Blind foal - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 08:38 AM Thread Starter
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Blind foal

Hi everybody!

So my husband started his new job at the end of November. Don't know if I mentioned before, but he is managing a Friesian stud among other things. He asked me today about a foal that was born before we came, but don't know her exact age. The little filly was born blind. Other than that, she is gorgeous!

Is there any treatment for her? What will be best for her? Luckily I never encountered this before, it breaks my heart! Of course I tried to sound as smart as possible and told my husband he should first determine what causes the blindness... Was that right?
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post #2 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 09:06 AM
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I think you were correct.

Personally, I would not keep a blind horse of any age, but that is partly due to the conditions in which I keep horses and the predators in my area. Your situation is likely different. You may have access to veterinarians who could treat certain conditions. Though if there were a "cure" for congenital blindness, there would be fewer blind humans, too.

Bottom line would be: What do the owners want done with the foal?
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post #3 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 09:30 AM
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At my barn there is a blind horse. He wasn't born blind, it has developed as he aged and he is still ridden and worked. He isn't let out with other horses because his owner doesn't want him getting hurt if he misses a cue from another horse to move. We use verbal cues. "Touch" if we are about to touch him. "step" when leaving his stall. walk/turn etc. They even say careful when he walks over uneven ground. I don't know how effective this is, but it seems to work.

I was wondering if it was possible to train a horse who was born blind. It would certainly lead to some struggle because they wouldn't be able to read body language so groundwork would be really difficult.
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post #4 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 09:30 AM
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Trying to find a cure for blindness, if that is what you are after, is the job of a veterinarian. You might be able to find some information online, however.

I've read several accounts of blind horses doing quite well, especially with the proper companion. Sometimes these horses will bond with another horse, and they will hang out together. At least one account described putting a bell on the sighted horse to aid the blind horse in keeping track of the other horse's location. Other animals have sometimes proved valuable companions as well.

Lack of sight does not necessarily mean lack of usefulness. I have known of partially sighted horses being used in group lessons where they could be close to other horses and be secure in moving even in gaits other than the walk. A wall or fence can aid such a horse in its direction of movement. If a blind horse has come to trust a particular rider, he might perform quite well for him following the rider's cues without knowing where he is going.

A blind horse might also be used as a therapy horse where there are often three helpers on the ground, one leading and one traveling on either side.

When dealing with a blind horse we should emphasize even more the proper relationship we should develop with any horse. This is one of establishing trust and being careful not to violate that trust.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
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post #5 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 11:01 AM
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I have a blind horse, she just turned 4 years old. She wasn't born blind, but somebody took a blade to both of her eyes which caused her to develop cataracts. I looked into surgeries for cataracts, and they are about 50-100k with only a 50% success rate, so I wasn't going to be spending that much money for a low success rate with almost an 80% chance that the cataracts would redevelop anyway.
She is the biggest sweetheart, and a great companion horse. As long as a blind horse trusts you there isn't much you can't do with them! People have ridden blind horses, and have even won competitions with them (even jumping!) as long as the horse trusts you, they will do what you ask of them. They can even be used as trail horses as long as you train them to follow either another horse, or the sound of a bell perhaps.
However, if you don't have the means of keeping a blind horse I'd definitely look into a non-kill rescue for them before they ever went to a slaughter house!
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post #6 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 11:22 AM
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I've seen a couple of blind horses come into training as foals and they were probably the best animals to work with once you got the hang of them. It's just like blind people, sometimes they adapt very well and other times they don't. Both went on to become 4-H mounts for kids and are still going strong at 20 years old.
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post #7 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 11:37 AM
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I've seen many and know a couple blind riding horses. They dont know what they lost if they've never had it and they make up for it with their other senses.
She will be different and I hope whoever gets her will understand her specific needs.

You were right to tell him to find out what caused the blindness but if she was born that way it's likely her eyes just didn't form right.
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post #8 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 12:08 PM
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My Paint mare was born blind - that was how I came to own her. Her breeder was going to have her put to sleep, but a mutual acquaintance asked if I would take her, as I had two other blind horses in my care at that time (both of whom had uveitis and went blind later in life, but adapted well and were still going under saddle). I took her, and it was a fantastic decision!

Depending on what caused the blindness, there ARE treatments. In my mare's case, she was born with severe cataracts due to a uterine infection before she was born. There is a procedure to help with that, and there are surgeries for some corneal conditions, too, but those were all outside my price range.

However, my Rose has been nothing but awesome. She's 8 now, and just a great little horse. She's shown (and won!) extensively at the local level - halter, showmanship, pleasure, equitation, horsemanship, barrels, and poles. She's kid and beginner safe, has been a lesson horse, and her last lease-rider was in training for endurance with her. She's been camping numerous times, done pony-parties - the list goes on. She's one of the least spooky horses I've ever had (and the other two blind horses I've had were ALSO non-spooky both before and after losing sight, even at an older age).

I've also known MULTIPLE horses who lost a single eye in an accident, to uveitis, or to cataracts and I only know one who ended up spooky and unpredictable - a tb mare who was spooky and unpredictable to start with, and it just intensified to where her owner was no longer comfortable riding her.

Here are a few photos of my well adapted blind mare:

"All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others." - Douglas Adams
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post #9 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Avishay, your mare is so beautiful! It really gives hope to know that the filly doesn't need to be put to sleep right away. I have noted some obsessive behaviour though - she walks around and around her mum for hours at a time. I guess she wants to feel her body heat or something. I hope the owners would trust me enough to give me the opportunity to work with her a bit. She is very very spooky at this stage. Mum is friendly enough though...

Time and patience, I guess. Thank you all for your comments!
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post #10 of 21 Old 12-12-2014, 01:36 PM
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I used to know a blind filly, who grew up to be a beautiful mare. The vet suggested that she might see lights/shades, but without any guarantees. She was let outside with the rest of the herd and was able even to gallop freely, as it seems, by following the sound of their movement, and was eventually trained not only to lead, be groomed, pick up legs, move away from pressure and to accept tack, but also to carry a rider. She was very calm and reliable, and would give her 100% to you - a lovely mare who didn't seem to suffer from her condition at all!

I have come a long way, to surrender my shadow to the shadow of my horse.
/James Wright/
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