Vital Signs To Know For Your Horse’s Health

horse-with-headache

Knowing how your horse acts and reacts when he is feeling good will help you to faster realize when there is something “not right” with him. Every horse owner needs to know what is “normal” for their horse. Being able to report these to your veterinarian when you contact him can help evaluate whether a visit is necessary and/or how quickly your horse needs to be seen.

Get a baseline of your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration when he is healthy, relaxed and before working himYou may also want to get additional readings in both summer and winter and after riding to know what is normal for your horse in different circumstances.

What you’ll need:

  • watch that counts seconds
  • a thermometer – plastic digital one are best for ease and safety)
  • a stethoscope.
  • A notepad or record book for recording the vital sounds

TEMPERATURE:

The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees. However, a horse’s temperature can vary somewhat with the season. During the winter, your horse’s “normal” temperature may drop several degrees, but low temperatures generally are not causes for concern.  On the other hand, summer heat, as well as exercise, can often raise a horse’s temperature a few degrees.  These circumstances must also be taken into account when determining if there is cause for concern.

 It is easiest to take your horse’s temperature rectally with a clean digital thermometer. Coating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly can make it easier for you to insert and more comfortable for your horse.  Always tie a string to the end of the thermometer to make sure you can retrieve it.  You can also briefly wrap your horse’s dock in a bandage to make it easier to push the tail hair away to insert the thermometer. Most thermometers will beep when the maximum temperature has been reached.

If your horse’s temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian.

heartbeat2PULSE:

The pulse rate is taken by listening to the heart, located on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow. You can also take the pulse at the thick artery that runs underneath the cheekbone on either side of your horse’s face.  Place three fingers (never your thumb which has its own pulse) on the artery and press upward and inward.

Using a stethoscope can often make hearing and counting the heart beats easier.  Some people listen to the heart rate for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2.  However, if you have any questions, listen to the pulse rate for the full minute.

The normal pulse rate is 40 beats per minute.

 Horses that are fit may have rates as low as 28 so knowing your horse’s condition is important.   Young horses and ponies can sometimes have a bit faster pulse rate.

Rates between 40-60 are considered “serious”, but may be explained by an elevated
temperature such as on a very hot day.  Also, if the horse is suddenly frightened or excited, his heart rate can become temporarily elevated on a very temporary.  Wait a few minutes and then recheck to see if the rate comes down when he is more relaxed. However, rates above 80 are considered “critical” and indicate a very serious problem.

However, ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be regarded with suspicion and evaluated in the overall picture of how the horse is feeling.

RESPIRATION:

Respiration is how hard your horse is breathing. Watch his sides as he breathes in and out and count the number of complete breaths.  Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra abdominal effort, abnormal noise, labored breathing, or gasping are all indications of a serious problem.  

 The normal rate for horses is between 8-12 breaths per minute. Again, many things can effect this that must be taken into consideration before considering whether it is abnormal.  One common factor is his temperature, excitement or a heavy workout.

OTHER VITAL SIGNS

While temperature, pulse and respiration are the three most common vital signs used to determine your horse’s health, there are other indicators that you may want to check and report to your veterinarian:

  • Mucus Membrane Color: The normal color is pink
  • Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums, the color should return within 1-2 seconds.
  • Gut sounds (borborygmus): A horse should have a normal gurgling sound on both sides of the abdomen back near the flanks.
  • Hydration: Pinch and elevate the horse’s skin over the shoulder, then let go. If it snaps back into place very quickly, your horse is properly hydrated

For a chart that can be posted next to your horse’s stall with instructions on how to take temperature, pulse and respiration, as well as normals and critical values, click HERE.

Your Horse’s Mouth

horse teeth slohorsenews.netWhen someone says, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” they are talking about the custom of telling a horse’s age by looking at his teeth.  It is possible to estimate the age of a young horse by observing the pattern of teeth in the mouth, based on which teeth have erupted.  A horse’s incisors, premolars, and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down through chewing. A young adult horse’s teeth are typically 4.5–5 inches long, but the majority of the crown remaining below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth slowly emerges from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.  Differences between breeds and individual horses, however, can make precise dating impossible. 

