Will thoroughbreds have a future?

Will thoroughbreds have a future?
Will thoroughbreds have a future?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Auxois Draft Horse: Breed Characteristics

Gentle giant now mostly bred for horsemeat

The Auxois or the Trait Auxois is one of the rarest French draft horse breeds in the world.  This breed has not caught on in other countries because of the massive amount of food that a draft horse needs to consume daily.  Since the mechanization of agriculture, there has not been a demand for draft horse breeds, so time will tell how long this breed lasts. The main reason the breed survives in France is because of the horsemeat industry.  Perhaps it would be better for the breed to die out if it faces such a dismal fate.

Brief History

On some websites, it is mentioned that the oldest ancestors of the Auxois was a now extinct breed ridden by knights of the Middle Ages called the Burgandy.  Some other sources dispute this claim.
What is known is that the modern Auxois originated in the 1800's in the Cote d'Or and Yonne regions in France.  The Auxois was created by crossing a variety of draft breeds, including Percheron, Ardennias, Boulonnais and the Northern Ardennais.  Since numbers of the Auxois collapsed after the World Wars, some purebred Ardennais were crossed onto the remaining breeding Auxois in order to keep from having to heavily inbreed.

Originally, this breed was used for a wide variety of purposes, from pulling plows to hauling public transport wagons.  Most draft horses of all breeds were conscripted to serve the French Army in World War I and thus died pulling heavy artillery.  The breed is known for being incredibly strong but is still not strong enough to save it from the abattoir.

General Appearance

The Auxois looks like a Belgian on steroids. Although they are not as tall as a Shire, only averaging 16 hands, they certainly seem larger because of their incredible bulk.  They can weigh up to 2450 pounds.  The head is blocky, with ears usually described as small and constantly swiveling about.  The neck short and legs short and thick and a low-set tail on muscular hindquarters. International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995) is full of praise for their sloping shoulders, excellent knees and hints that they would make good riding horses.

Their coat colors are the same as a Belgian's or a Brabant's, being mainly red roan, bay and chestnut. They have a thick mane and tail. Unfortunately, many Auxois have their tails docked as is custom in France.  This was originally to keep the tails from getting caught in harness, but very few Auxois work in harness anymore.  Some breeding stock and show stock are allowed to keep their full tails.

What seems particularly heartbreaking is that the Auxois is always described as being gentle and calm.  They have a good reason to hate people after being treated so badly by them, but perhaps they do not complain.


Additional References

International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.  Bonnie Hendricks.  University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

The Ultimate Horse Book.  Elwyn Hartley Edwards.  Dorling Kindersley, Inc.; 1991.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Black Forest Horse: Breed History and Characteristics

Also called the Black Forest Chestnut 

The Black Forest Horse is better known in Germany as the Schwarzwalder Kaltblut, or the Black Forest Coldblood. It’s also called the Walderpferd and the St.  Margener.  But whatever you call him, this light draft horse breed is very rare in Germany and practically unknown outside of Germany. However, this rare breed has won fans in other parts of the world. Black Forest horses are being bred in North America now as well as Germany. There are an estimated 1000 horses in the world.

As its name implies, it did originate in the Black Forest of southern Germany. Another rare draft breed that originated there was the Schwarzwalder Fusche, or Black Forest Fox-Colored (sorrel or chestnut). With the exception of coloration, the two breeds are nearly identical. The first American Black Forest stud, Black Forest Stables, even listed the two breeds as being the same. Some horse breed books even lump them as a variation of a Norkier.

Brief History

The breed is thought to have originated in the 1200s from possibly Breton crosses with the Noriker. They were bred to be calm, strong and surefooted. The Black Forest area is very uneven, rocky and dips up and down. Until the 1900s, the Black Forest was much larger than it was today.

Most European horse breeds suffered after the two World Wars, but draft breeds were hardest hit. It is surprising that any horses in Germany escaped from being eaten because conditions were so bad during World War II. But right after World War II came the mechanization of agriculture. There was no longer a market for draft horses - except in the forestry industry. Draft horses were far more nimble, more reliable and caused less environmental damage than machines.

By 1981, there were only 160 Black Forest mares of any color left. A concerted effort was made to save the breed(s). Freibergers and Schleswigs were added to keep from inbreeding. One factor that helped was that the horses were flashy enough and intelligent enough to be trained as riding horses. The horses are able to collect themselves enough for lower level dressage.

