous.

As far as feed bins, I use a slow feed hay net with Lacey, hung at wither height - well off the ground. Her grain goes in a bucket, in the same corner feeder every time. Her stall is also her run-in, so I just feed her in there - easier than having food everywhere and I think it encourages her to use her run in/stall. She has water up by the gate and in her stall as well [basically on either side of the pasture].
A major thing is deciding where her food/water is going to go and committing to that placement. It's not great to be constantly fiddling with food placement and really not great to be fiddling with water placement. If you need to significantly move where her water is within her pasture, I've had luck showing her water in the new place and leaving her "old" water where it was. She'll begin drinking the old water down and as it gets lower, she should begin to think about other water sources = the new water. It might take a few refills of the old water but she'll get it and once that old water is empty, you should be able to remove it completely without issues.

Another huge thing that I've found super useful is wearing my keys on a carabiner that's attached to a beltloop on my jeans. The jingle of the keys helps Lacey know where I am and who I am. She actually associates that jingle sound with me and will begin searching for me if I hide from her and jingle my keys! I know people say to talk to blind horses to let them know where you re...but I'm just not that vocal ALLLLL the time! haha My keys do the talking for me. And I like to think that they help "save" my voice for really important stuff like "whoa" [super important to have a good whoa on a blind horse!!] etc - she knows to listen when I start actually talking.

That's another thing, WORDS!! Start thinking about what words you want to mean what and start just using them in your everyday scenarios. They don't have to be complex and there doesn't have to be a word for everything but she needs you to describe the world to her so she doesn't trip while you're leading her out of her comfort zone [it's hard for us to really imagine, but just being led off the "trails" your horse uses everyday is a HUGE exercise in trust] or while you're riding her.
Lacey and I use "ho" - stop right now and don't move until I say
"ok" - disregard all precious cues, everything is safe for you to carry on normally
"careful" - you're doing ok right now, but there could be a blockage/difficult footing in your path very shortly so take careful steps
"easy" - you're too excited for the current space/ground situation, tone it down
"STEP" - there's something you could trip over coming up, you need to lift your legs really high
"ah-ah" - you need to stop whatever you're doing right now, that's not an appropriate behavior [this will be coupled with "careful" if it's an issue of bonking into someone or something, "ah-ah" is mostly a noise that mean "you're being naughty!" on its own]

Is your girl fully blind yet or just close? If she's not completely blind, I have a supplementation regime that I've kinda perfected. It's cheap and it works for Lacey. Each ERU horse is different though so what works for Lacey may not work for your girl.

Also, flymasks. Do you have her in a flymask with high levels of UV protection? If she's nearly blind, she needs a really high percentage UV blocking mask to wear whenever the sun is shining - higher than anything on the market except for "The Guardian". I've heard great things about The Guardian, I'm just poor. [one of these days I'm going to spring for one but that'll be after some saving]
Anyway, I can give you some pointers on making your own UV blocking mask if you're at all sewing-capable. It sounds+looks hard but it's not. And at less than $20 for a 90% UV blocking flymask...worthhhh it. :)

Feel free to PM me if you ever need to talk. I don't have all of the answers but I sure understand what you're going through! That was me about 2 years ago.

ETA: well played, RoperChick! Well played.
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Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 08-08-2013 at 08:07 PM.
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-08-2013, 08:14 PM
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Another thought about the goats [ran out of editing time! haha] -

If you get goat, make sure to get one of the larger breeds, unless your blind horse is a very small pony. My girl is 14.1hh and the goats are an Angora [32 inches tall] and an Apline/LaMancha mix [42 inches tall and growing]. The larger goat is Lacey's "bestie" and I feel like that height is right about perfect for her size. She can easily touch him and he's also tall enough that it's hard for him to really get "underfoot" and accidentally trip her or something.
The Angora is the one that's more nervous about Lacey, luckily, since she's small enough that I have seen her trip Lacey up - completely by accident, and both of them were pretty scared after.

Bigger is better for goat companions! Luckily, there are quite a few quite large goat breeds.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-09-2013, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you Wallaby! I was going to pm you if you didn't reply to this, truth be told, I was stocking your threads before the vet came out. Not to be creepy at all haha

I found that website, thanks for the link though. It did lead me off into other places as I have no idea about eyes, but I am learning a lot. I have a weird eye phobia thing. Have to get over that fast with having to put gel in her eye.

She is being treated with an anti-inflammatory, anti-bio-tic and a topical gel steroid on the eye. There will be another check up in 10 days. So fingers crossed. But in the mean time, we are getting prepared in case the sight doesn't come back.

When ever I handled her or worked with her there wasn't any question of eye sight issues. Nothing ever stood out about sight issues while handling her until the past week. So I feel absolutely terrible that I could have missed something before this.

She was out in the large pasture with a couple pasture mates, but the lead mare is just too pushy to leave her out there. So she was moved into a new pen, but at least it is a pen that she has been kept in before. We are trying to get everything set up as quickly, but then at the same time with as little stress for her as possible.

So far the only "strange" noises that really mess with her are echos inside the barn. Equipment, moving things, the entire herd taking off running at mach 5 have only put her on edge. I think she may adjust to this quicker and better than I thought.

