Learn about equine eyesight

What many horse owners do not know (I being one of them, as my horse developed Equine Recurrent Uveitis in the fall) is how to gauge the health of their horse’s eye. Aside from obvious problems such as traumatic injuries (such as tearing or puncture) or infection (runny, mucousy discharge), are you able to distinguish any changes to your horse’s eye that might indicate ocular disease?

Researchers still have a ways to go when it comes to the equine eye. It has not been conclusively proven whether horses can see colour, although many clinicians theorize that horses see things in shades of blues and yellows (and everything outside of that range is simply grey) rather than specific colours. One important fact to keep in mind is that when a horse’s head is flexed to be “on the vertical” or in a “headset”, he is not able to see what is coming in his direction, only what is on the ground in front of him. This is why a horse instinctively lifts his head to jump, as raising his head allows him to see what is in his path.

In order to properly assess your horse’s eye, do some research into the structures of the equine eye and what they typically look like. Your vet can show you how to do a quick examination of your horse’s eye so that in the event of any ocular changes, you are easily able to identify them and seek help. Whereas many horse problems can be remedied at home, complications in your horse’s eye need to be addressed as soon as possible. This could mean saving your horse’s vision, and when it comes to the eye, delayed treatment could mean permanent damage.

Check out the Merck Veterinary Manual to learn more about the structure of the eye.  To learn more about equine eyesight, see TheHorse.com.