There are six major bloodlines in the Black Forest horse breed today. They are designated by letters of the first name of the 31 stallions thought to be the most influential. The lucky letters are M, D, R, W, F and V.

General Appearance

The Black Forest Horse averages 15 hands high, although they can be shorter or grow as tall as 16 hands. They are quite muscular, with deep chests, thick necks and sturdy legs. Their colors are various shades of dark chestnut with a pale mane and tail. Sometimes they can appear to be black with a white mane and tail. The mane and tail are encouraged to grow as long as possible.

Additional References

International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

Cowboy Frank. “Black Forest Chestnut.” 
http://cowboyfrank.net/fortvalley/breeds/BlackForestChestnut.htm

Image from Wikimedia Commons





Ban-Ei Horse Breed: History and Characteristics

The Ban-ei developed after World War II in Japan by crossing three European draft breeds. The horses are used in a unique type of hilly harness race.

Quite frankly, a lot of horse breeds are nearly identical, except for their names. But every once in a while, there's a breed or breed type that really stands out in a horse lover's memory - for good or bad reasons. One such breed is the rare Ban-ei RaceHorse, created and nearly exclusive to the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The memorable thing about these race horses is that they are not Thoroughbred look-alikes, but are draft horses.

According to International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), the Ban-ei is technically not a breed, but more like a type. However, they do have common physical features in order to win (or even finish) in their races. They are built to bull a heavy sleigh up and down a hilly dirt racetrack. It must be seen to be believed. And even then, you may want to have a stiff drink.

Brief History

1948 was not a happy time to live in Japan. The nation had been not only crushed by Word War II, but it was still dealing with radioactive fallout and being the butt of world's jokes. But those Japanese that survived realized that they needed to do something different in order to bring in a steady revenue stream to Japan.

On the island of Hokkaido, it was thought that the local sport of horse-drawn sled racing, ban-ei keiba, would bring in gamblers and their deep pockets. But the native pony breed, the Hokkaido, was decimated by the war. They also were far too small for the impressive racetrack officials planned on building.

So, they decided to breed draft horses solely for the purpose of competing in these races. They crossed Bretons, Belgians with Percherons in order to get their ideal type of strength and spirit. Ban-ei racing spread to the other Japanese Islands.  The horses average about 16 hands high, but can be as small as14.1 hands high. They come in all colors that Bretons, Belgians and Percherons do, mainly chestnut, bay and roan.

Racing Industry

One YouTube member described Ban-ei racing as "slower than baseball". Horses compete in various weight and distance divisions. Horses draw sled that must weigh at least a half-ton or a full ton, depending on the division. Jockeys must weigh at least 160 pounds, but better horses are handicapped by having to pull extra weight. Horses can be raced as young as two years old.

Horses must stay in their own lanes, even when going up hills. In fact, many of the lanes have rope boundaries laid on the ground. The courses are dirt - or mud, depending on the weather.  If a horse cannot pull the sleigh up a hill, they are disqualified. Unfortunately, jockeys are allowed to use bullwhips on the horses.

The sport has fallen on hard times and was to have stopped about 2007, but one track, Obihiro, still stubbornly goes on.  Japan does not pension out retired racehorses, no matter what their breed.  When they are retired and if not suitable for breeding, they are slaughtered and eaten.

References

International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.  Bonnie Hendricks.  University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

Which Horse of Course. Mary Ellen Bauer. Xlibris Corporation; 2011.

Equinest. “Ban-ei Horse.”  


Monday, February 13, 2017

Life of a Thoroughbred Racehorse: Before Training at the Track

Thoroughbred foals destined for the track are first trained by their dams and then move on to weaning and turning one year old.

Long before a young Thoroughbred goes to a professional racehorse trainer, he begins learning the life of a racehorse.  His first trainer is his mother or dam.  Watching interactions between his dam and people help to familiarize him with people and learn that they should be obeyed.  Grooms and veterinarians teach him about being handled, about wearing a horse collar, walking on a lead and about receiving medications.

Many stud farms practice imprint training, where they hug and stroke the foal immediately after it is born.  A tiny horse collar may be placed on to get the foal used to wearing one.  This gets foals used to the smells and sensations of being handled by people and help to reduce stress whenever the future racehorse needs to be shod, groomed or tacked up.

