Lipomas

Lipomas

Tuesdays with Tony

Ugh what a weekend. I like my peace and quiet on a normal weekend. My staff tends to my care, and then it’s rest and relaxation for Teenie and I so we’re refreshed and ready to tackle our supervisory duties on Monday. This weekend was nothing like that, thanks to a colic that had my Docs and techs in here multiple times throughout the night. I hate these kinds of colics. They disrupt my carefully crafted schedule. However, my Docs hate them more, especially the kind we had this weekend. Let’s talk lipomas and older horses and why they send a wrecking ball through my sleep.

What is a lipoma?

Fat. Yep, good ol’ fat like I carry around on my belly. Lipomas are tumors made up of fat. Instead of forming a nice soft, cushy layer like my belly, these are firm balls of fat. They’re pretty common under the skin of dogs, and if you’ve got a dog, you may have felt one. They’re usually two to three inches in size, and readily move with the skin. They don’t hurt, and the skin over the top of them looks pretty normal. Sometimes on dogs (and humans, by the way) they form in areas like armpits that affect movement of a limb, or become very large, and cause issues because of their size. Overall though, these are pretty boring tumors. 

Horses don’t work that way. I mean, of course they don’t! They’re horses, so they have to do it better, and by better, I mean worse for their health. In horses, lipomas often form from the mesentery of the small intestine. What the what, Tony? you say. The small intestine hangs from a giant curtain suspended from the spinal column. It’s a thin, nearly see-through tissue that carries blood, lymph, and nerves to the intestine below.  Lining those vessels and nerves is fat. Most mammals use mesentery as a place to store fat. If that’s all that happened, this would be fine. However, over time, in horses, that fat turns into a ball, that ball pulls on it’s attachment turning it into a string, and soon you have something resembling a tetherball. Remember that super fun game from your childhood with the ball on a string attached to the top of a pole? Yep, it looks like that, only hanging off the mesentery. 

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When fat goes wrong

So, we’ve got a fat ball hanging from a string sitting in the abdomen. Sounds fine. That fat ball isn’t doing anything bad…..yet. But, and it’s a really, really big but, one day the stars align, the horse moves everything just right and that string with a ball on the end goes flying around in just the right way to wrap up a piece of small intestine. When it does, the string tightens around the intestine and the mesentery. This causes blood flow to the area to stop, and keeps food from passing through the affected small intestine. It also puts pressure on those nerves, and as anyone who has whacked their funny bone knows, that hurts! These horses become very painful as the pressure increases on the nerves from backed up food, swelling, and dying small intestine. This is when you, the owner, get your first hint things are going wrong. You’ve got a painful, rolling, I daresay thrashing, horse.

Now what??

When my Docs arrive on the scene, they evaluate your horse for the telltale things that point to a lipoma: scrapes around the eyes and head, evidence of rolling, and a horse over 15 years of age. No one is quite sure why small intestinal colics cause the most scrapes on heads, but they sure do. Whenever my Docs see this, they start a full-on small intestine investigation. The rolling is because these guys are pretty darn painful, and the age is since it seems to take quite a few years for these dastardly fat balls to grow. 

The first thing my Docs are going to do is get a heart rate. This is a very important number. If it’s over 60, chances are very high the colic is going to need surgery to fix. Once heart rate is established, pain and sedative medications can be given (if these are given first, my Docs can’t get an accurate heart rate). Next, some blood will be drawn to run a quick test called lactate. This test is another indicator of how bad things are. If that number is over 3.0, that’s another point towards surgery. Next step is a palpation. They’ll glove up and head in for a feel of what’s going on. Distended small intestine will feel like a tube about 5-6” in diameter. 

The ultrasound comes out next. Ultrasounds allow them to look at what that distended small intestine looks like on cross-section. A few things they look for are thickened walls, and food settled on the bottom since that indicates things haven’t been moving for a while. If there’s extra fluid in the abdomen, they can see that, too. The body puts that excess fluid in the abdomen as a way to deal with the unhappy small intestine. If it’s there, my Docs can take a sample of it. They’ll look at what color that sample is first. It should be clear and yellow. If it’s red, there’s definitely very unhappy intestine in there. Next they’ll run a lactate test on the fluid. This is the same lactate they ran on the blood. Ideally they are close to the same number. If the belly fluid is greater than 1.5-2 times what the blood has, that’s yet another indication that surgery is needed. 

Can you fix it?