Horses are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape (there are up to five shapes of tooth in a horse’s mouth), and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent sets.  By the time a horse is fully developed, usually at around five years of age, it will have between 36 and 44 teeth – mares have 40 permanent teeth and males have 42 permanent teeth.  The difference is that males have 2 canine teeth that the female does not have.

All horses have twelve incisors at the front of the mouth, used primarily for cutting food, most often grass, whilst grazing. They are also used as part of a horse’s attack or defense against predators, or as part of establishing social hierarchy within the herd.  Behind the front incisors is the interdental space, where no teeth grow from the gums. This is where the bit is placed when horses are ridden.  Behind the interdental space, all horses also have twelve premolars and twelve molars, also known as cheek teeth or jaw teeth. These teeth chew food bitten off by incisors, prior to swallowing.

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower one. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases can cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

In the wild, a horse’s food supply allowed their teeth to wear evenly.  But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced.  Equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician, or in some cases is performed by lay persons, including owners or trainers.  Regular checks by a professional are normally recommended every six months or at least annually. 

Many horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this,dr johnson dental too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. 

Problems with dentition for horses in work can result in poor performance or behavioral issues.  However, good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.

Choosing The Right Cover-up For Your Horse

horse-blanket-3Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder. Look through any horse product catalog and you’ll see an overwhelming amount of cover-ups for your horse for the coming inclement weather.  Quarter sheets, coolers, stable sheets, turnouts.  While it’s great to have so many choices, having all those options can be a bit overwhelming.  Here are some things to think about before you decide to buy.

Consider where you live.  If you live in the very cold climates like Minnesota or Montana, you want to look for blankets with a lot of insulation.  However, if you live where there are milder winters, like in California, you’ll most likely only need a sheet.   Finally, if you live in the Pacific Northwest or other area where winters are mild, but wet, you’ll most likely need something water proof.

Consider where your horse lives. If your horse is in a stall without a paddock, he may be warm enough with a wool blanket.  But wool will not keep a horse warm if he gets it wet, so opt for another type of material if you do turnout.  The more access your horse has to move around, e.g. a stall and paddock, the more opportunity he has to keep himself warm with movement and not a blanket.

Consider whether your horse is clipped or furry, young or old. Clipped horses need heavier blankets to stay warm in the winter so even if you live in California, you may find you need an insulated blanket.  And not all unclipped horses develop thick warm coats in the winter so an additional layer may be needed.  Finally, older horses have a harder time staying warm.  They may sometimes have arthritis that keeps them from moving around to stay warm as a younger horse may do.  If you have a senior horse, think about providing him some extra protection from the cold.

Consider how easy your horse is to blanket. Blankets come with a variety of front closures, including no closure at all.  If your horse is the easy-going type, simply slipping it over his head is going to be quick and easy – though you may not have the adjustability of a front buckle blanket.  Newer blankets may use hook and loop or hook and eye closures – there’s even a magnetic one.  Judge your horse to see what works best.  Also consider let straps – they are designed to help keep the blanket from shifting, especially during turnout.  But too short straps can cause rubbing while too long straps can catch a rolling or bucking horse’s hoof and cause an accident.  It’s safer to keep them a bit longer, but to cross them underneath the horse, ex. Right back end connects to left front end and vice versa.

Consider how your horse is built. Look carefully at the picture of the blanket before you buy.  Some blankets have very large neck  openings that actually cause the blanket to slide back on your horse’s shoulders.  If your horse is narrow, look for European cut blankets which tend to stay a little higher up on the neck.  Try your blanket on your horse (over a clean sheet) to make sure it fits.