Weanlings

The first big milestone a racehorse faces is being weaned from his mother.  Ever since he was two months old, he has been increasingly eating more solid food.  He is almost always in the company of his mother.  But by the time he is six months old, he and his mother are permanently separated.  

Weanlings are often placed two to a stall or pasture in order for them to get over the shock of losing their constant companions, their dams.  Depending on how large the breeding farm is or how mild the weather is, weanlings may be turned out all in one pasture for them to kick up their heels and play, morning and evening.  The company of others help the weanlings become confident in their new lives away from their dams.

Playing is important for foals and weanlings.  Not only does it keep the young horse out of mischief, but also helps develop muscles, bones and agility.  Good grooms begin to note the personalities of weanlings and report them to prospective owners or racehorse trainers.

Yearlings

All Thoroughbred weanlings are considered one year old or yearlings on New Year’s Day, despite what date the weanling were born on.  This is to help keep race records in order so that a horse does not compete with three year olds one day and then suddenly switches to four year olds the next.

By this time, a yearling will be taught some basic ground manners such as standing quietly in cross-ties.  If the yearling is being sent to auction, then the yearling will be taught to stand still and raise his head up with his ears forward in order to best show off to prospective buyers.  The yearling will be taught how to walk into and out of a lorry or horse van.  The yearling will also need their first racing shoes.  Since they are much lighter than ordinary horse shoes, he will need shoeing frequently.  Many yearlings also wear a saddle and bridle for the first time.  Many trainers also give the yearling lunging lessons, especially in Europe, weeks before the horse carries his first rider.  These basic lessons will impact a racehorse for the rest of his life. 

References

“Strategies for Weaning.” Cynthia McFarland. Thoroughbred Times. http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/farm-management/farm-management-06-28-08.aspx

Horenstein, Henry and Carol Flake. Thoroughbred Kingdoms: Breeding Farms of the American Rcehorse.  Bullfinch Press; 1990.

Burch, Preston M. Training Thoroughbred Horses. The Russell Meerdink Company Ltd.; 1992.

Miller, Robert, DVM. Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal.  Western Horseman; 2003.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Welara Pony Breed: History and Characteristics

A Welara looks a lot like a small Arabian, but some have the short, strong necks of ponies, although a Welara's neck may be slightly more arched than a typical pony's neck.

Welsh ponies and Arabians have a lot in common including attitude, endurance, size and beauty. Many equine breeders wondered if an even better breed could be created combining these two. One of these breeders was Lady Wentworth, one of the original champions of the Arabian horse in the UK. She put her champion grey stallion Skowronek to Welsh mares that actually came from Wales.

But breeding the two breeds together so that the offspring would breed true to type would not catch on until 70 years later, and in another country.

Brief History

In the late 1970s, crossing Arabian stallions to Welsh pony mares was catching on in California. A small part of this was due to the success of a lavishly illustrated biographical book featuring just such a cross in Marina & Ruby: Training a Filly with Love (Morrow, 1977). Ruby, the equine star of the book, was a lively yet beautiful black filly.  She was one of the first Welaras (or -- one of the first I'd herd of, really.)

By 1981, the American Welara Pony Society was born. It registers not only Welaras, but half-Welaras (usually crossed with Thoroughbreds), calling them Welara Sport Ponies. Welaras and Wear Sport Ponies are also bred in New Zealand, Australia, Jamacia, France, Germany, Canada and (of course) Great Britain.

General Appearance

A Welara looks a lot like a smallArabian, but some have the short, strong necks of ponies, although a Welara's neck may be slightly more arched than a typical pony's neck. There are some individuals who tend to have more pony-like characteristics than others, but the ideal Welara is long-limbed with excellent hooves and a high-set tail. Since it is allowed for one of the Welara's parent to be a Welsh Cob or Welsh Pony of Cob Type, some may be stockier than others.

Welaras are allowed to come in any color and marking with the exception of Appaloosa patterns. They stand an average of 14 hands high, but can be as small as 11.2 hands or as large as a horse at 15 hands. On occasion, some grow even taller, but they can't be shown as a Welara, although they are allowed to be registered.

Small But Mighty

Welaras weren't just bred for good looks but for athleticism. They compete successfully in many English, Western and harness events. They are particularly noted for their steady jumping ability, tackling jumps set up for Thoroughbreds. And if they happen to bash them down, the Welara often is not bothered and will try again at the next jump.