Yes, but. The only way to fix these guys is surgery. At surgery the string will be cut, and the lipoma taken out. Usually these guys have a few extra lipomas hanging around, and they’ll be taken out as well. The small intestine will get checked to see if it’s okay to leave in there, or if it will need to be removed too. Older horses can handle the surgery just fine. What gets tough is all the toxins involved if the small intestine is in rough shape. These toxins do a number on the body. They can cause laminitis, along with just plain feeling like crap. And that’s the tough part. Not only is this one of the more expensive colic surgeries, but the recovery can be rough. Which brings me back to my weekend. 

We had an old guy (31 years old!!!) in the clinic this weekend. Turns out he had a lipoma. I know his owner agonized over the right decision to make for his well being. In the end, surgery wasn’t the right answer for her and she let him go. I hate that this is always a tough decision for owners. Thinking about what you would do in the same scenario and having a plan makes it easier when one of my Docs has to ask the hard question of if surgery is an option. Sometimes the answer is no, and while that’s okay, it’s never easy.

As a cat, I’m not really wired for compassion, but even I can see that being a horse comes with a lot of challenges. Some of them we can impact with good diet and foot care, and some of them we just have to deal with when they happen, like lipomas and skimpy forelocks. But the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. My docs are here for you, and that’s a pretty good team to have in your corner.

 

Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. If you want to learn more about all the different things that make horses colic, I have a variety of blogs on the topic. If you’d rather listen to my docs explain it, they have a couple of podcasts that take a really deep dive into the horse gut. You can find them over on my Podcast Page.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Rain, Rain Go Away….

Rain, Rain Go Away….

Tuesdays with Tony

I hate rain. I know we need some, but I prefer it to happen during the night, otherwise known as my inside time. During the day I like to occupy the parking space right in front of the clinic and refuse to move when anyone pulls in, or wander across the verdant fields around my spacious property, or any of a number of other top secret outdoor cat activities. For me, rain throws a large wrench in my plans. For horses, it’s a way bigger deal. We’ve had a whole lot of rain lately, so let’s talk about what that has meant for my Docs and the horses they care for.

The Incredibly Soggy Foot

Horses evolved on the steppes of Mongolia. It’s basically a colder, drier version of the United States Midwest. Not a lot of swampland or rain. This means their feet did not evolve with a water management system.  Add shoes to this lack of evolutionary pre-planning and you’ve got a mess. The repeated wet-dry cycle we have here, or sometimes just wet, causes the tubules that make up the hoof wall to suck up water and swell. When they release that water, the tubules shrink again leaving empty space between the inter-tubular material and the tubules. This repeated cycle causes hoof walls to crack and split, and the soles to erode away. If your horse has shoes on, it makes those pesky nails get loose way before the next scheduled farrier visit. 

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Treat the Feet

Veterinarians in drier areas of the country look at Docs from the Gulf Coast like they’re crazy when they want to keep moisture out of a foot. The obvious solution to wet feet is to keep your horse inside unless it’s dry out. This will work, but it will also cause your grass to grow even faster, and your horse to do all their pooping where you have to micromanage it daily, if not more often. There are treatments that help to form a water barrier for the foot. Durasole is great on the bottom of the foot. Durasole should be applied every day until you can no longer easily move the sole with just thumb pressure. After that, 2-3 times per week will keep the soles in tip top shape. Venice Turpentine works well here, too. My Docs have found it doesn’t work once horses are foot sore, but if you start early in the season it will prevent mushy feet. 

For hoof walls, products that are oil-based like Fiebings, and Dr. Lacher’s personal favorite, Pendray’s ProCare Plus, will help form a barrier to moisture. ProCare also contains copper which helps kill bacteria and fungus that love to eat wet feet. Keratex Hoof Hardener works great on wet hoof wall as well. These products should be applied right before turnout, and before hosing off. The more you can protect the hoof wall from water, the better you will do! 

The Always Lovely Thrush

Moisture makes thrush. Do not beat yourself up if your horse has developed thrush during the rainy season. It can be incredibly difficult to keep horse thrush-free when it’s raining 1”-2” daily. Treatment can be straightforward if you can locate Tomorrow Mastitis ointment. Do not ask me why an ointment made for cow udders fixes thrush. Cats know a lot, but they don’t know the answer to this. Trust me here though, this stuff works. Now for the bummer: it’s almost impossible to find right now. If you do locate a secret stash, apply a small amount to the affected areas of the foot after a good cleaning. Spraying a little hydrogen peroxide on the area first will help clean the cracks and crevices. If you can’t find Tomorrow, go with copper sulfate crystals. These can be procured where all things can be found, Amazon, or often at your local pool supply store. You will also need a toilet bowl wax ring. Also available on Amazon, or at any hardware store. Mix a small amount of wax, and copper sulfate together. Smoosh into the affected area. Viola!! Thrush treatment extraordinaire.

