What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Reluctant to Move in the Dark or into Dark Places


Horses that seem hesitant to move in the dark may not have normal night vision. Horses normally do have some ability to see in low light conditions. Horses that appear to have vision problems only at night or in dark areas may be experiencing generalized vision loss or they may have congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB), which is a congenital defect that is usually found in certain Appaloosa and Appaloosa crosses. On the other hand, visual deficits can be difficult to tell from generalized resistance.

If your horse is not an Appaloosa or Appaloosa cross, and it suddenly begins to exhibit similar behaviors, it may likely be suffering from "normal" vision loss, not CNSB.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

You can conduct a simple vision test yourself (see the related skill), but you should consult with your vet regarding your findings and concerns. Consider whether there is any other behavior that suggests worsening vision.

your vet's role

Your vet performs an ophthalmic exam, looking for eye abnormalities. Along with this is a rough assessment of vision. In some cases, ophthalmic conditions are discovered that may be treated. With obvious eye disease ruled out, more effort can be addressed to the training aspects of the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Is the horse an Appaloosa or does it have Appaloosa bloodlines?
  • Do the problems you observe only occur after dark?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Does your horse seem to see well during the day?
  • Do your horse's eyes seem normal to you otherwise?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP