We often take for granted that behavioral problems in horses
can come from physiological distress or dysfunction. For instance,
I have found so many horses that have behavioral issues related
to the teeth and mouth that I make sure whenever working with
a new horse that the owner knows to have a professional equine
dentist float, level and balance the horse’s mouth at least once
per year. This is not just a filing of the teeth by a vet, this
is a thorough exam of the whole mouth structure by a specialized
If only it were that easy with eyesight issues. Many times it
will take eliminating everything else to conclude that the problem
lies within the horse’s vision or lack of it.
I have had two cases which were reported as behavioral problems
that I want to share with you.
My own horse, Redge, is near-sighted causing him to be spooky,
difficult, unpredictable and misunderstood. I found this out through
an animal communicator. I asked her about his vision because he
was frequently lifting his head and pointing his ears during our
training sessions and trail rides. When I bought him, I was told
he was a young, hot horse and that was just the way he was but
once I started working with him I questioned the previous trainer’s
assessment and began tuning into what he was demonstrating on
a regular basis.
I recently read in a research document on horse’s vision, "As
the horse brings its head to view objects in the distance he will
also prick his ears forward. The muscles which cause the horse's
ears to prick forward are the same ones which bring the horse's
eyes together. The opposite occurs with objects close at hand."
Redge demonstrated this behavior often enough for it to be an
accurate assessment of his behavior.
Redge’s vision issue became more and more clear to me as I have
worked with him over the past three years. Trust in me as his
guide in life has shifted his behavior and he uses me as his "seeing-eye
person" especially on trail rides. He still on occasion will
stop and lift his head, focus his ears forward and try to see
something in the distance but I know now how to attribute this
behavior and talk him through it. Generally his vision is just
fine but if he were a human he would have contact lenses or glasses
prescribed so he could see well in the distance.
For a prey animal not to be able to see well in the distance
is a profoundly real fear issue. I can understand this as an issue
for the horse/human connection now that I have read up on horse
vision more closely. Research studies have revealed that they
see color differently than we do, many have night vision issues,
and near sighted issues are common in domestic horses while far
sighted issues are more common in wild horses. Horse’s lenses
do not change or move like ours which adjust quickly to light
and dark changes. It takes time for the horse to make the adjustment
and be able to see when going into darker spaces.
One researcher reported that horses "on the bit" have
a hard time seeing because their vision is focused down their
nose toward the ground. They literally are going around the dressage
arena blind and dependent upon the aids, steering and guidance
of the rider. There is “submission” and then there is “submission.”
After reading about this I had to respect my horse’s desire to
look straight ahead instead of deeply flexing at the poll and
having his vision pointed downward. Some horse’s eye placement
can handle being “on the bit” better than others. Notice too when
jumpers approach a jump they need their head and eyes forward
and upward to see the jump, otherwise they are literally jumping
The second case is a horse named Harley. I was called to work
with Harley because the owner had tried everything else and nothing
was working. Harley is a 20 year old Tennessee Walking Horse that
had been through 9 owners in 9 years and had every type of trainer,
horse whisperer, and natural horseman work with him with no real
His current owner, Maureen, had stuck with Harley because she
felt he was a kind soul and had a big heart despite all of his
behavioral issues and he occasionally had good days when she really
enjoyed riding him. Harley had good days and bad days. On his
bad days he was high strung, nervous, anxious, out of control
most of the time but especially on trail rides. He would come
home sweating, veins popping on his neck, jigging unable to settle
into a walk and wild eyed. His owner reported he was better with
other horses but never really settled down even with their company.
I first met Harley in his stall and his mind was not on me but
on his buddies out in his turnout pasture. I asked the owner to
take him out and just show me what she typically did with him.
He barely managed to stay in control with her as she walked him
around the barn area. We took him to a round pen and when he was
turned loose he bucked and ran and snorted and grew very tall
and daunting. I watched him for just a few minutes and suggested
that we take him on a short walk. She said she could not get him
down the driveway of the farm to the trails without him having
an anxiety attack. So I watched her walk him partially down the
driveway to a certain point where he began to spin, then freeze,
then snort and panic. I had seen enough it was time to intervene.