Even more foot stuff

This is my miscellaneous paragraph. Abscesses are common this time of year thanks to all those soft, mushy feet. A sudden onset of severe lameness is the most common presentation. Definitely worth a chat with one of my awesome Docs, but also check out their YouTube video on how to bandage a foot with a diaper so you’re prepared to manage this common problem. 

Can’t keep shoes on? Ask your farrier about glue-on options. These can be really great during wet season to keep you and your farrier from visiting every 2-3 days when those shoes are getting loose. And once again, before you go yelling at your farrier, this is a wet weather problem, not a farrier problem. Be nice to your farrier! 

The Skin Funk

I have extensive tomes on rain rot, and the general Florida state of skin funk. It’s a constant battle here, even for this clean fanatic cat. Once again, attempt to keep your horse dry. HaHaHa!!! I’m a funny cat. Who can do that??? Anyway, Equishield CK shampoo, salve, and spray are your friends here. Trust me. The entire clinic has seen every product, lotion, potion, and crazy concoction your mother’s uncle’s friend’s neighbor has suggested. The CK line works every time. Once you have skin funk under control, once or twice weekly spritzes with CK spray will keep that skin looking perfect. Adding some omega fatty acids to your horse’s diet will also help the skin form a better barrier. This can be done with flax seed, or there are a few omega supplements out there. My feelings on supplements are notoriously poor so I’d recommend checking with my Docs to make sure you got a supplement worth feeding.

Until next week,

Tony

P.S. Starbucks has Pumpkin Spice Latte so I’m sure drier weather will be coming soon. I know cooler weather isn’t coming. This is Florida, after all! Need help with your horse’s wet weather problems? Give my Docs a call. They have loads of experience handling the hot, wet Florida weather. Or, looking for a great learning podcast while enjoying your warm (or cold) beverage, be sure to check out my docs podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Preventing Fall Colic

Preventing Fall Colic

Tuesdays with Tony

Preventing Colic as the weather changes

Have you noticed it’s a bit nicer to be outside lately? It’s almost autumn in Florida and I’m enjoying my cat naps on the Springhill porch even more. And while Florida’s autumn has more to do with the changing of license plates colors than it does with leaves, there are still some seasonal effects you’ll notice around your farm. While it’s still pretty hot out, those shorter fall days are already creeping up on us, and with them will come slower growing grass, and hay season. I know it’s hard to imagine when the grass is still green and it’s still hot out, but now is the time to prepare for the autumn. You know how sensitive horses are, and so you’ll want to help your horse through the seasonal transition to reduce the chance of colic.

 Go Slow

You’ll want to make your autumn plan now, while it still feels like summer out – because changes involving a horse’s GI tract must be done very sloooooowwwwly. Their bellies are delicate systems and making feed changes quickly is certain to throw them off balance. You’ll want to start slowly introducing hay long before the last of the grass is eaten. Even if you have already been feeding hay, increasing the amount to compensate for less grass must also be done very gradually.

If your horse has only been eating pasture, begin by adding 5-7 pounds of hay per feeding. Coastal hay especially should be started slowly. Throwing a bunch of hay at a GI tract that’s been used to green grass is a recipe for an unscheduled visit from my docs. Add an additional 2-3 pounds of hay every 4-5 days until your horse is leaving some hay behind. Absolutely DO NOT put a roll of coastal hay out and let your horse gorge on it when he hasn’t been acclimatized to it. There is no better recipe for a type of colic called an ileal impaction.

You’ll also want to plan ahead to make sure you find a good source of QUALITY hay. My docs see a lot of colics caused by feeding poor quality hay. Let me tell you, one emergency visit to treat a colic is a lot more expensive than feeding a better quality hay to start with.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Add some legumes

Since your horse will be consuming more dry feed, like hay, as autumn progresses, there is more risk of an impaction colic. Coastal hay is an especially common cause, and if your horse eats this type of hay, you should plan on supplementing him with another type of hay to reduce the risk. Legume hays, like alfalfa and peanut, are salty, which helps remind your horse to drink. They also have a laxative effect on the GI tract. Both hays bring water into the gut, which helps prevent impactions. Small amounts of these hays do wonders and can dramatically reduce the colic risk. Take care that your horse doesn’t become overweight on legume hays though – they are calorie dense.

