Caring for your horse’s eyes

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Horses in the wild rely heavily on their sight to help them spot when danger is approaching. Although your horse no longer needs to look out for predators, it’s in his DNA to stay watchful. But the eyes are vulnerable to infection and damage.

Since horse’s eyes are relatively large – in fact the largest of all land mammals – and positioned laterally, their eyes are easily damaged. They can also be irritated by foreign objects such as flies or seeds.

Did you know?

·     Horses see better in the dark than humans, and even cats.

·     A horse will lower his head to judge closer distances, and raise it to judge further distances.

·     Horses have 340° peripheral vision.

·     Horses have a third eyelid.

·     Horses have small blind spots directly behind and in front of them – which is why he can be startled easily if you approach too quickly, particularly from behind.

Eye care

To reduce the risk of him damaging his eyes ensure there are no sharp objects in his vicinity, and put a fly mask on him when he is turned out. 

Wipe the corners of his eyes daily with tap water on a clean cloth or sponge kept exclusively for that purpose to prevent contamination. 

Check your horse’s eyes regularly for any signs of swelling, heat, forced closing of the eye, sensitivity to light, excessive discharge or a change in upper eyelid position.

As horses age their vision may worsen, so be vigilant to any signs of poor vision, such as frequent sideways head movements, delayed reaction to objects and bobbing the head when going over uneven ground.

Common eye diseases include corneal ulcers – which can be treated with antibiotics; uveitis – an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye; and cataracts – which can be seen as a cloudiness in the lens. 

Long-term damage can be prevented by early diagnosis, so if you think there is a problem with your horse’s eyes, call your vet.

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