Consider what you will use the blanket for:

Sheets and blankets – used to keep horses warm when the weather turns cool.  Sheets are more lightweight, while blankets are heavier and often have insulation.  There are both medium-weight and heavy-weight blankets – buy the one for the coldest part of the winter.  Or you can layer blankets.  Put on a sheet and then add a medium-weight blanket on top.  The air trapped between the layers will help keep him warm.

Dress sheets – used to keep your horse dry and clean when showing.

Coolers and anti-sweat sheets – used to help dry your horse off after bathing or exercise.  Coolers used to be large square pieces of wool that attached to the horse’s halter, but these rarely fit well.  Look instead for a cooler that is shaped like a blanket.  And while wool is still the warmest, it is hard to wash so consider machine-washable fleece instead.  Anti-sweat sheets are usually made of cotton and have larger holes in them.  They are best used in the warmer months of summer as they don’t offer much in the way of insulation.

Quarter sheets – used to keep the large muscles of your horse’s rear warm when just starting to or right after exercise on cold days.  They usually extend from under the saddle to over his rump.  Some of them will fasten around your waist, keeping your legs and rump warm at the same time

Take the time to measure your horse for his blanket.  Any blanket can keep him warm, but an ill-fitting one can rub and cause sores, especially on his withers.  Measuring is best done by two people.  Take a cloth tape measure (metal works OK, but doesn’t bend around corners as well) and place one end in the center of your horse’s chest.  Have your assistant hold it there while you stretch the tape along the side of your horse at the same height.  Bring the tape all the way around the horse’s backside just to the edge of his tail.  The number of inches on your tape measure is the size blanket your horse needs.  If the measurement is an odd number, order the closest blanket size BIGGER than your number.  For example, if your horse is a 79 and your choices are a 78 or an 81, buy the 81.  Don’t assume that if he’s the same height as your friend’s horse that they wear the same blanket – comparing two 16.2hh Thoroughbreds who were built about the same, one wore a 78 and one an 81.

While cover-ups aren’t necessary for every horse, it’s important to choose the right one for your horse.

 

Photo credit: Horse Channel

Boots & Bandages

horse with bootsAlthough boots and bandages on your horse’s legs can provide minimal support to the horse’s tendons and ligaments, boots and bandages are primarily used for protection of the horse.

Sometimes a horse needs to be protected from himself. Because of his conformation, his hind legs may brush against each other or he may even kick himself when he is cantering.  Or a horse with a long stride can accidentally step on the back of his front feet at the trot.  While a horse’s hoofs can cause damage, those shod with metal horse shoes can cause a severe gash or bruise.  And a horse does strenuous work that involves jumping or sudden stops and starts, boots or bandages may help protect the delicate tendons in his legs from stress or injury.

Some of the more common protection for legs are:

Splint Boots (Brushing Boots)

Splint boots have a thick and/or hard plate that covers the inside of a horse’s lower leg. The plate protects a horse when he hits the inside of one leg with the opposite hoof. When a horse hits himself with the other hoof, it can cause nasty cuts on the inside of the leg. These cuts may take a long time to heal. Splint boots are probably the most widely used boots by horse people.

When putting a splint boot on, fit it slightly higher around the leg, then slide it down so the leg hair doesn’t get ruffled up and cause rubs. Many people fasten the bottom strap first so the boot doesn’t slip while you are securing it.

Bell Boots (Over-Reach Boots)

Bell boots sit on the bottom of the horse’s foreleg, around the coronary band at the top of the hoof. They are designed to fit the contours of the pastern and heel area. Bell boots are used on the front hooves and they help protect the front heels from getting nicked by the back hooves. Bell boots are made of rubber or stretchy material. Some have to be pulled on over the hoof and others have Velcro fastenings. They should not be so long that your horse trips over them or they interfere with his movement.  Correct sizing is important.

Exercise Bandages or Polo Wraps

Exercise bandages are stretchy wraps that give support to the tendons in a horse’s lower legs. They tend to be used when a horse is in strenuous work, or if he has suffered from tendon problems in the past. They are wrapped around the lower leg, and are usually secured with a Velcro strap.