 Get water into your horse

If your horse is well hydrated, he is at less risk for an impaction colic. An average sized horse should drink approximately 10 gallons of water a day. Regularly clean out your horse’s buckets and troughs and make sure to change the water in the buckets before refilling. (I’ve seen horses poop in their buckets, haven’t you?) Keep an eye on his manure. Does it look moist and slightly shiny, or is it dry and crumbly-looking, or packed into hard fecal balls?

Get your horse used to eating soaked feed. Adding water to your horse’s grain to make it into a soup can get extra water into their system. You can even wet down his hay to increase its water content. Water consumption is especially important when the weather changes or you get a new shipment of hay. Some horses will need some time to get used to the soupy consistency of soaked feed, so introduce it ahead of time. Some horses will drink flavored water. A great way to encourage drinking is to put a few handfuls of your horse’s favorite grain into a bucket of water to make a “sweet tea”. Other horses are partial to water flavored with apple juice or Gatorade. Of course, you should continue to offer plain water as well.

We often talk about electrolytes in the summer to help replenish what is lost in sweat, but in autumn and winter, adding loose salt or electrolytes to your horse’s diet can also help to stimulate thirst and encourage water consumption.

 Other stuff to avoid colic

Provide your horse as much turnout as possible. Horses evolved to be moving around constantly. Horses that are stalled with limited turnout have an increased risk of colic. Moving around the pasture promotes gastrointestinal motility, which promotes the normal transit of food through the gut.

Make sure your horse’s dental exam is up to date. Feed that isn’t adequately chewed is harder to digest, resulting in yet another risk factor for impaction colic. The dental float should be performed once a year, so call my doc if your horse is due!

These tips apply at any time of the year to help reduce the chance that your horse will colic, but during times of weather change it’s especially important to plan ahead. Go source your good quality hay, make a feeding plan, and feel prepared for autumn to arrive! It’s still almost 90 degrees, but I hear my Springhill staff talking about pumpkin spice lattes, so I’m out of here in case they go looking for that ridiculous plaid cat sweater they offend me with every year.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Looking for more information on colic? Make sure you head on over to the podcast page; my docs have even more indepth talks about this. You can find the podcast by clicking here. Also, just a reminder, we are having our first in house seminar this week! It’s on Equine Asthma & Allergies. We are limiting the attendance to 20 people. You can call the office at 352-472-1620 to get your name on our guest list!

 

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Equine Health Care for Newbies

Equine Health Care for Newbies

Tuesdays with Tony

Whether you are a first-time horse owner, getting back into horses after some time away, or just want to make sure you’re not missing anything important in your horse care, it’s important to understand the preventative healthcare your horse needs every year. So listen up, horse people, and get ready to make sure you are checking all these boxes, because this is the stuff that’s necessary for every single horse out there to stay healthy. There are few things worse than a sick horse and an expensive bill that could have been avoided. If you’re missing out on any of these critical healthcare needs, give my doc a call…the time is Meow!

Vaccines

My docs break vaccines down into two major categories – “core” vaccines and “risk-based” vaccines. The core vaccines are the ones that all horses need, regardless of what they do for a living. There are 4 reasons a disease makes this list: 1) the disease is severe or deadly; 2) it’s difficult or impossible to treat; 3) every horse can be exposed to it, even if he never leaves home; 4) the vaccine is safe and effective. In Florida, those diseases are Eastern/Western encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Tetanus, and Rabies. The rabies vaccine is once a year and the EWT-West Nile vaccine is every 6 months in our region. (Don’t thank me, thank the mosquitoes that never disappear.) Don’t be lax on the timing, my docs have seen horses get encephalitis when they are only a couple months overdue for their vaccine. The risk-based vaccines (for example, influenza and strangles) are optional and are recommended if your horse will be exposed to those diseases. Best way to figure that out is to talk to my doc about your individual situation. For more info on core vaccines and why some common misconceptions don’t hold water, see my recent blog https://springhillequine.com/vaccines/