Welaras are very intelligent animals but need a patient trainer with sense of humor. They also need regular exercise to keep them from getting bored and looking for mischief.

Additional References
  • International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
  • Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
  • The Official Horse Breeds Standard Book. Fran Lynghaug. Voyageur; 2009.


Friday, February 10, 2017

American Shetland Pony Varieties: Temperament

Including the Modern American Shetland and the Classic American Shetland

Shetland ponies in America come in four varieties, although all can be registered with the American Shetland Pony Club/Miniature Horse Registry.  This article will focus on two of those varieties, the Modern American Shetland and the Classic American Shetland.  All Shetlands aren't born nasty, but they can easily become nasty if they are not handled properly.  Unlike some other kinds of horses and ponies, American Shetlands do not suffer fools lightly and are only recommended for people that not only have extensive experience in handling horses, but are very patient.

How To Ruin The Temperament

As stated before, American Shetlands are not born nasty.  They are intelligent, which means that they can get bored easily and therefore need to be kept busy.  They can figure out how to open stall doors and gates, so extra locks may be needed. Even then, they may figure out how to dig their way out of a fence, so fence maintenance is essential. They also crave companionship and will be far more willing to escape if they are kept alone.

As foals, it's hard to beat an American Shetland in the cute department.  This means it can be tempting to spoil them to let them get away with habits that may seem cute when foals (like resting their forehooves on your shoulders) but can be downright dangerous when they get to their full weight of a few hundred pounds.

When they suddenly disciplined for behavior they had been originally praised for, this can get an American Shetland understandably annoyed.  They then become mistrustful of people and tend to greet them with laid-back ears.  They then need patient retraining to realize that not all people are mean.  But since they are so small, they may not get this training and are instead sold, ignored or given up to animal rescues.

The Genetic Backgrounds

The Modern American Shetland is a much fierier individual than types more closely resembling the original Shetland from the Shetland Isles.  This is because Hackney and Welsh Ponies were introduced into the breed in the 1850's in order to make a smaller version of the long-limbed, high-stepping Hackney Pony.  American Show Ponies also fall into this category.  They are bred to win ribbons at horse shows where high-stepping and spirited behavior is rewarded.

The Classic American Shetland is a slightly chunkier version of the Miniature Horse and the British Shetland is - well, is what a Shetland used to be before Americans started fooling around with the original design. They are calmer and more adaptable than the show-types, but they are not stupid.  If they don't want to do something, they just plant their feet and will not budge.

In Conclusion

All Shetlands are unforgettable characters.  If they get bad behaviors, it's because of the fault of the people keeping them, not due to the ponies themselves.  Classic American Shetlands have been successfully used in therapeutic riding programs, so when given respect, a proper diet and regular exercise, they can put up with just about anything when they know they have a job to do.

Resources

"The Official Horse Breeds Standards Guide." Fran Lynhaug. Voyageur Press; 2009.

"Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Breeds of North America." Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing; 2005.

"International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds." Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

"The Ultimate Horse Book." Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.

"Simon & Schuster's Guide to Horses and Ponies of the World." Maurizio Bonginanni. Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Author’s personal experience.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Camargue Horse Breed History and Characteristics

The Wild White Horses of France

Anyone who was a fan of Robert Vavra's books will be intimately aware of the Camargue horse breed of the marshlands of France. Although Vavra photographed any and all breeds of horses, the Camargue is front and center in his landmark book, Such is the Real Nature of Horses (William Morrow & Co.; 1979.)  Since they live so close to water, they are sometimes nicknamed the horses of the sea.

General Appearance

The Camargue is a semi-feral breed that was developed in the marshlands of southern France. They are most often born dark and then gradually lighten to a white-grey when they mature at around four or five years old. This region of France is also known for its feisty black bulls, and Camargues broken to saddle have remarkable cow sense. They would have to, because bullfighting in southern France is done on horseback.

Camargues show a large influence of Spanish-bred horses, not only with their cow-sense, but their ability to use their hindquarters well under them for propulsion. They have large heads, wide eyes, deep chests, short backs and a low-set tail. They are usually called ponies because they rarely grow over 14 hands in height, but have the body shape of a horse rather than a pony. 

