Newly blind horse - need advice - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:05 AM Thread Starter
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Newly blind horse - need advice

Last week I bought a horse who has only one eye. She arrived at a pasture in QT in on Tuesday night. This morning Leela ripped her remaining eye open. It appears she was rubbing her face as she has a small scrape above the eye as well, and caught the eye itself on something sharp. The white was separated from the iris, and some of the eye internals were hanging out. I'm having to weigh options right now of taking a chance with the surgery.. or euthanize. Leela was great. She even started falling asleep while we were waiting on the vet. Much much calmer than we were. The vet checked her vitals, everything was fine, her temp was 1 degree above normal but I attribute that to "shipping fever" which seems to come with every auction horse. He also confirmed she was not in shock. When we first got there she was trembling, but calmed down with petting and talking. I didn't get to watch her get on or off the trailer (talked to my husband while she was loading and the trailer beat us to the clinic), but my friend saw her get on and she did fine once both her feet were picked up and put on. The shipper also said she did fine when she unloaded, she was a little surprised at the big step down but that was all. In the stall at the vet's she was calm, listening to her new surroundings, and was quite pleased when the vet offered her some hay. I'm really in shock that she handled it so well as she was 100% blind by the time she was found.

I asked the vet to be 100% honest with me. He says there is always some risk, of course. His biggest concern was that she is in totally new surroundings. If this had happened at "home" where she knew where everything was, he would be more comfortable with the outcome. In the next month, she would have to move from the vet's barn to the shipper's barn (where she hasn't been, she has been in a pasture), then from the shipper's barn down here. The vet said this could cause a lot of stress, and there is a good possibility that she can get scared in a new place and hurt herself in another way.

I'm trying to weigh the options. I contacted two rescues who have 100% blind horses that have been brought in from new places for their advice. My heart wants to do the surgery, give her the chance because she's been so good. My brain is going down the list of "what ifs". I have the money for the surgery. $1200. I'm scared that if something else does happen, I won't be able to afford to fix it. The money for the surgery is cleaning out the rest of my savings, and with going into a slow time of the year at work I'm already going to be stretching my paychecks. I'm worried that after the surgery she may become so stressed, so nervous, and hurt herself.. and if that happens, the cycle of her getting injured due to stress will continue. I don't know if I should take the risk of putting her though it. I'm honestly completely lost right now. Sorry for the rambling and run on sentences, but I am mentally exhausted.
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post #2 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:11 AM
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thats a difficult decision. Is there a horse around that is going to be shipped to the same area? one that she is friends with ? sometimes having a seeing eye horse or pony helps them. My quarter gelding has bad cataracts and he has to stay next the TB mare. They both will have fits if the other is not near. and She kinda of guides him.
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:15 AM Thread Starter
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There are two possible horses she could share a paddock with, but they are already at the barn where she will be kept. I don't own either one of them though, and when I move again she will be without her buddy. In August 2013 there will be a move, and a little over a year later there will be another move.
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post #4 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:29 AM
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hmmm.. well, she seems fairly calm so far, maybe a goat for a buddy ? If you would be able to get one, and if you would be allowed to keep a goat with her.
She sounds liek a sensible horse and calm.
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post #5 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:32 AM
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If you decide to keep her, and wherever she is kept, I would put up a sign, this is horse is blind. Please speak when approaching. I have accidentally scared my one horse more than once, as I Forgot to call his name as I walked into the barn area. It is a hard decision. it will come down to quality of life. Will the rescue that has the blind horses help do something??
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post #6 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 01:36 AM Thread Starter
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Probably not, both of the ones I contacted are full. I'm just hoping they can lend some advice. I did find an article about a horse who had both eyes surgically removed and went on to do first level dressage.
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 09:46 PM
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I know I'm a bit late to this thread but I saw it late last night, didn't have time to respond but wanted to, and now I have some time to respond! :)

First, , I also have a blind horse (she's really only 85-90% blind but things would be easier if she were 100%) who was diagnosed as such last April. Her eye was swollen, she acted like she was in pain, I had the vet out, and next thing I knew, it was no longer "just" a swollen eye, it was sign that she has a disease called ERU. Prior to that, she had been somewhat blind (and I had NO idea) but that was the episode where she REALLY lost vision. Anyway, basically, I can totally understand the shock and the "What NOW?!!" you most likely have going on.

In my case, it was easier (still hard though) since I already knew Lacey prior to this incident but that's not to say that you're going to "fail" since you've only had her for a couple weeks.