Deworming

Horses pick up internal parasites, aka “worms” through grazing in the pasture, mare’s milk, flying insects, and contact with manure.  They need to be dewormed on a routine basis to avoid the worm level rising high enough to cause weight loss, diarrhea, colic, or even death. Years ago, the way we did this was to grab a different brand of dewormer from the store every 6 weeks and give it to our horse. It was called rotational deworming and it was a terrible idea! Why? We caused the worms to become resistant to the dewormers so nowadays many of them don’t work anymore. Here’s how my docs recommend deworming most adult horses: A fecal egg count, a simple and inexpensive lab test, is performed in the spring and the horse is only dewormed if there is a high level of parasite eggs. Then once a year, horses are dewormed with a product containing either ivermectin or moxidectin and also praziquantel. The praziquantel works against tapeworms, which don’t show up well on the fecal egg count. Examples of these products are Equimax, Zimectrin gold, and Quest plus. The majority of horses only need to dewormed once a year and my docs usually do it in the autumn. Foals and young horses are on a different schedule and require different products, so talk to my doc to make a plan.

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Dentistry

Horses have a different kind of teeth than you humans and we cats have. Once we get our adult teeth, we basically have the same teeth in our mouths throughout our adult lives. On the other hand, a horse’s teeth are constantly erupting, or pushing out from his jaw into his mouth, throughout most of his life. As he chews, the portion of the tooth inside his mouth is being ground down. As a result, sharp points or hooks on the teeth, uneven teeth, and mouth ulcers often result from this wear and tear. Every horse needs a dental exam at least once a year. A complete dental exam requires a dental speculum to gently open the horse’s mouth, sedation to allow him to relax his jaw, a bright light to check all the way in the back of the mouth, and a veterinarian to perform the exam, since it’s a medical procedure. There is a big difference between a dental exam performed by my doc, and a “float” by a lay dentist. If you want to learn more about this read my blog https://springhillequine.com/we-are-professional-grade/ My docs will correct sharp, uneven, or overgrown teeth and check for infections or fractured teeth. Don’t wait until your horse is showing signs of major problems like dropping feed, losing weight, having problems chewing, or fighting the bit when ridden! You want to prevent these issues before they happen. A yearly dental exam can extend your horse’s lifespan and keep him in good weight into his senior years.

Coggins test

A Coggins test is a blood test to check for the Equine Infectious Anemia virus. EIA is a very serious disease, causing fever, decreased appetite, anemia, swelling, death. There is unfortunately no treatment or cure, so it is very important that EIA is not spread to other horses. A negative Coggins test is necessary for interstate travel, bringing your horse to an equine facility or showground, and getting a health certificate from your vet. Even if you don’t plan to travel often, you should make sure your Coggins is up to date in case you have to move barns or evacuate your horse from a natural disaster. A Coggins test result is provided to you as a paper or electronic certificate, and it usually expires in 1 year.

Hoof care

Find a great farrier and get on a regular schedule for trims! Your horse’s hooves should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks. Letting them grow too long between trims is very detrimental to the health of his feet and legs and can cause serious lameness problems. Hoof hygiene is also important to prevent hoof diseases. Keep his feet picked out regularly and keep his environment clean. Stalls and paddocks should be kept picked out, so his feet aren’t constantly exposed to urine and manure that degrade hoof tissue. If the weather is wet and his field is muddy, provide a way for the feet to dry for at least part of each day. Know how to recognize thrush, white line disease, hoof cracks, and other common hoof disorders. Remember the saying “No hoof, no horse”!

Be prepared for problems

If you’re new to horses, you’ll soon learn that they are accident prone creatures. Of course, you’ll do your best with your horse’s feed and housing to avoid issues, but sooner or later, you’ll need a vet for an emergency visit. Build a relationship with your vet ahead of time, don’t wait until a serious problem happens to look for a vet to come out! The best time to establish that relationship is during routine preventative healthcare, not during an emergency. Not all vet clinics take emergencies if you are not a current client, so the best way to ensure you will have help when you need it is to establish a client relationship ahead of time. Call your vet early if there is a problem. Attempting to wait it out or treat it yourself often makes the problem more difficult and expensive to treat later on. Ask your vet lots of questions! My docs love to help horse owners learn how to take the best possible care of their horses. Prepare a first aid kit and learn to take your horse’s vital signs. Don’t worry, I’ve covered both of those topics in my previous blogs.

If that all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Horses do require a few necessities to stay healthy, but my docs are always there to guide you through. They have Wellness Plans designed to cover all your horse’s required healthcare for the year, at a discounted price. My Springhill office humans can even take care of remembering when your horse is due for his next visit. And don’t fur-get about my blogs  – they’ll have you feline informed about most any horse care topic you can imagine!