Once we were back in the stall, I lowered my blood pressure
and began to sink very deeply inside myself to create an empty
space around me and the horse. There was no agenda, no expectations,
nothing there but Harley and me. I waited for him to tell me he
was ready to meet me and find out who I was. I noticed as I watched
him that one of his eyes was cloudy and asked the owner about
it. She said the vet had looked at his eyes and said it was the
beginning of moon blindness or Uveitis but that his vision was
just fine. The vet had tested Harley by tossing cotton balls near
his head and Harley had responded by blinking. The vet then declared
that Harley had good vision.= Knowing about my own horse’s vision
issue I began to wonder if Harley too was near sighted and now
the moon blindness was making it even worse and diminishing his
vision almost completely in that one eye.
I started working with Harley by rubbing my essential oil blend
“The InBalance Horse” into his nostrils. He immediately responded
by lowering his head and blinking his eyes. I continued with mouth
massage, jaw muscle massage, energy tapping on the face and acupressure
releases. Within 15 minutes we had a completely different horse
in our midst. He became smaller, compact, quiet and manageable
in his stall. The owner remarked that his stall always feels too
small because he is so big and nervous all the time. Now his stall
seemed bigger and Harley fit in it comfortably.
I worked throughout Harley’s entire body for a few hours giving
him time in between each release to think and process what was
going through his mind. By the time I had finished, Harley was
totally agreeable and happy to munch hay in his stall and just
hang out. Nothing outside of his stall was calling to him anymore.
His owner and I took this opportunity to go to lunch and let Harley
simmer in his endorphin state.
I started up again in the afternoon with connecting ground work
and Harley was the same agreeable, quiet horse. He was a bit confused
with my directions because of all of the hundreds of communications
from trainers over the years. But he was so willing to try to
please me and be with me. There were other horses being ridden
around us, a farrier who was yelling at a horse in the aisle beside
us, construction of a new arena going on outside the door and
he stayed with me in a quiet partnership mode. It was tremendously
rewarding and moving for me to be with Harley in this place.
Our last challenge was to take Harley to the driveway and see
what was going on there. I walked him partially down the driveway
and he began to get agitated and worried. I stopped there and
talked to him and encouraged him to eat grass. He did take a few
bites and I rewarded him for being brave. I practiced the S-ing
pattern connecting work him up and down the driveway and he did
go all the way out the driveway with me but was very scared the
further we got away from his home. I mentioned to the owner that
I really thought his vision was an issue but couldn’t know for
sure until we reached an animal communicator.
We ended on a positive note telling Harley that he had tried
very hard for us that day. Since then the owner has continued
with “The InBalance Horse” oils and Rescue Remedy in his water
and on his tongue until she was able to speak with the animal
communicator. Lydia Hiby, the communicator, said he has really
changed and become a quiet horse but still has his moments of
fearfulness and stress.
The animal communicator relayed that Harley had been near sighted
his whole life and now the moon blindness was complicating his
vision even more. He was afraid to go out the driveway because
he could not see beyond the driveway and was afraid dogs or coyotes
could be waiting. Harley said that his trail mate was not a smart
horse and would not respond even if a bear was about to jump out
and get him. So he did not feel he could rely on other horses
either. The communicator said that Harley had bonded with his
owner and trusts her but the vision issue scares him too much.
It is not her confidence level but his sight and sensitivity that
he can’t control.
Now we know about Harley. His owner is committed to giving him
a great life of love and happiness within the boundaries of places
he feels comfortable in. He loves his massages, his aromatherapy,
his home, his owner. He couldn’t tell us about his vision but
he has now given us education we can use for other horses.
If you do come across a horse with behavioral issues consider
his eyesight as a possible source. Have your vet do an eye exam
and that will give you at least an idea about the eye’s physical
state of health. Otherwise it will be up to you to observe your
horse’s behavior and determine that he has eyesight issues. Creating
a deep bond of trust will make the difference with these horses.
They will always look to you to help them out when their vision
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I am enjoying being in Louisville and getting to
know more and more horse people everyday. I continue to be committed
to honor, trust and respect between humans and horses and look
forward to the New Year of bringing awareness, comfort and empowerment
between people and their horses.
Watch for my clinics and presentations on the website.
I would love to create clinics with any of you at your barns.
I also have a grand new project I am creating and shaping and
will share it with you in 2008.
Call or write me anytime.
Have a very happy holiday and give your horses
some peppermint for me!!