Putting on a bandage properly is a skill that takes time to learn. If the bandage is not stretched out properly with the right tension or if it is wrapped incorrectly, it could hurt your horse’s leg instead of supporting it. Ask an instructor to show you how to wrap a leg and then practice, practice, practice until you get it right.

Sports Medicine Boots

Sports Medicine boots were developed specifically to address the prevention of suspensory injuries while at the same time protecting the soft tissue from cuts, abrasions and contusions caused by impacts to the legs by hooves and various other hazards.  They can be used on all four legs and consist of a neoprene-type material to provide cushioning and are secured with a Velcro strap that helps provide support.

Not all horses require protection.  Many new riders put on wraps or boots because everyone else seems to be doing it.  If you don’t ride your horse in high-risk movements or if your horse doesn’t seem to have an issue with scrapes or cuts, you can leave off the protective wrapping.  If you don’t know if you should put protective gear on your horse’s legs, ask a knowledgeable instructor what she thinks. Explain the sort of work you do with your horse and let her take a look at his conformation. An experienced instructor will be able to tell if your horse needs boots or bandages.  And, more importantly, she will show you the proper way to put them on.  Improperly applied boots and bandages can actually do more damage than good.

photo credit:  Lauren Mauldin

10 Ideas To Keep Your Horse Fly-Free

Summer is a great time to own a horse and spend time riding – except when you’re swarmed with flies.  In addition to just being annoying, flies can also spread disease, including  Pigeon Fever and Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).  Here are some ways to help keep the fly population away from your horse and barn.horse in fly sheet and mask

FOR YOUR HORSE

  1.  Fly masks – there are many different styles.  The key is finding one that fits your horse.  Be sure that it’s large enough so that your horse’s eye isn’t rubbing against the mesh. Get the ones with ears to help keep flies out of your horse’s ears.

Or consider using a fly bonnet – the ones that are crocheted with fringed ends help keep flies out of your horse’s eyes and ears while riding.

2.  Fly sheet – again, many different styles, including some that cover the neck and belly as well as the rest of his body.  A sheet can also protect your horse’s coat from sunburn.

3.  Fly protection legs – the horse’s sensitive legs are a popular place for flies to land. When fly spray isn’t enough, try fly boots or wraps to add an extra layer of fly protection.

4.  Fly spray – repellents provide a basic layer of fly protection for your horse.  There are many different types made of a variety of ingredients.  The two most common ones in commercial fly sprays  are Pyrethrins (made from a type of chrysanthemum flower) and Permethrin (synthetically produced). Both are relatively non-toxic to mammals (including humans) and both break down fairly easily.

Still, if you are not a fan of processed products, there are many options for homemade or “natural” fly sprays.  Most contain citronella and/or apple cider vinegar.

FOR YOUR BARN

5.  Manure pickup – many flies breed in manure.  Get rid of their breeding medium, i.e. pick up manure regularly in stalls, paddocks and turn-out areas, to help reduce the fly population.

6.  Feed-through fly control – products like SimpliFly are ingested by the horse, then passed through in their manure.  The product prevents house & stable fly egg development.

barn fan7.  Fans – fans in your horse’s stall or in the barn helps keep air circulating, making it harder for flies to land  on your horse.

8.  Fly spray – you can get an automatic fly spray dispenser for just your horse’s stall.  They dispense a spray at regular intervals to keep flies away.  For a large number of stalls, you might consider a fly suppression system that dispenses an insecticide in a fine mist at specific intervals through special spray nozzles.

9.  Birds – while sometimes considered pests themselves, birds are actually a great asset in fly control by  feeding on bugs after catching them  in midair .

10.  Predators –  tiny non-stinging wasps both lay eggs in the fly pupa as well as feed on fly larvae while it is in the manure around your farm. By eating the larvae fly predators break the fly life cycle. In addition, the eggs the predators laid hatch and naturally increase their predator population on your farm.

For best results, build an integrated pest control system to beat flies both in your barn and on  your horse.

