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stormypony

how to despook trail horse

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I finally got a horse trailer and want to do some trail riding. I had ridden my horse on the trails a few years ago,but do mostly arena work now. She is 22 and I had suspected her eyesight going, she is usually very calm and laid back, but now she shies and snorts at almost everything. The vet said she had the beginning of glaucoma affecting her eyesight. My question is- is there anything I can do to "despook" her or should I retire her

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Yeah it doesn't really sound like its a spooking issue, but rather a sight issue. You could try taking it easy on trail rides, giving her time to adjust to new places. Also, she might be more comfortable with a trusted equine companion on the trail with her.

Traditional despooking involves introducing your horse to many "scary" items such as plastic bags, tarps, etc. in a controlled situation.

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I agree, it doesn't sound like a case of de-spooking him. It basically boils down to safety. How important is your life, or his for that matter. My gelding went blind 2 years ago, I tried to trail ride him (he still has partial sight at the time), and it was a complete disaster. He spooked like crazy, was in a panic the entire time, worried about where his best buddy was and had a terrible day. The worst part was that I could have been hurt, or him too. That evening when the sun went down, he went nuts on the picket line. He couldn't find his "girl", because he couldn't see her. We moved her over to him and all was fine. The next day I loaded him into the trailer for what would be his last ride. He lost his sight entirely soon after, and within a month of that died in my arms at my home.

If I could go back, I'd never have tried to ride him knowing he was nearly blind.

Just my 2 cents, do what you think is right.

I had many people tell me that a blind horse is fine to ride, that's good for them, not for me.

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Well. Hmms, I am the type that would be very very careful riding a blind horse. However, I had a friend that had a trail horse that was completely blind. He taught her cues so she would know when she needed to step over something or start to go up or down something. He said this was a long process to get to the trust point of trail riding and the ultimate ultimate key to his success was getting her to trust him 100%.

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Ya, trust was the common word everyone kept using with me. I had trained this horse from a 2 year old, and been his only rider (he was 18 when he went blind). He and I knew each other inside and out. His trust was in himself. If we came to a crossing or obstacle that he was afraid of, he trusted himself and just stood and waited for someone else to go ahead of him. I do believe he trusted me, but not enough to ride into a bottom less pit. My horse was a bit different, so I guess it depends on the animal. John Lyons rode Bright Zip blind for the last few years of his life. That horse trusted John so much that he would have walked off the end of the earth for him. I wasn't as fortunate to have a Bright Zip, but we managed just fine.

Good luck in what you decide, you know your horse best and can make the best decision for him.

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Having the horse go blind does not automatically mean that you need to retire her. But, you might need to do extra work w/her on a trail. What I would do is take her to a trail, saddle her up, and ride for just a little while to see how she does. Then, turn around and go back. If she's too spooky, you may want to retire her, if not, take her again.

But, next time, go to the same trail, and ride a bit further. Keep doing this until you both know the trail well. This way she becomes completely familiar w/the trail, and should be less likely to spook. She'll know what's on the trail, what to expect, where various things are on the trail. Good luck, and keep us posted.

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I had a good old App mare that went blind from recurrent uveitis. I continued to trail ride her when the first eye went blind and she did great with just one eye. But when the second one went blind too, we gave up the trails. I still rode her in the pasture where she knew where everything was and that went fine. We just never rode away from home again. I have heard a lot of people say you can do it, but I was never comfortable with the thought.

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For what it is worth I will share my opinion. This may sounds harsh but I think it is foolish and selfish to try to take a blind horse trail riding.

Since you enjoy riding this horse why not just stay in the arena. I do not know what kind of riding you do, but if you enjoy a partnership with this animal I suggest doing or learning some dressage. If you already do dressage then really work at it. I would think that the subtle aids and intricate moves of the horse-rider partnership combined with a very familiar and safe enviroment could give you and your horse a great experience together.

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Thank you all for your input. None are harsh- just reality based. I am struggling with this as I have had this horse for 20 years. I lost 10 years of trail riding due to family constraints and now that I have a little more freedom and a trailer- I was really looking forward to having some enjoyable time with my buddy on the trails. But I will do whatever is best for her.

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