An Eye Problem

Yesterday morning when I went out to see the horses and move them to their day pasture, I noticed something ‘not quite right’ with one of them. You know what I mean: even from a distance, you can tell when a horse isn’t looking quite himself. It’s the little things, like the way they are standing, where they are standing, who they are standing with, the angle of their head, their overall demeanor, their focus or gaze, their position to you. Walking closer, I could see that it was Esteban’s eye that was troubling him, judging by the way he was angled against the morning sun and the puffiness that was evident, even from 30 metres away.

There are rules here at the ranch about calling the vet. And one of them is with eye problems: call immediately. I had a look as best I could – he was very light-sensitive, sore and inflamed, and then took him over to the stable. Rang our vet who said he’d be here in an hour. Great. I popped two dark flymasks on him (putting them on myself first to make sure he could still see!) and let him go back with herd to graze while we waited for the vet.

Times like this, how glad I am that I have desensitized all the horses to having their eyes handled. If you wait until there is a problem and your horse is worried and in pain, examination would be difficult and possibly dangerous. While your vet will sedate your horse to properly examine an eye, it’s very valuable if your horse is calm and accepting of the exam. I’ve seen even sedated horses throw their heads in the air and push forward, fearful and unsure about what is happening.

Every morning and every night it is part of the routine to check every horse over – including eyes and noses. With spring winds and dust and pollen, there’s a higher chance of eye problems. Our vet said yesterday that people need to call immediately when they see an eye problem, as it can quickly turn into something serious. He said, (I quote) “you wouldn’t walk around with pus running out of your eye, so why should your horse?”

So Esteban was a perfect gentleman while he was examined, with and without sedation (to inspect under the 3rd eyelid, sedation is necessary when dealing with something as delicate as the eye). His buddy Corbello stayed with us, rubbing his bum on anything and everything, and generally trying to get us to focus on him instead! Diagnosis is a small ulcer, likely caused by local trauma such as a tree branch (we have no wire that the horses can hurt themselves on) which will heal quickly with medical treatment. Good news.

Putting the ointment into his eye is a breeze. Because we have assumed ‘the position’ so many times in our regular eye care routine, there is nothing worrisome about it, and everyone is relaxed and happy. Handling your horse’s more sensitive areas is an important part of the Friendly, Getting to Know You Game, and times like this, just drives home that philosophy. (In all my clinics and lessons I demonstrate how to handle the eyes in a way that builds trust, confidence and respect.)

One of the things the vet commented on was how my breathing and the Gershwin tunes on the CD player in the stable really seemed to make the mood lighter and more relaxing for everyone!

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