Q&A Questions and Answers:
I have a 5 yr old Quarter Horse. She was kicked when she was around 2 and lost vision in her left eye. We took her to have her broke and she kicked on her blind side when the lady rode her. Since then, I've only spent time leading her. I'm not a risk taker and didn't want to ride her until I spend more time with her. When we tried to saddle her she completely freaked out. So I guess my question is what can I do to help her to trust me? She is very strong willed, and she is not as afraid of me as I am of her. Please Help! I want to ride her!
-- J. S.
My Quarter Horse mare, Fanny, is also half blind -- but on the right side, which may make my situation a little easier to handle. A partially blind horse needs a little extra time to get used to the world. Her "strong will" may be partially a defense measure against a world she can barely see.
The key is being very patient and letting her get used to her situation... as well as learning to totally trust you. Although I started getting Fanny used to the saddle and did some long-line training when she was five, I waited until Fanny was six before I actually mounted up. (You can see some photos of the first time I climbed on board Fanny in Q&A #75.) At that point, she was very steady and the biggest challenge was in getting her to move. She didn't seem to feel comfortable moving with that extra weight on her back.
Personally, I think it's a good idea to teach every horse to be ridden TOTALLY blind. I do it by fastening my denim jacket over the horse's head (as part of the sacking-out process). The horse will tend to panic at first, so you need to keep talking quietly to her and reassuring her that everything is good and that you have the situation firmly in control. Along with that, you need to work on keeping your own fear under control. A horse doesn't know how you feel -- only how you behave. And a horse will tend to behave toward you like you behave toward it. If you want her to be calm and in control, that's how you need to behave (even when you feel far from calm and in control yourself).
A good dose of round pen ground work will also help in getting her to accept your leadership. It's a bit more challenging when her blind side is toward you, but you can use the sound of your voice to help guide and control her.
What can you do to get her to trust you? Be a confident, capable lead brood mare. Teach her that you have everything under control, and that she doesn't need to worry or fight as long as she is under your care. The rest will fall in place after that. Trust can take a while to build, but you can do it.
So how is Fanny doing now? Take a look at the photos on the right.
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