The odds are good that at some point in your horse’s life, you or someone else will need to blindfold your horse -- either partially, by covering just one eye, or completely. Work with your horse on feeling comfortable with something over his eyes before the need to blindfold him arises. Adding this procedure to his training could save his life, and at a minimum make some routine procedures easier for horse and humans like.
One of the most unfortunate and scariest moments in a horse owner’s life is a barn fire -- and this scenario is also one where blindfolding a horse may be the only way to safely remove him from a burning barn or wildfire area. Since your horse will already be panicked and scared, having a blindfold on for the first time in this situation could make him even more frightened, giving you another reason to practice before an emergency. It can allow you to lead him far enough away so he doesn’t instinctively turn and run back to the barn or pasture, seeking his traditional safe haven.
There are several medical treatments and diagnoses for which blindfolding your horse is helpful or necessary. Many vets and equine dentists place a towel over a horse’s eyes during dental procedures so the bright lights don’t frighten him during the procedure. When giving your horse an injection, covering the eye on the side of the injection so he can’t see the needle can calm your horse and keep him from tensing his veins and muscles, making the injection easier. A blindfold helps vets diagnose neurological conditions, as well as abnormal sensitivity to sunlight.
Having to euthanize a horse is the most painful and difficult decision you’ll make as a horse owner, regardless of the circumstances. In an ideal situation, you'll have time to call the vet to do it humanely and quietly by lethal injection. An emergency situation may require you to intervene with a firearm. In this situation, especially when your horse has been badly injured and is panicking, a blindfold can ease the distress both for the horse and for the person shooting the gun, so he doesn't see the horse's eyes.
Training and Competition
Maneuvering your horse on the ground while he is blindfolded indicates his trust in you. If you have trained your horse so he is comfortable being led with a blindfold, you can display your proficiency at competitions where you lead your horse over or through an obstacle. You will be judged on how comfortable your horse is with having the blindfold placed over his eyes, at being led and whether he moves forward without hesitation. In addition to prizes, such showings can increase your horse’s value if you decide to sell him.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Disaster Preparedness for Horses
- Horsetopia: Horse Advice – What Does Head Shaking Mean?
- Extreme Cowboy Association: Rulebook
- Equisearch: Euthanasia – Putting Your Horse to Sleep
- American Association of Equine Practitioners: Is He Lame or Is He Neurologic
- My-horse-dentist.com: The Dental Procedure
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Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.