Personally, I think people look at blind horses with a sort of pitying lens when really, a blind horse is "like" a blind human: they can still function really well in life, they may need more care/watching but there's absolutely no reason that they can't live happy healthy lives, post-blindness. You do have to be a bit more careful with them (keeping Lacey feeling safe is basically my #1 goal where as with a seeing horse, I would be less worried) and you have to make sure that every decision you make is the one that will build mutual trust.

I found initially that I would make choices and expect that if Lacey thought there was a better way, she'd "tell" me - however, with her limited vision (though we had had a relationship like that before) my choice was the ONLY choice for both of us. So I had to realize and accept that.
It was awkward the first few months - she'd do something, realize that she didn't know how to get herself back out of the situation, and have to wait until I came to "save" her. Or I'd ask her to do some task, she'd try her best, but we would fail because I was expecting her to just know the situation and do what I was asking and we would end up having fallen over or something else drastic because of that.

Now however, we have a deeper understanding than I ever thought possible. Basically, riding her is like becoming a centaur for a while. She's the legs/speed and I'm the eyes/brain. Being around her is like having an extension of myself that I'm not physically connected to.
I'm not really a talker so I wear my keys on a carabiner and they jingle as I walk. She's come to associate that sound as being "me" and I've found that then when I do speak, she listens pretty immediately since I'm not just streaming talk. I have words to describe her surroundings to her and we do things slowly. Fast=bad with a blind horse.

Really, I feel like having a blind horse (at least a careful blind horse - Lacey is aware that she's nearly blind and behaves as such) is infinitely easier than having a seeing one.
Don't want her to get into something? Along the fence line is a perfect hiding place (most blind horses stay away from fences since they're "hazards" - electric fence is a HUGE blind horse no-no, btw).
Don't want her to realize you're in her pasture working cuz she'll be "too helpful"? Take off your keys, she won't know.
Want to look like the best rider in the worllllldddd? Ride a blind horse and do cool stuff! You don't have to be the best rider, just have a real trust connection and you WILL look like the best.
I could go on. But I would not trade Lacey for a seeing horse any day. Maybe a seeing Lacey but even so.

As far as companions go, I've found that Lacey does the best with non-horses. She loves llamas, cows, goats, sheep, etc. Basically, for her, the bodies are what matters. She always seems very stressed around horses which I assume is due to the fact that she knows the herd rules but can't see well enough to be sure she's following them.
Currently she "owns" two goats which are her favorite, by far.

And, here's a link to an article that was SO encouraging and really helpful for HOW to deal with her, when Lacey was first diagnosed. The author got her horse TJ when he was already mostly blind so she was in a similar boat as you are with Leela. He had/has ERU which is a progressive disease but the baseline points are the same for all blind horses.
Blind Horse Care, Training, and Riding

Do a bunch of Googling. I googled "blind horses", "caring for blind horses", "living with blind horse", etc, REPEATEDLY and printed every interesting article to really thoroughly read. I highlighted really important care techniques and basically pretended like I was studying for a test. It's a test that'll last the lifetime of someone I love and to me, it's worth it...though it did take a while! haha

Feel free to PM me if you have questions/just want to talk/need support from a fellow blind horse care-er, I don't want to write tooo much of a novel on your thread... Too late. But really, pm me if you want. :)

And, in case it might make you feel better, the first ten seconds of this video features my nearly blind mare running DOWN a hill confidently - something she was barely even thinking about trotting a couple months ago (the second 10 seconds are the goats running after her which is also cute but less on topic... haha). Confidence will return, especially if your girl is still doing as well as she was initially. If you commit to being a leader for her and to being her "eyes", she will do just fine, no matter what she has to go through.

You and Leela can do it! :)

ETA- I forgot to mention that I think being a confident leader is THE MOST important thing when dealing with a seeing impaired horse. They're 20gajillion times more dangerous if they get herd bound/scared/etc. So don't fall into the "poor blind pony" trap (I did for a month or so!), it won't help either of you. Be confident, aware that she needs your guidance, and sympathetic to her needs, - be a benevolent leader.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 09-30-2012 at 09:51 PM.
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post #8 of 8 Old 09-30-2012, 09:50 PM
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So I'm assuming you bought the one eyes thoroughbred mare from Camelot ?! If so congrats! We watched her and a friend wanted her so bad!! But-sorry to hear on your situation :( go with what your gut tells you.
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Last edited by Cowgirls Boots; 09-30-2012 at 09:53 PM.
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