Turning a Blind Eye, Blindness in Horses, and the Choices Owners Make

Winter has really had a terrible affect on my husbands Farrier business over the last few weeks. With temperatures dropping below zero for several days in a row we just could not make our usual January rounds to the farms as every creature big or small was hiding out looking for some where warm. This is the slowest January in the 9 years, But we did make it out to see one of our oldest costumers last weekend. The Peoscek farm is home to 6 wonderful horses and two dogs and a fuzzy cat.

Austrian Shepherd named Savannah and Christopher in barn

Austrian Shepherd named Savannah and Christopher in barn

As a farm hand I met my friend Mark Peosek around 15 years ago. We have spent lots of time together over the years. It was back then, while I worked at the Hill Crest Farm, that Mark stopped in looking for a well-bred Gelding that would make a fine trail horse. He found a nice little guy about 2 that we all called “Tee Sign” at the barn. He was small for his age but he was loving and quite. Born a sorrel with a big bold blaze and white socks was a handsome young horse.  Mark had other horses and  was looking for something easy to train and ride. He got everything that he wanted from “Tee” and more. After taking Tee home things settled into a nice orderly routine. Tee was broke to ride and healthy and happy he lived in a herd with other horses mostly mares that tormented him. But he was happy, well feed and the favorite mount of my friend… ” He’s bomb proof” Mark would add to any conversation about his horses.

After the next 12 years passed  Mark started to notice a change in Tee’s behavior that could not really be explained. Instead of staying with the “girls” like  he usually did in the pasture he would be alone grazing and nickering all afternoon. This continued until poor old Tee would lose his voice from the constant calling to his friends. He would not return to the barn at a fast gallop at feeding time in the evenings. It was summer time so Mark thought maybe he just did not want to come in from the green pasture.Their was plenty of hay in the field and water to drink so he was able to stay outside if the horse wanted to. The questions began a few months letter as Mark noticed that Tee was thinner when he did come down to the barn and was now spending most of his time in the upper portion of the pasture still crying for his friends when they moved away. Soon Mark had to walk the long hill to find Tee and call him to come in as the summer ended and fall began.

This is when Mark  finally realized that their was a real problem. Mark checked Tee’s eye sight by moving his hand around Tee’s eye looking for some reaction, a wink, a flinch or just a tightly closed eye. Nothing happened, Tee’s reaction was as if noting was moving near his eye. He didn’t have any idea that some one was standing to his  side moving a hand within inches of his face. Things progressed from their and Mark new that Tee was losing his sight. He called his Veterinarian and found out that Tee at about age 14 was going blind  from Moon Blindness. That Tee’s case had gone on so long that it was not really treatable. Moon blindness was going to change their relationship forever.

Moon Blindness in 14 year old Quarter horse owned by Mark Peoscek

Moon Blindness in 14-year-old Quarter horse owned by Mark Peoscek

Moon Blindness as described at this link is a general name for many problems with equine eye but most are progressive and about 20% will blind both eyes. In Tee’s case both eyes went blind in a few months of each other. By the end of last fall Tee was totally blind and Mark was facing the hard questions about what to do next.

Mark asked everyone who knew anything about horses  what they though about Tees situation. He asked his Vet, he ask Tom and I, he asked friends and family. What do you do with a blind horse? There is never an easy answer to these questions. Caring for any blind animals is  time-consuming but there is a way to keep them healthy, happy and safe. The answer that Mark got from most of us in the horse industry was a resounding, Yes! Tee could be well cared for and live a happy life with a few adjustments and the commitment of his owner.

Blind horse care is possible and  just as enjoyable if the horse is given some time to adjust to the new world that they live in. This link shares a short guide to a few often asked questions faced by the newly blinded horse owner and those who care for these animals. Blind Horse care changed a few things for my friend and his horse. Tee spends a few more hours in the barn in the winter because of ice, Mark  also watches how the mares treat him more closely and he added a bell to the halter of a mares to aide Tee’s ability to keep track of the herd. All of these things are important changes but, as you can see from this photo of Tom trimming  his feet and Christopher taking time to grooming him, things have not really changed for Tee. He is still well fed, has farrier work done and is groomed regularly.

Blind horse getting groomed by Christopher

Blind horse getting groomed by Christopher

As long as Tee’s health stays good I think we can all agree that this horse has a bright future with people love and take great care of him and there is no reason to think of putting him down. He even still enjoys a little ride time with his friends when they come to visit.

Mark Peoscek with Tee gving Christopher to ride of the day

Mark Peoscek with Tee giving Christopher to ride of the day

I am so thankful that my friend Mark took the time to let this new adjustment settle in before making up his mind about what to do with a blind horse. He did not fall prey to the myths listed below.

  1. Blind horses can not have a great quality of live .
  2. Blind horses are more dangerous
  3. Blind horses are sickly
  4. Blind horses can’t be pastured
  5. Blind horses are useless.

Mark and Tee have gained a deeper more understanding relationship over the course of the last two years and Tom and I are happily a  part of this new part of their lives.

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Categories: animal health, blacksmith work, equine health, Farrier work., horse health, Horses | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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