History

It is unknown just how old of a breed this is. It is thought to be one of the oldest breeds in France and perhaps second only to the Pyrenean Tarpan in age. Another theory is that the Camargue is the descendant of the now-extinct breed, the Soutre. Camargues have undoubtedly been influenced by any horse that managed to wander away from camp or were turned loose in the marshes to fend for itself.

However, Camargues breed remarkably true to type, almost making clones of themselves, which is something that does not happen to the feral herds of Mustangs in North America. Currently, the breeding is supervised by just one group - the Biological research Station at Tour de Valat.

This is a breed that has stayed close to home, although there are Camargue breeding societies in many European counties, including Germany and Great Britain. When feral-born colts turn four, they are caught, selected and only the best are allowed to return to the marshes. The rest are gelded and become excellent riding horses for the local bullfighters as well as for pleasure and endurance riding.

Camargues are excellent swimmers and tend to have a pretty steady temperament. Perhaps living out in the marshes has helped them to quickly adapt to many situations. Camargues have been used in many television shows and films where a horse needs to swim.  One such movie was The Black Stallion (1980). Five in all portrayed the Black, including two Arabians, one Thoroughbred and a Camargue dyed black for all of the swimming scenes. 

Image by Kersti Nebelsiek,Wikimedia Commons

Health Concerns in Thoroughbred Race Horses

Many racehorses suffer many health problems as a direct result of their breeding, in their training and during their racing careers. 

The thoroughbred racing industry is concerned with making money and not with preserving the health of the equine athletes.  Thoroughbreds are considered disposable since there are so many available for sale to replace injured, sick or dead horses.  Racehorses suffer many health problems as a direct result of their breeding, in their training and during their racing careers. 

Breeding Problems

Thoroughbred horses are bred to do one thing run. They are not bred to survive just run. All Thoroughbred descend from just three stallions, The Bryerly Turk, The Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian. It is thought that 90% of all Thoroughbreds alive today trace their ancestry back to the Darley Arabian through once stallion named Eclipse. All of these foundation horses lived in the very late 1600s and early 1700s.

Since then, the gene pool has condensed even further. It is thought that about 90% of all Thoroughbred horses alive today trace their ancestry to Northern Dancer, who was born in 1961.  This intense inbreeding has produced a fast animal, but one that easily shatters. Although there was an intense public reaction to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's death from a racing injury, thousands of racing thoroughbreds die in America every year with no tears or media coverage.  

Training Problems

A thoroughbred's bone structure is physically mature when the horse reaches five years of age. However, when the bones are still soft, the thoroughbred race horse is broken to saddle and begun heavy training when they are yearlings. As soon as the knees close, they are ridden, whether the rest of their body can handle it or not.  Horses are often given drugs such as steroids to build muscle and powerful painkillers to make them run when they are in pain.

In order to toughen up young thoroughbred race horse's legs, they are either pinfired or chemically burned. Pinfiring is exactly what it sounds like. Even though The Thoroughbred Times declared pinfiring "obsolete" in 2006, the practice is still common.  In 1989, Sports Illustrated very casually mentioned "blistering" (chemically burning) in an expose on champions Easy Goer and Sunday Silence.

Racing Problems

During a race, a thoroughbred runs all out for a couple of minutes on hard surfaces carrying an adult rider and any lead assigned to carry, whipped, spurred, crowded, then shut up in a stall to go traveling to do the whole thing over again, sometimes as often as twice a week.

Small jockeys are getting harder and harder to find as worldwide nutrition improves. So, they are getting heavier while the horses get weaker. Today's thoroughbred race horse has no chance of living a long, healthy life. They are thwarted every chance through irresponsible breeding, careless disregard of a natural horse's anatomical requirements and no thought as to tomorrow. No wonder they self-destruct so often.  Those that survive racing are often too damaged to ever work again. Very few people are willing to have a horse that cannot work.  For example, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was sent to slaughter when he failed to sire enough winners.

Image of Northern Dancer statue at Woodbine Racetrack by JDG for Wikimedia Commons






Famous Racehorse Profile: Phar Lap

Known as the Red Terror

As America had Man o’ War and England had Red Rum, so Australia had Phar Lap, its most famous racehorse.  A 17 hand red chestnut gelding, Phar Lap won 37 or 51 starts, including Australia’s most prestigious race, the Melbourne Cup.  He was set to conquer the North American turf in 1932 after winning the Aqua Caliente Stakes in Mexico when he suddenly died due to mysterious circumstances, but could have been from poisoning.

