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Blind In Right Eye - How Do You Train On That Side?


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#1 Equuzen

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 06:36 PM

I need help in what to do about using the round pen and the lunge line on this mare. Maggie is blind in her right eye from a weird accident when she was 3 years old. She's 6 now. I took her to a trainer, but she got an abcess in her foot 2 weeks into training, and I got her out of there. They didn't even notice she was limping! Anyway, I want to work with her in the round pen, and I don't know how to make her understand me when she's moving to the right. She can't see me on her right side, so how do I make her understand she needs to go without having to smack her? I'm sure I'll have other questions once I figure this one, but I need to start somewhere! Thanks for any advice.

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#2 Slick

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 08:17 PM

I know this isn't going to help, but I am interested to see what others have to say. I have never experienced training on a horse that was blind in one eye, although I have been around several who became blind overtime with age. Hmmm??? Voice cues, lunge whip, but even that is going to be difficult. Doubt there is any easy answer. This is an interesting question that I will be thinking on. Good Luck!

Edited by Slick, 20 April 2009 - 08:21 PM.

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#3 flequus

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 09:41 PM

My horse is missing his right eye. He moves off of voice, but believe me, he can hear it when I swing the whip and hit the ground on that side. We also have a command to get him to tip his nose toward me to keep him from wandering "off circle" to the outside.

To move her up, start with one step at a time and on the end of a lead instead of on a large circle. You need to use the cues consistently. I say "walk up" and begin to tap rhythmically on his hip bone. The second that he moves forward, I stop the tapping and give him praise. Do this on both sides. Though horses do not transfer training from one side to the other, the do understand the voice command equally on both sides. Once you have her walking up then keep her moving by repeating the command if she slows. You can then move from a lead line to a lounge line. Always give the voice command first and then go to tapping or getting after their rear. They will learn that if they respond to the voice command first, it prevents them from dealing with the tapping or whip smacking the ground.

For us:

walk up = walk
cluck = trot
kiss = canter

It can be done. My horse can feel when I step in front of the drive line to slow him, when I put both arms down to mean halt, and if I switch the line to the opposite hand for him to turn to the inside.

Be patient and consistent. Treat the horse the same on both sides. So while you act as if the horse is sighted on both sides, you also act as if the horse is blind on both sides. My cues are consistent. I expect full cooperation on both sides with my commands. I act as if he is completely blind regarding my personal safety and letting him know where I am at all times.

Edited by flequus, 20 April 2009 - 09:48 PM.


#4 flequus

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 09:45 PM

Sorry - I forgot to tell you how to get the nose to the inside tip. Again, do this on both sides beginning with the sighted side. My command is "look". Start at a halt. I say look and shake the lead line up and down until he tips his nose toward me - even the smallest amount. Immediately stop the shaking and praise. Repeat over and over on both sides until you consistently get the nose tipped to you. Repeat this process at a walk, trot, and canter. Perfect the nose tip at each gait. When they are good at it, you no longer have to shake the line. You say look and you get the nose.

Believe me, when they are moving around at a forward canter and begin to go outside the circle because they cannot see you, this will save your arms being yanked or you being dragged.

Teach all of these things on the sighted side first and the blind side afterward.

Edited by flequus, 20 April 2009 - 09:49 PM.


#5 Equuzen

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:27 AM

Thank you, flequus, for the reply and great advice. I'm going to give it a try tomorrow. I'm working all day, then I have a meeting tonight (that I would love to miss, cuz it's going to take up nearly 3 hours). I'd much rather be out with the horses (even tossing muck) than stuck inside!

Do you have any advice for picking up the left hind foot which is on the side that she can see from? I'm baffled. I can pick it up a little bit, but she's constantly pulling it away before I can even pick it out. She also hops on her right back foot while I'm holding the left one up. This is a huge improvement from where we started, which was not even being able to pick up the left hind. Anyway, my farrier and I would be grateful, especially since we can't trim that foot. She refuses to hold it up long enough. Thanks again!
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#6 RebelGirl23

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 11:32 AM

Is it possible to put her against a wall or safe fence and try to pick it up? I know for sighted horses this is worth a try, but in a familiar environment this might work for her. What is she doing when she hops, i.e. moving sideways, backing, moving forward (what are her other feet doing?) Is she trying to kick you? What is her motivation for getting it away from you? Could it be painful for her or is she just not used to it?

Again, if this is possible, try picking it up with a rope (preferably a soft cotton lead rope or something--nylon has a tendency to burn) If she isn't used to ropes, you obviously would need to sack her out first. The rope is mainly to save your back. Start by picking her foot up with the rope and setting it back down before she has a chance to be fussy. Do this a couple of times. (If you want start off with a foot she's more cooperative with, then move to the problem hoof) Progress to holding it up longer until she'll let you hold it for a minute or so. It may take several sessions, just make sure you end each one on a good note.

Good luck with her?