Photos from HorseTackReview.com and Classic Equine Equipment

 

 

 

How Your Horse Work: The Mouth

horse teeth slohorsenews.netWhen someone says, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” they are talking about the custom of telling a horse’s age by looking at his teeth.  It is possible to estimate the age of a young horse by observing the pattern of teeth in the mouth, based on which teeth have erupted.  A horse’s incisors, premolars, and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down through chewing. A young adult horse’s teeth are typically 4.5–5 inches long, but the majority of the crown remaining below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth slowly emerges from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.  Differences between breeds and individual horses, however, can make precise dating impossible. 

Horses are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape (there are up to five shapes of tooth in a horse’s mouth), and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent sets.  By the time a horse is fully developed, usually at around five years of age, it will have between 36 and 44 teeth – mares have 40 permanent teeth and males have 42 permanent teeth.  The difference is that males have 2 canine teeth that the female does not have.

All horses have twelve incisors at the front of the mouth, used primarily for cutting food, most often grass, whilst grazing. They are also used as part of a horse’s attack or defense against predators, or as part of establishing social hierarchy within the herd.  Behind the front incisors is the interdental space, where no teeth grow from the gums. This is where the bit is placed when horses are ridden.  Behind the interdental space, all horses also have twelve premolars and twelve molars, also known as cheek teeth or jaw teeth. These teeth chew food bitten off by incisors, prior to swallowing.

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower one. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases can cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

In the wild, a horse’s food supply allowed their teeth to wear evenly.  But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced.  Equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician, or in some cases is performed by lay persons, including owners or trainers.  Regular checks by a professional are normally recommended every six months or at least annually. 

dr johnson dentalMany horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this, too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. 

Problems with dentition for horses in work can result in poor performance or behavioral issues.  However, good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.

photo courtesy of slohorsenews.net and Brian Johnson, DVM

How Your Horse Works: Digestion

digestionHorses are herbivores, or roughage eaters. They are grazing animals with digestive systems designed for constant consumption of plant food.  Very much like humans, the horse’s digestive system is a twisty-turning roller coaster ride for any food that the horse eats.   It takes about two to three days for food to pass through this last and largest part of the equine digestive tract.

Starting in the mouth, the chewing (mastication) of the food starts the process.  Enzymes from the horse’s saliva start breaking down the food into various, reduces it into small particles so it can be easily digested and absorbed. From the mouth, the partially digested food moves to the oral part of the pharynx (or pharynx)) and into the esophagus, where the food takes a 50-60 inch slide down to the stomach. An extremely strong muscular sphincter at the junction of the esophagus and stomach helps move the food along.  This muscle was developed to allow horses to keep digesting even if they have to suddenly run off to avoid a predator.  But it’s this muscle that also keeps a horse from vomiting. If a horse eats something it shouldn’t, there isn’t a way to induce vomiting to rid the poison from his system.  The stomach store, mixes, digests and propels feed into the small intestine. Very little of the feed nutrients are absorbed in the stomach. Proteins and carbohydrates are only partially digested in the stomach, and fats are only slightly hydrolyzed before the food passes into the intestine.

From there, the food passes through seventy feet of small intestine!  The liver and pancreas both have ducts with openings that lead to the small intestine.  The liver delivers bile and the pancreas delivers digestive enzymes and both help to further break down the food.  Once the food is broken down into its components (e.g., amino acids, simple sugars), these microscopic nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines along with vitamins and minerals.  In the human digestive system, a pear-shaped organ called the gall bladder is located below the liver and stores the bile secreted by the liver.  Horses don’t have a gall bladder.

The small intestine then connects to the large intestine.  The large intestine is an important source of water and electrolytes for horses that don’t have adequate water.  Horses can absorb water from the large intestines to help avoid dehydration. The remainder of the horse’s meal is primarily structural carbohydrates—the fibrous components of forage such as cellulose.  These carbohydrates pass from the last part of the small intestines (the ileum) into the first part of the enormous large colon (the cecum).

