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First Posted: Dec 28, 2012
Dec 28, 2012

Blind Horses Circling

Ann Dwyer writes in an excellent and comprehensive article entitled, Practical Management of Blind Horses all about blind horses. Below is a small except from her article. Follow the link to read the entire article.

ADAPTATION TO BLINDNESS

"...Although blindness can occur suddenly, onset in most horses is gradual. Caretakers of horses with failing vision usually notice progressive uncertainty, especially in low-light situations. Typically, horses may bump into walls or fences and show reluctance to walk over terrain that is unfamiliar. Often, herd behavior changes, even among horses that have been pastured together for years. Horses that are ridden may shy frequently, refuse to obey simple commands, and show reluctance to move forward. Some horses go through a period of fear when complete blindness occurs, showing anxious behavior. Rapid circling, "freezing" in place, prolonged neighing, spooking, and aggressive body motions (e.g., crashing into walls, running over a handler) may be observed. Other horses do not show a dramatic behavior change but may traumatize themselves by running into unfamiliar obstacles. Initially, the balance of blind horses may be altered. They may show a head tilt or postural change and may walk in circles. As time goes on, acceptance of vision loss occurs, and the behavior of individual animals becomes more settled and predictable. Owners of blind horses report that the adjustment period takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Safe adaptation to blindness is highly dependent on the temperament of the individual horse. Many horses exhibit little change in behavior, quickly orient themselves to their environment, and accept blindness without incident. However, horses that show excessive fear during the adaptation period can be dangerous. Frantic behavior (e.g., circling in a stall, calling to herd mates, ignoring restraint attempts with lead ropes or ties) can cause injury to the horse or handler. Generally, horses that have very high-strung, nervous dispositions are most challenged. Animals with calmer demeanors may adapt well. Owners and other handlers can help horses through the adaptation phase by providing a safe environment and spending time with the horse after vision has been lost. Identifying the stressors that cause anxiety (primarily confinement and separation from other horses) is important. Although blind horses have been known to "map" and adapt to a wide variety of stalls, sheds, and pastures, common sense dictates that the ideal initial environment should be a treeless paddock with a board fence and a stall or run-in shed with smooth, solid walls. Some horses benefit from the presence of a calm, sighted companion in their paddock or barn. Others fare better if they are kept alone during the transition period. All horses with recent loss of vision benefit from steady handling, regular grooming, and predictable schedules for meals and turnout..."

Also, the Horse has an excellent explanation as to why horses circle when blind or partially blind. This link: Compulsive Circling will answer many of your questions.


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