Phar Lap’s obscure beginnings, rise to fame and tragic death at the age of 5 was the subject of a blockbuster film, Phar Lap (1983.)  His unusually large heart, weighing 14 pounds (6.35 kilograms), may have been one reason why he became a champion.  It was originally donated to the University of Sydney and then had a home in the Australian Institute of Anatomy.  It can now be seen in the National Museum of Australia’s Landmarks Gallery.

Humble Beginnings

Phar Lap was foaled in New Zealand on October 4, 1926, the son of Australian Leading Sire, Night Raid.  He was a gawky, uncoordinated, ugly-looking yearling with warts when he went up for auction.  Australian trainer Harry Telford admired Phar Lap’s pedigree, even though most of the horse’s half-brothers and sisters were doing poorly at the track.  He talked his boss, American businessman David J. Davies into buying the yearling for the very low price of 160 guineas.

When Davis saw Phar Lap, he wanted nothing to do with the horse and sold part-ownership to Telford.  In addition, Davis did not have to pay any training fees for Phar Lap.  The yearling was soon gelded and did very poorly his first year on the track, winning only one race.  It looked as if Phar Lap was a dud.

The Champion

Phar Lap had a much better three-year-old season and buy the time he was four he was on his way to becoming a legend.  In 1930, he won four races in four consecutive days, including the Melbourne Cup, where he went off as the favorite.  He won the race despite carrying a very heavy 138 pounds (9 stone 12 lbs.)  From September 13, 1930 to March 4, 1931, he won 14 races in a row.  This feat was not matched in Australia until 2011, when the spectacular mare Black Caviar brokeit.

Phar Lap won many of his races with a sudden come from behind move, even when he broke slowly and pushed to the extreme outside.




Appaloosa Horse Health Issues

Please do not use this article in the place of your veterinarian's advice.

Appaloosas are impressive horses, even if they are “few spot Appaloosas” and have a few hard-to-spot spots. They're impressive to look at, impressive to ride and impressive in their characters about the barn. They also have an impressively sobering history linked to the near-extermination of the Nez Perce tribe. But if you want to bring an Appaloosa home, you need to be aware of their most common health issues.

Sunburn

Appaloosas that are predominately white, such as those who sport the leopard spotted pattern, are more prone to getting sunburn than horses of darker colors. They get sun burnt especially on any areas of pink skin, such as the muzzle, lips, ears and genitals in stallions and geldings. Even if the skin is mottled grey and pink, it still can get sunburnt. If a horse’s skin is constantly damaged by sunburns, it is prone to getting skin cancer.

Human sunscreen products that are safe to use around the eyes would be safe enough to protect your Appaloosa from sunburn. You also want to be sure there is shelter in their fields and paddocks.  If possible, keep pink-skinned Appys indoors during the hottest parts of the day.

Night Blindness

Horses can see very well in the dark unless they have night blindness. Although not the most traumatic thing that can happen to a horse, night blindness can make a horse accident prone. A one thousand pound animal getting into an accident can prove to be traumatic, indeed. So far, night blindness has only been discovered in Appaloosas. It is thought that the gene that is responsible for the Appaloosa's spots can also cause night blindness. But few spot and "snowcap" Appaloosas can still be born night blind.

Congenital stationary night blindness tends to not get worse as the horse gets older, but you do have to arrange for the horse to either be close to a "seeing eye" horse or to be stalled all night. You definitely have to curtail riding at night. Lightning flashes can also make the horse temporarily blind. Usually an Appaloosa is born with the condition, but we are still in the early stages of learning about it.

Total Blindness

A 2006 study by the University ofMinnesota concluded that Appaloosas were eight times more likely to gocompletely blind than any other breed of horse. This might also be due to genetics, but so far, the reason why a horse gets this disease is unknown. Appaloosas seem to be more prone to contracting a disease called ERU (Equine Recurrent Uveitis) which then causes the blindness. This is also called "moon blindness". Not all horses with ERU go completely blind.

Although blind Appaloosas can be great companions and can be used in riding and pulling carriages to some extent, most people do not want to deal with them and just have them put down. More and more, people are opening their eyes to the fact that living with a blind horse isn't too much different than living with a sighted horse.

Additional References





Image from Wikimedia Commons