Blindfolding your Horse is a Neurological Test

February 4, 2008 (published)

There is a simple test to help differentiate a lameness from a musculoskeletal disease or a neurological disease. Sometimes lameness can appear to be related to pain, and yet it is possible the cause could be a nervous system disease. Although you may be expecting me to talk about some high tech test, I am only talking about blindfolding the horse. Many horses with arthritis will continue walking in the same manner when blindfolded, but if a horse has a neurological cause of the lameness, sometimes a blindfold makes these horses lamer. Without the blindfold, they can see where to place their feet when walking and can correct some degree of the lameness, but when blindfolded they cannot see where to place their limbs and the lameness is much worse. Blindfolding is also used in humans by neurologists to help determine the amount of neurological disease and the location of the problem.

A group of European researchers looked at 21 horses that had ataxia, a type of hobbling when walking, and 21 that were normal. All horses were fitted with reflective markers to objectively examine their gaits and were walked with and without a blindfold. After examining their results, the authors found that blindfolding did indeed increase the gait abnormalities in the horses with neurological disorders. It is believed that blindfolding may also be helpful in assessing the treatment to determine the horse's response to it. There are hundreds of products on the market for arthritis, but these will not be helpful if your horse has a nervous system disease. Unfortunately, treatment of many nervous system diseases is not always successful, as it depends on the type of disease.

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