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#7 Equuzen

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 01:15 PM

I have put her against a wall, so that she can't move away from me, but it seems to upset her more. I want her to have a good experience when she picks up her foot, so we do it out in the open now. When she hops, she's moving into me most of the time. It seems like she's trying to get me out of her way. She did kick at me once, but I belted her back and she hasn't tried it so obviously again. When she pulls her foot away, sometimes it feels or looks like she's kicking, but there's such a subtle difference, and I want to be careful not to punish her when she's trying to pick up her foot. I can't figure out her motivation for not picking it up. The vet says she's sound, so I'm guessing it's just a training issue. But I haven't done tons and tons of training, so I'm perplexed that it's just the one foot.

I haven't tried the rope yet. I guess I should try, at least. I want her to pick the foot up just like she would for the farrier, and since he doesn't use a rope to get a foot up, I wanted to work with her on having us pick it up. Do you think that we'll end up further behind, especially if it takes more time to get her used to the rope? I wonder if transitioning from the rope to a person's hand picking up the foot is faster or not?
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#8 TracyA

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 01:38 PM

My horse is blind in both eyes. In some ways, that might be easier than blind in one eye. He has no reason to try and keep me on his sighted side. We had to relearn how to lunge, and it is still a work in progress. I started much like flequus described, walking at the end of a lead rope and slowly building the distance. It was hard when I wanted him to track right, because I generally don't lead from the off side. Fessor was confused about why I was doing things wrong! :) Just start slowly and be patient. Start with walking and generally increasing your distance from the horse. When you go to start trotting, you may need to get closer again and jog alongside at first.

Some blind horses never really get back into lunging. Especially for a fully blind horse, there are no visual cues to help with balance. Sometimes, ground driving or long lining ends up working better than lunging.

As for holding up hooves, again it will be a matter of slowly building up the time she can hold it up calmly. Either she wasn't asked enough as a youngster or she is insecure because of the limited vision. It's a fine line between being patient and building their confidence and treating our "blindies" like invalids and letting them be little punks. The more calmly matter of fact you can be, the better. Will she let someone distract her with food while you hold up a hoof? It's not ideal, but that can help build some positive associations. Then you can reduce the food distraction over time. The food distraction worked wonderfully with the trainers sighted Clydesdale stallion when the farrier was working on him...

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#9 Equuzen

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 04:19 PM

Thanks, Tracy, for the encouragement. It's good to hear that your horse knows his cues, cuz it makes me think that Maggie will get it eventually.

As for the food and the feet, I've thought about it, but I don't know if it's the right approach. I'd like to have her pick up her feet like a normal girl without the bribery. I did wonder if maybe she felt "off balance" since she can't see on the right side. She used to bolt through gates because she couldn't see well. Hmmmm, maybe eating would distract her. I might give it a try to see what happens. I guess if she can eat and stand on 3 feet, it's not a problem that she can't see on the right?????
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#10 flequus

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:03 PM

The hoof thing likely has nothing to do with the blindness. It is probably just her issue with the foot. The rope thing is good, but don't be afraid to fuss at her when it is due. That is what I meant about treating her like a fully sighted horse. Don't drop the hoof because she starts hopping. Hang on and give her a sharp no. If she offers to kick, apply swift and firm punishment. Set her up to be successful, such as using the rope method, just do not be afraid to correct her. Once you have the problem with the longe line worked out, work her tail one good on the end of the line when she will not stand still for the foot to be lifted. Lifting the foot nicely = rest; being stupid = work. Lift the foot and try to release before she becomes antsy. You should be able to gradually increase this amount of time.

One thing my gelding does that IS because of the missing eye is that he throws his head up to improve his field of vision. The vet told me to let him have his head do what he needed to see. I say NO. I am telling you all is well and you will dang sure give me a good work ethic and do as I say. I fuss at him pretty good for doing the giraffe impression. So even things that are caused by the blindness, but are undesirable can be trained out of them. He works quite nicely with his head in a natural position.



#11 RebelGirl23

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 11:03 AM

Well the only reason to use the rope is 1) you can use more force to get it up and keep it up and 2) it saves your back the strain of a long session. After she's lifting well with the rope then you progress to picking and holding with just hands.

The suggestion of a food distraction is a good one. Try not to think of it a bribing, but as showing her "Hey, she picked up my foot while I wasn't looking and it wasn''t so bad." Rewarding her after picking out ALL of her feet will keep encouraging her to be sensible about it. Especially if you incorporate the work; i.e. be good=rest and cookie, silly=working my butt off!

Good luck!

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#12 Equuzen

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 11:30 AM

Ok, I'm going to try using the rope, cuz you convinced me that my back needs the help! Plus, it will get her used to all kinds of stuff around her feet, which is good. So, how do you maneuver the rope? When you have it at her fetlock, do you pull up? sideways? forward? When I use my hands, I'm picking up her foot and lifting, but I'm not sure how to do that correctly with the rope....

Yes, I do treat her like an invalid. I know why I do - because I'm more afraid of getting hurt by her than any of my other horses. In my mind, and it's totally in my mind, she's unstable because she can't see on the right side. I have to work on that myself instead of worrying. I'm sure she can feel my apprehension. But, believe me, when she kicked at me I belted her good! I'm not going to allow any behavior like that, blind or not. So, I've got to forget all about the blindness, sort of.

Thanks for the suggestions, and let me know about maneuvering the rope.
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