NEVER LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH! - But always look him in the eye

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Sue Palmer received the following story from one of her Brain or Pain readers who thought her story may come in handy for Sue’s Brain or Pain Publication:

Sue Palmer shares the story with Horse Answers Today:

"Hi Sue,

I've got a holistic horse help helpful hint here for you.  Regarding the old adage "never look a gift horse in the mouth" my own personal addition to it would be "but look him in the eye".

Sue Palmer May  2014  pic
Last year I was given a show pony that the owners couldn't cope with because of a set of behavioural issues and in the end the girl who had him gave up riding. I always got on well with the pony and accepted the offer when asked if I would take him on. Very early on I suspected that eyesight problems had something to do with his behaviour and treated him with the consideration that I would give a horse that I know can't see terribly well. This helped him tremendously and his confidence increased proportionately to a decrease in his spookiness. He is now doing very well but as I thought that his sight in his left eye might be impaired I got his eyes assessed. It appeared he has a cataract. I contacted an eye specialist to make an appointment to have a good look at his eyes, but he pre warned me that something more might be amiss as the pony at the age of 9 was too young to have cataracts and that I may be in for major vet bills now and over a prolonged period of time.

The question is: Had I looked him in the eye before I accepted him, would I have taken him on?
The answer is: probably yes as he is very cute and a really nice buddy who does not have any behavioural issues.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is: if anyone is intending to get a new horse, don't forget to get the eyes checked.

Maybe this will come in handy in your Brain or Pain publication.

Sue continues:
Freddy makes a really good point, in my opinion.  In the past I have had a problem with selling a horse that had problems with her vision.  She was a bay mare, Welsh Section D 4 year old called Holly and was beautiful, kind, gentle, quick to learn and a pleasure to work with as all Section D’s.  It was when I was living with a horse dealer, and so I bought her to back and sell on, excited that she should go to a lovely home, since I had no problems with her whatsoever.  The only thing I noticed was that if I was working her when it was getting dusk, she had a tendency to trip.

The buyers had her vetted and she passed with flying colours.  But once they got her home they discovered that she had problems with her night vision.  I had never had the need to deal with her in the dark since I lived on site and worked with the horses all day, so I hadn't recognised this as an issue.  The end result was that they kept the horse and I gave them their money back - I was young and naive at the time and they are very lucky people, she was a fantastic horse in every way except this!

I have also had the experience of working with a couple of one-eyed horses, who seem to cope incredibly well with life.  One was an elderly broodmare (who produce some stunning foals) she was wary when you approached her on her blind side but otherwise you wouldn't have known anything was amiss.  The other was a chestnut thoroughbred gelding who came to us for backing.  We were using a round pen at the time, and I found it fascinating that I could work him in both directions - I would have expected a much lesser communication on his blind side.  He adapted by changing his posture and turning his neck a little, but could still respond to signals to speed up, slow down, change direction, etc.

It seems to me that eye disease is becoming better recognised by vets, presumably as diagnostic procedures, treatment techniques and medication progress.
So I guess my advice agrees with Freddy - if you're intending on buying a horse, get the eyes checked!

Sue Palmer Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist and Equine Behavioural Consultant Tel: 07976 413488 Web:

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