The cecum is an 18-inch to 24-inch blind sac that processes the food through fermentation, where it passes from the cecum to the large colon (comprised of the right and left ventral colons, and left/right dorsal colons) to the transverse and descending colons. The rate of feed movement through the colon is relatively slow. Because the colon folds back on itself several times and its diameter varies, horses are predisposed to digestive upsets when nutrient flow is abnormal. Since the horse’s digestive tract is primarily designed to digest forages, fewer problems occur when the diet is predominately hay or pasture.

Keep your horse’s digestive system healthy by providing plenty of clean water, good quality hay or pasture and plenty of exercise. A regular de-worming program will help eliminate parasite damaging infestations and regular dental care will ensure that your horse is grinding his food efficiently.

Horses do best when fed several small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal.  To make feeding your horse easier, many of the Classic Equine Equipment stalls have swivel hay and/or grain feed doors, swing out water bucket holders and hay racks.  Classic Equine also has several feeding and watering options, including the EQUIFount Horse Waterer and corner grain and hay feeders.

Photo credit: Elite-Equine

How Your Horse Works: Eyesight

horse eyeHorses, like most prey animals, have their eyes positioned on both sides of their head.  This is so that they can have a wide field of vision t to watch for approaching predators.  Horses have “monocular” vision, meaning that each eye sees things differently and independently.  Again, this benefits the prey animal as it allows him to look to the side to see where the rest of his herd is with one eye and at the same time look behind him to see if anything is coming after him.

Horses can also switch to a version of “monocular” vision, though it is not the same as human or predator monocular vision.  The horse can look at something with both eyes at the same time and will see the same thing in both eyes.  However, he is still seeing two separate views.

Horses can switch between monocular and binocular vision depending on the situation they are in.  When they are relaxed and grazing, they can use their version of binocular version.  But if they sense something moving behind them, then can immediately switch to their monocular version and continue looking at the grass with one eye, while checking for predators with the other.  Once he realizes there is nothing there, he can relax and go back to binocular vision again.  This switching back and forth between looking at something with one eye vs. something with both eyes is why horses sometimes spook at inanimate objects.  Your horse may have seen it with one eye, but when he turns to focus on it with both eyes, until he gets his eyes focused at looking in one direction,  it can appear to the horse as if the object moved.

Horses have large eyes. This is an advantage for a prey animal as it enables him to detect the slightest motion.  Horses also move their heads up and down because their visual field is narrow.  To see an object clearly, the horse tilts his head so as much of the object as possible fills his eye.  Tilting his head also gives the horse better depth perception.  Despite all this, there is still an area around the horse where he is quite blind –  in front and behind the horse at about the width of his body.  If you can’t see either of the horse’s eyes when mounted or working on the ground, then he can’t see you!

Based on the eye chart developed by the Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen,  horses see as well as we do in some instances.   Comparing horse vision with humans, research found that horses actually see well at a distance. The Snellen scale for humans is 20/20, meaning that a person can read the same line on an eye chart from 20 feet that the ‘standard’ person reads from the same distance. Using this Snellen scale, horses rate 20/30 a dog is 20/50 and a cat is 20/75.

Horses are mostly day animals although they will continue to graze at night which suggests they do have some night vision. Horse’s eyes are sensitive to weak light, so they can see fairly well at dusk, but they don’t have the ability to adjust their eyes to darkness quickly, which is why they will often refuse to enter a dark building or float from bright sunshine.  When designing your barn, consider using some of the light and open stall configurations and windows from Classic Equine Equipment

It was once commonly thought horses were color blind, but in fact they do have the ability to see some color. The eyes contain light-sensitive cells and there are two types of cells called rods and cones. Humans have three different types of cones which means we can see all colors.  Horses have only two types of cones so see far fewer colors.

Knowing how your horse sees things will change the way you approach and work around your horse, creating a safer and more trusting environment and a better, stronger partnership

eye photo credit:  David Ramey, DVM
eyesight area photo credit.   thinklikeahorse.org