How come we don't see any white racehorses

The eye

Reading in the eyes of a horse like reading a book? Sounds almost too good to be true. Many riders and horse owners hope that this will provide an answer to some behavior. In fact, it is often very easy to read in the eyes of our horse, as equine psychologist Jessica Tramm lets us know (
Interview: Jessica Classen; Photo: Daniel Elke

What do the eyes reveal about the horse?
The eye tells us a lot about the mental and physical condition of the horse. How is he? How does it feel - scared, insecure? Is it pain?

As a person, what can I learn from this observation in dealing with the horse?
If you know your horse well, you can read from his eyes and of course the whole horse how he is doing and react to it at an early stage. If it is not in a good mood, you can adjust the training accordingly, if it shows discomfort, you can inform the vet to clarify the state of health. If the eye is shiny and the horse reacts very curiously and attentively to its surroundings, this is a sign that it feels good and that it is mostly fine. If it looks impassive, does not react very much to its environment and looks inward, it can be a sign of pain. But be careful - even dozing horses look like this! It is therefore always necessary to look closely and observe the individual situation. Overtaxed sport horses also often have this expression during training, and there are more often wrinkles over the eye. This can indicate pain with various causes: riding too hard, equipment that is not suitable, rider too hard or other health problems. In very fearful horses you can often see wide-open eyes, and sometimes the white of the sclera is easy to see. These horses are in a panic and under tension. In some horses, however, the white in the eye is genetically determined. This is often the case, for example, with piebalds and horses with large markings.

Why do horses usually have dark eyes and no colors like humans?
This is genetic. Blue eyes are common in some breeds. If horses have lightening genes such as duns, this can also show up in the color of their eyes. Not always, but it can happen. How dark or light a horse's eyes get depends on how many pigments are embedded. Blue eyes have fewer color pigments. If the iris does not produce color pigments, red eyes occur, that is, the eyeball is colorless and the blood shimmers through easily. In horses with the Champagne gene, the eye colors even change, for example when they are born they have blue eyes, then change to green and, depending on the coat, later also to gray-brown.

What are the most common eye diseases?
For example, deep hollows over the eyes indicate sudden weight loss; Pink mucous membranes, on the other hand, indicate good health, while dark red colored mucous membranes indicate a local or systemic disease. This should be clarified by the veterinarian. The most common eye disease in horses is periodic eye inflammation "Equine recurrent uveitis" (ERU). This is an inflammation of the eye that can occur again and again at irregular intervals. The reason for this has not been clarified with certainty, it could be infectious agents, food, housing conditions or weather influences. The most likely is an immune-associated disease, which shows up as a hypersensitivity reaction of the eye and keeps coming back. One possibility that has been discussed is that the Leptospira bacteria are the cause. The route of transmission could be the urine of rats and mice. In some horses, the pathogen can then not only get into the bloodstream, but also into the eyes, where a reaction then occurs. This eye disease in horses is very dangerous as it can cause severe damage to the eye, as well as detachment of the retina and complete blindness, depending on where the damage is in the eye. This sometimes leads to extremely painful inflammations, if the inflammation is in the front part; or too few symptoms with inflammation that is just as damaging (posterior part). ERU is incurable, but the disease must always be treated by the veterinarian to avoid damage. But there are also other eye diseases such as conjunctivitis or corneal injuries. Here, too, a veterinary examination is always required for clarification. Especially in warm weather, there can be slight eye infections due to fly infestation. There is also the possibility of an accident that could damage the eye or block the tear and nasal passages. Shine and attention in the eye of the horse are always important. This shows that the horse is usually fine!

... you can find the entire series in our magazines Mein Pferd from 02/2016!

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