Do you own a blind horse or is your equine rapidly losing his vision? Are you or another horse person losing vision? If any of those four scenarios applies to your situation, then you will need to make some tough decisions. For the blind horse or human, attaching a bell to the halter could tremendously improve the entire situation.
In the case your horse has been victim of a tragic eye injury, it could have caused blindness in that eye. In most cases however, the onset of blindness in a horse is a more gradual process. If you start noticing that your horse is often bumping into obstacles, becoming upset or anxious for no apparent reason, or starting to shy at nothing in particular when mounting or riding, his eyesight could be failing. Being a prey animal, it is in a horse’s nature to conceal his physical problems since being compromised could attract predator attack. Consult your vet whenever you suspect any physical or behavioral issues, including eye problems.
Use of a Companion
Having a poor eyesight, or a total lack of vision, does not necessarily mean that your horse gets grounded. Normally, a horse will be able to cope well with going blind if the situation is handled appropriately, though this will also depend a lot on the individual equine. When they are in one herd, horses will depend a lot on the visual cues coming from alpha equines. Therefore, it is advisable not to mix your blind horse with large numbers of normal horses.
While you can keep him in a small turn-out area where you have well defined spots to access water, food and shelter, you may also want to consider turning him out with a steady companion. This responsibility can be taken up by a retired, good-sighted horse, donkey or pony. You need to ensure that the two animals get along with each other well. Attaching a bell on the companion's halter complements the two horses’ vocalization to each other to serve as a guide for the blind horse.
Blindness in Mares & Foals
In case your mare is blind but its loss of vision does not arise from an inherited eye condition, and you want to keep its good bloodlines, it is okay to breed her because she is also capable of raising her own foal. As a mother, she will need to know that her baby is nearby and safe always. Attach a bell on the foal’s halter so that when he is turned out with his mother, she can hear him more easily, especially if he is further away from where she can smell him.
Sight Disabilities on the Rider’s Side
For horse riders with disabilities, including blindness and serious vision impairment, therapeutic horseback riding programs can come in handy to help them cope with the situation. According to the website of Cornerstone Assisted Riding & Equitherapy based in the San Francisco Bay area, attaching a bell on the halter of a horse helps a visually-impaired student to locate their horse much more easily. Before going for the ride, a blind rider should be encouraged to catch and halter their horse, tack him and then engage him in and around his pen to help in a little familiarizing with it.
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