Its going to be one heck of a learning experience though.
And Wallaby, I'll be messaging you for the fly mask tips. Its supposed to be over cast all weekend thankfully as I wont have time to sew, but Sunday I can get started.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-09-2013, 09:24 PM
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Horses have a built in gps and a blind horse soon has every square inch memorized. Many times a blind horse will move with enough confidence that the unknowing would never guess it was blind.
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-09-2013, 11:49 PM
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Deisel, I TOTALLY know how you feel.
I spent a year trying to teach my girl to jump before giving up because she was "so bad at it" - that was two years before her diagnosis! She's such a willing girl, she'd always try to jump whatever I put in front of her - I even took her out jumping logs on the trails thinking that would help her improve. She never took a wrong step, lots of awkward ones though! There were multiple close calls. She put her own safety on the line every time, to keep me safe - talk about feeling guilty!! haha

I found with Lacey that for about a month after an episode, she's extra panicky about little stuff. She's happy to be ridden about a week post-episode but it takes her about a month to really adjust. So be prepared for those big spooks and "OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED!!" moments while she adjusts. On a normal day, Lacey is about the least spooky horse I've ever met - her curiosity seems to be one of her biggest assets as a blind horse...but in the days following an episode, she's a real 'pansy'. Basically, on in the days following an episode or a change of pasture, she suddenly acts like a blind horse...otherwise she seems like a perfectly adjusted equine! haha

I think you'll be surprised though at how fast she bounces 'back'! After Lacey's first episode with me and after seeing how spooky she got, I was really worried that I had just become the owner of a REALLY spooky horse...but in a month or so, my normal girl was back. :)
After each episode, she gains a few new 'quirks' but those are directly related to her increased loss of sight. For instance, after that first bad episode, I noticed that she started really following the very right edge of the trail on our rides. As far as I can tell, it's because her right eye is her "really" blind eye so she's using the brush at the edge of the trail as a sort of guide. I can 'force' her off the edge but I figure that we're just out having fun, if the edge makes her comfy, she can have her edge [as long as she's not in danger. I make the last call, of course!]. :)

If you can, as soon as possible get her on horse aspirin or a double dose of MSM, everyday. [I've had better, cheaper results with MSM since ERU horses go through those big 5lb tubs in about 2.5 months - $19-ish at, $32-ish for 10lbs = best deal I've found! I use Animed since it's the cheapest AND purest that I've found]. MSM is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and the double dose [about 30,000mg] is the "eyeball dose". My girl does fantastic on it. I feed it every single day [I even keep an "emergency" 1lb jar in my feed bin - lasts about 2 weeks, just in case] and it has been the single most important thing in staving off episodes. Literally, if I skip even half a dose [I feed half in the morning, half at night], her eyes will begin to swell and if I don't get some anti-inflammatories into her, boom, hello episode.
MSM is about to become your new wonder drug. Don't worry, you will never stop feeling like you're feeding your horse cocaine or meth...why does it have to be a white granular-powder?? That's another part of the reason I buy it online...I feel less awkward buying it in such great quantities and so often.

Other major helpful thing: Kensington Bug-Eye Flymask. If you don't have one, get one. They have 75%UV protection and are fantastic for wear at night [my girl, at least, has to wear a mask 24/7 during the summer because any amount of UV bothers her and I can't perfectly time my arrivals with sunrise+sunset, haha. Her eyes also swell if I leave a closer fitting mask on overnight = thank you, Bug-Eye!].
They're also perfect for episode-wear since the eyes swell so much that often a normal fitting mask will irritate the eyes, which can make the episode worse. I have a stock of 2 that I rotate and 2 more still in packages for when those first two wear out [I'm paranoid that they'll get discontinued! haha].

Last, on the flymask front, for the one you want to sew, have a flymask you like the silhouette of and that fits your mare well, but that you're willing to take apart. That'll become your pattern for your new flymasks. :)
I like "Durvet DuraMask" flymasks for Lacey so that's what my pattern is - they fit really close and are easy to get snug...unlike some masks that look like they were originally meant to fit a llama [I'm looking at you, SuperMask!]

I think those are probably the "top 3" on my "must haves" list!

A "nice thing" is Animed's DC-Y pellets. They're basically a more 'natural' painkiller than bute is. It still can have nasty side effects, like bute, but I find that it takes less to make Lacey feel good with DC-Y than it does with bute. At most, I only ever give her half a dose of DC-Y, and for daily maintenance she gets 4 pellets...which is like 1/16th a gram of bute!
Lacey needs a little daily pain-help during the summer so I feed her 4 pellets of DC-Y everyday, all summer, and she does well. After the sun "goes away" for the winter, I take her off DC-Y except for snowy/bright days.
She does fine without daily pain management during the summer but she does seem a little bit more optimistic/perkier when she gets a little I figure it's the right thing to do.
It is a little spendy but it has REALLY high amounts of Devil's Claw, Yucca, and other pain killing ingredients. Much higher than any of the other "Bute-less" supplements = better bang for your buck! And you don't have to feed a lot, I had my 1lb tub last an entire year!
I try to save actual Bute for episodes. I'll give her more DC-Y if I see a little extra swelling, but DC-Y and Bute shouldn't be used within 24 hours of each other so you do have to be a little careful. I'll generally err on the side of caution and feed Bute at the first sign of swelling.

And yes, please do pm me and/"stalk" my threads. I've posted quite a few times about blind horses/how I care for Lacey and I've probably forgotten to mention some stuff that might be really helpful! :)

Another thing that may be useful for you if keeping a journal of the weather, what she ate, the temperature, and how her eyes look that day. Each ERU horse has different "triggers" and a journal can help you keep track or even figure out what your mare's triggers are. I kept one all last summer and it's been really useful to look back as I prepared for this summer [Lacey's eyes are trigger by heat, dust, and sun...summer is our enemy! haha].
That's another thing, Lacey's eyes SWELL up huge during an episode and they'll generally start to look puffy before "majorly freaking out". Not all ERU horses are like that. Some just get watery eyes, others show other signs. Another bonus to the journal - you can get a feel for what her signs are. :)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 08-09-2013 at 11:55 PM.
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