Making progress with Spiker

We have been making big strides forward in our attempt to return to full work/jumping. I was very happy to do whatever he was physically able to after his enucleation surgery (whether that be dressage, hilltopping or simply hacking) but as usual he has returned to work with a far superior attitude than prior to his surgery (being spooky, unable to focus on work, nervous).

Last week we did some schooling and I even had a local hunter friend of mine hop on so I could see him work. He certainly is reluctant to bend to the right (which I was surprised by, I thought his instinct would be to carry his head in the direction that gave him the most visibility) however is doing his best to listen to his rider and complete the task at hand.

Trotting on the right rein

I have been increasing the amount of rides I have where other riders are involved (such as 2 or 3 additional horses schooling in the indoor arena, versus just him and I schooling by ourselves) and while he is a bit jumpy when fast-paced horses come up behind him on his bad side (if I am on the wall on the right rein, and a horse jumps a line down the long side, he goes “on alert” and starts blowing/fussing as they get closer to him).  I am trying to keep him settled and distracted with work, instead of let him focus on the situation. While he will not have these distractions while in competition, he will have to learn to “deal” while in the warm-up ring, having horses trotting/cantering/jumping in every direction. While I am hoping he settles in time, I am not sure I expect a large, able-bodied Thoroughbred to be able to mentally handle some of these issues completely in stride!

Since he was being so co-operative the other day, I decided to pop him over a small crossrail that was in the middle of the arena. Sure enough, it did not phase him whatsoever and my friend who was watching said he took it completely naturally. There was no looking or hesitation.

Interestingly enough, I read an article in Practical Horseman this month which discussed equine vision, and noted that the left eye is typically the “stronger” eye and is linked to the horse’s reaction time, in situations such as seeing a predator or jumping an obstacle. Since Spiker’s right eye was removed, it comforted me to know his “faster” eye was still in place, and obviously he is still comfortable jumping despite his impaired vision.

He has been such a wonder to work with, both in hand and under saddle, after his surgery. It is like having my “old” horse back again, prior to all of his eye issues. His eye has had no problems whatsoever with healing, scarring or anything of the sort. The only thing that somewhat surprised me is that he still blinks, and winces when I “brush over” his eye socket. The area does tend to get a bit flaky due to dry skin, however a bit of equine hair moisturizer seems to do the trick. I put some on a cloth and gently rub it around it eye before cleaning the eye socket itself. While I don’t think he enjoys it, he definitely tolerates it and will stand quietly while I tidy the area up a bit.