Do you own a horse that’s losing his sight? Or one that’s already blind or nearly so? Here’s how to keep that horse safe as you maximize his quality of life.
Safe Living Space
First, provide a living area that’s as hazard-free as possible and large enough to minimize crowding and bumping. Woven-wire or mesh-wire fencing is suitable, as are fencing materials designed to be safely flexible on impact. Avoid electric fences.
Clear the pen or pasture of downed trees, sharp tree branches, or other features that can trip or injure. Fill potentially hoof-catching holes with dirt or gravel. Create a gravel apron around the foot of trees or poles; your horse will learn that the feel of the gravel under his feet is a warning of something to navigate around.
Place a wind chime or other gentle noise-maker at the spot where your horse can find water, salt, and feed.
Introduce your blind horse to his living quarters by hand-walking him around the perimeter, tapping the fence and other important features of the landscape as you go to provide an audible cue. This enables your horse to make a mental map of his living area.
Ideally, he’ll share this space with one other horse (or donkey or goat). He’ll bond closely to this animal, who’ll serve as his companion and guide. Place a bell on the guide animal (you can plait it into a guide horse’s mane) to help your blind horse keep track of his friend. Avoid placing a blind horse in a group of horses, where he’d almost inevitably be subject to hazing and possible injury.
Use your voice constantly when you’re working around your blind horse. Make sure he knows how to respond immediately to whoa. Repeat other key words in context so he can come to know and use them as “heads-up” warnings—for example, “Here comes the fly spray.”
Strive for maximum consistency in your blind horse’s routine, and avoid changing his environment to the extent possible. Don’t trim the long hairs around his muzzle or eyes; these feelers will help him avoid bumping into things.
Finally, give your blind horse plenty of time to adjust before making any decisions about whether the arrangement will work. Chances are, he’ll adapt better than you dreamed possible.