 

Until next week,

Tony

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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What do horses see?

What do horses see?

Tuesdays with Tony

I get asked all the time about what horses can see. I am a cat of the people. I do as you ask. Okay, not really, but we can pretend. This week I have taken a deep dive into what horses can and can’t see. There’s also a link to a really cool video in this blog. Read on to find it!

The Eyes

To discuss horse vision, we have to start with the basics: the eyeballs. We’ve all got ‘em, but we’re all different. I’ve got pupils that turn into a vertical slit when constricted, and big, huge circles when dilated. You humans are all circles, all the time. It just gets bigger or smaller depending on the amount of light coming in. Horses have a horizontal slit that stays some version of a horizontal oval until they are really, really, really dilated. We’ve also got our eyes in different places on our heads. Cats and humans both have their eyes facing forward. I like to think this denotes us as the superior creatures we are. Horses have them on the side of their head. 

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Cats and horses share something called a reflective tapetum. This is the bright shiny thing you see when you take pictures of us in the dark, using the flash. What difference does it all make? Well let me tell you, a lot! Cat eyes are designed to get maximum use out of minimum light. When we don’t have properly trained human staff, we are a nocturnal creature. We have to be able to see our prey moving in the pitch black of night. Those vertical slit pupils, combined with forward facing eyes allow us to see movement, and target that movement precisely. The tapetum allows light entering our eyes to reflect back around, allowing us to get more bang per light beam than you humans. Horses can do some of the same things with light, but are generally not as great at seeing in the dark as cats, but better than humans. 

What horses do really, really, really well is see movement along the horizon. That’s what that horizontal pupil gets them. Doubt me? How many times has your horse seen what you thought was an imaginary dragon in the woods, only to have a deer wander out? Trust me, they can see movement way better than you and I can. This ability keeps wild horses alive. They have lions and tigers and plastic bags trying to eat them, and those guys know how to stalk! With their eyes on the side of their head, they are able to see that movement almost anywhere on their horizon. What they give up is high level spatial awareness. You and I can judge very closely how near or far we are from an object. Horses can’t do this with vision alone. They need their whiskers, sense of smell, and tactile clues from their limbs to help them know just how close they really are to something. 

The Colors

Okay, the color thing is pretty cool. Well, not for horses. They see some pretty boring colors. The differences between horses and humans though, that part is cool. I found this article while perusing the trustworthy side of Google: Google Scholar. It had this handy graphic showing the difference. 

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Photopigment basis for dichromatic color vision in the horse, Joseph Carrol, et all, Journal of Vision October 2001, Vol.1, 2.

These muted colors help explain why horses don’t worry about that very bright pink thing, but do often take a hard look at black things. Jump course designers will use this to draw a horse’s vision to a black rail or gate, making it easier or harder for the horse to determine what to jump depending on where the black component is placed. It doesn’t explain why they love that particular patch of grass versus another. They must use something other than visual clues there. As a very limited connoisseur of grass, I’m not sure what they use to decide. One of life’s great mysteries. 

Miscellaneous horse vision facts

The left and right eye do communicate. Cover your left eye, look at an object. Now cover your right eye. Your left eye wasn’t “surprised” by what it saw, was it? Yeah, it doesn’t work that way for horses either. Yeah, yeah, I know they spook at something they just saw when they see it with the other eye. It’s not because the object is somehow new on this side. It’s because they’re a horse. Actually, it’s probably because of the spatial awareness thing I talked about earlier. Researchers don’t have a concrete answer on this one. 

They are slower to adapt to light changes than humans, and way slower than cats. This is why they will sometimes balk at moving from a light area to a dark one. They can’t see. Give them a sec, and things will smooth out. 

They really can’t see directly in front of them. They do a pretty great job with the rest of their senses filling in this tiny gap. As you know, nothing stops a horse from finding the treat in your hand!

And finally, the link I promised, which is a really neat video showing what things look like from your horse’s perspective::

https://www.agdaily.com/video/simulation-shows-horse-eye-view/

That was a fun dive into horse vision! I might even admit I enjoyed researching this one. Next time you see my Docs, ask them to show you some of the vision tests we use in horses. It’s not a chart with a large E on it, but it does help them determine how well your horse can see things. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. In case you haven’t heard yet, we are having a New Horse Owner Seminar on Facebook Live. It will be happening this Thursday, August 26th at 6:30 PM on our FB page. Be sure to look for the event and click “going” or “interested” to be notified when we go Live!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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