to Questions and Answers Index
I have just stumbled on your site and wonder if you may be able to help
me. You seem like a very wise person and frankly I am desperate.
Three years ago I took on an ex-polo mare who was completely blind in her
left eye from a kick. She is 12 years old. As I am a fairly nervous
rider she was perfect for me and together we have ridden in the paddock
and on the road verges alongside my growing children on their ponies.
Now that the children are older (8 and 6) we have bought a truck so we
can venture further with the horses. Well my mare went nuts in the
truck, rearing and kicking down the divisions until she had herself
turned enough to see who was beside her. She has not been badly hurt,
but I am beginning to think her problems are too great and I can't
battle any longer. She is in many ways difficult as I need to approach
her in a particular way, always being considerate of her blind side.
This is all now automatic for me.
Do you think it will ever be safe to take her in the truck again? I
would need to do a lot of remedial work to get her even back in the
truck I feel. And then, can I trust her beside another horse? I am
fairly traumatised by seeing her panic in the truck and she would no
doubt pick up on this.
I considered putting her to a stallion, but of course this requires
I appreciate any advice you may have.
- B. in New Zealand
I can identify with your concerns, since I bought my
Quarter Horse filly after she had been blinded in her right eye by a combination of illness and reaction to medication. Yes, I do think there is hope for
your mare - and so do a couple of friends I consulted in the matter: Nancy and Beth Block. Beth has been showing - and transporting - a partially blind horse with
very good results.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
I hope these suggestions help. With calm patience, I'm confident that you'll be able to do anything with your mare that
you could do if she had two good eyes.
- If the horse was recently blinded, give it at least a full
year of time with the herd in a pasture. This will give her
the opportunity to fully adjust to her condition before
being placed in a stressful situation. When Fanny (my Quarter Horse)
was a filly, she had an extremely nervous disposition and I sometimes
dispaired of being able to do anything with her. Now that she is a
couple of years older, she has adjusted well and has a very calm and trusting
- Sack her out "totally blind." When I bought him, Willy was only
accustomed to the ring. Trail riding was a new - and frightening - experience for him.
To settle him down, I started with some thorough sacking-out. Next, I fastened my
denim barn jacket over his head so he couldn't see anything. After he got used to being sacked-out
with this blindfold on, I saddled up and worked him around the ring - not just in a circle.
We had a few interesting moments at first, but eventually he learned to trust me in any
situation, regardless of whether he could see what was going on.
- Even a fully sighted horse may freak out when placed in a new truck or trailer. Help her get used
to it by parking it in her pasture with the doors wide open (and secured against blowing shut).
Horses usually don't like the "thunder" sound made by such conveyances, so continue the sacking process
by hitting the sides with your hand and stomping your feet on the floor. Praise and/or reward her
every time she stays calm. You can teach her to self-load by placing her grain inside the truck door, then
gradually moving it further inside until she is entering and exiting calmly by herself. (A slant ramp will eliminate the
chance of additional trauma caused by accidentally striking her leg against the truck or trailer threshold.)
- Remember the herd heirarchy. Lower-status horses have a duty to keep
one eye on the lead animal at all times. If you place a more senior horse on
her blind side, you will give her good reason to panic. It would be similar to
your reaction if I placed you in a situation where you would be forced to
commit a capital offense if you remained there! Not a happy thought. To a horse, breaking
the rules of the herd can carry a death sentence.
| Next Question
Return to Questions and Answers Index
Return to the "Learning More About Horses..." page
COPYRIGHT © 1999 BOB LEMEN, GRAND RAPIDS,
MINNESOTA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The contents of this document are not for reproduction.