Working With Blind
- Blind horses need adequate time to adapt to their surroundings
and to learn a mental map of the area. They have an unusual ability
to learn their areas in their minds. You will often be amazed at how
well they know exactly how to avoid a tree, shelter or other object.
Be sure not to move things around such as wheelbarrows or other
moveable equipment in the areas in which they live.
- Many blind horses will circle or buck in place when they are
afraid so that they can work out their energy. Give them space to do
this while you encourage them with a soothing voice that there is
nothing to fear. Often they can seem disobedient when they continue
to move, however their lack of sight adds more insecurity when they
experience new things. Generally, they will calm down if given
enough time and comforting words.
- Watch out for other horses bullying the blind horse. They may
think that the blind horse is being aggressive by moving into their
space when the blind horse really may not be aware of where they
- Always speak to blind horses as you approach them and hold out
your hand so that they can smell you. Remember, they now recognize
people by voice, smell and touch.
- Do your best to keep the blind horse's routine the same each
day. They will quickly learn where to go for feeding, water, etc.
- If you are approaching an object while walking a blind horse,
stop and rap on the object so that they will know where it is. Their
hearing will help them gage where to stop.
- Before trying to ride a blind horse alone, have someone lead you
on the horse to see just how it handles blindness.
- Blind horses respond wonderfully to natural horsemanship
exercises from the ground. This increases their trust of you as you
learn more and more how to work as a team. They can be taught
anything that a sighted horse can learn.
- Be sure to talk to your blind horse as you ride him or her.
Initially, they may need lots of verbal reassurance to feel safe.
Remember that their basic trust is now in the bond that you share.
- Establish a verbal cue with your blind horse to let them know in
advance when obstructions are coming. For example, say “Ahh....Step”
to give them a verbal warning and then command two or three
steps from something in their path (i.e. log, rock, etc).
- Be sure that you teach a verbal stop command such as “Whoa” so
that you can alert the horse to danger when you are both on and off
the horse. Be aware that many blind horses will respond to others'
verbal cues for their horses as you are riding together. The verbal
cue has been their lifeline and they become especially sensitive to
- Remember that blind horses have a disability, not an inability.
For many of them, their ability to use other senses as well as
increase their trust in their human partner, makes them exceptional
riding companions in the ring as well as on the trail. You may find
that your blind horse is often a more obedient horse than your