The Eyes Have It.

By Patty Wilber

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Longshot, Cometa and JD had mildly runny eyes. Cometa has had this issue for a long time, but JD and Longshot both got a barely noticeable cold back in November that seemed to precipitate the onset.  JD got over it with a little help from some Terramycin (an eye antibiotic), the other two did not.

Longshot is the worst. And it is not that bad.  No pus, no redness, just leaky-ness in one eye.

Longshot's runny eye.

 We could try to blame it on the blaze.  The white on his face extends over near his eye, and the result is a white sclera. (If the blaze dipped over further, it might have even caused the eye to be blue.) The sclera in  a human eye in normally white, but in horses it is often brown, to varying degrees.

Longshot’s other eye, which lacks the white sclera is fine.

Longshot's other eye: The sclera is brown because the blaze does not extend over as far, thus the pigment was not affected.

Sometimes white-rimmed eyes are more prone to sun (UV light)  irritation.  In New Mexico, with our 300 days of sunshine (yeah!) and our high altitude, this can be a greater problem than other locations. This is also why people often don’t like to run bald-faced cattle in NM–they are prone to eye problems.

But back to Longshot.  He has been outdoors all his life and this runny eye thing did not start until after the barely-there cold event, so I think evidence suggests it is not the sclera, but it tied to the cold.

I don’t know why Cometa’s eyes are prone to runny-ness. But I decided I was tired of it. In this picture, mid treatment, there is a little bit of goop, but not bad considering the wind is blowing a gazillion miles per hour today.  Anyone might have some.

Cometa, right side.

Cometa has unusual eyes, too.

Cometa, left side

His other eye is blue.  He has a white marking on his face, but it does not dip over near his eye, and his sclera is brown. So his blue eye was apparently caused by a different genetic mechanism than Longshot’s  white sclera.  Blue eyes are common in Cometa’s family and sometimes in his more loudly colored cousins, the brown eye is on the white side and the blue eye is on the dark side!   Both his eyes are equally functional and equally prone to this mild discharge.

So, Longshot’s dad and I conferred and decided to split the trip charge to call Dr. Dralle.  He’s the guy who saved Lacey from the joint infection and cured Longshot’s contracted tendon’s. We like him.

Dr. Dralle decided to flush the tear ducts.

1. Drug the patient, who without pharmaceutical aid is unlikely to accede to the procedure.

2. The procedure: Get a syringe with a thin flexible tube on the end, fill the syringe with water, stick the tube into a little hole in the wall of the nasal passage and insert the water.

3.  The hole is a duct that normally allows the tears to drain into the mouth and be swallowed.  If the duct is blocked, the tears leak out the eye instead.  So in went the water and pretty soon it was coming out the eye! Party Trick:  make milk ooze out your eyes!

4.  But bad news, sort of.  The ducts in neither horse were blocked.

Side note:  Cometa had two of those duct openings in his nose on one side and only one on the other.  Two is not uncommon.

So, what to do now?  Antibiotic drops of two different types for three days.  Four times a day would be nice, but two was all I could reasonably manage.  Then three to four days of an ointment.

Good thing both Longshot and Cometa are fairly small and easy-going.  Here is my eye drop technique:

Rest the victim's head on my shoulder, roll back the eye lid, add the drops. Longshot is demonstrating. They were both surprisingly cooperative. Cometa is super easy to bribe, so I gave him treats afterwards, and although he is not exactly ecstatic about the whole deal, he does anticipate the reward.

So, far, Cometa’s eyes seem to be responding but Longshot’s does not.  I wonder if I should also treat his “good” side? I will start on the ointment next.

White sclera is one of the four Appaloosa characteristics. (Striped hooves, mottled skin, and a coat pattern–often spots–are the other three.) To get full registration, a horse must have three of the four.

Here are some more eyes:


Penny, registered Appaloosa with two fully registered Appaloosa parents. No white sclera (no hoof stripes, no mottled skin, no spots!!) Oh well! In order to get a registered appy baby out of Penny, I would need to breed her to a stallion with full registration.


Tabooli, registered Quarter Horse. He has a blaze that edges over, which produced white sclera (and he is a 1/2 bro to Longshot). He has mottled skin. He has striped hooves ( no spots), but that's three out of four. I wonder if I could sneak him into the Appy ranks? Every so often a horse with a full on Appaloosa blanket and spots is born to two Quarter Horse parents...genetics!


Buckshot is a registered Appaloosa and is four for four in the Appy characteristic contest. You can just see the white sclera in this picture.


Lacey is a registered QH. Her sclera is very brown. Can't see the white of this girl's eye! Cowboy lore suggests that horses with a lot of white are edgier than those without. Doesn't hold true with this bunch. All are pretty good!

Longshot and Lacey.

Lacey and Longshot say: "hey! what r u doing with that little box-thing u keep pointing around? pick us!"


JD-registered paint--but he has no paint markings! Brown sclera.

Curly Moe. Last but not least.  Big soft brown Fjord eyes.  Awww.

Fjord's are remarkably homogenous in appearance, but I think Curly Moe has especially lovely eyes! The black skin around the eye must be an advantage if working in snow on a sunny day in Norway!

And last segue.  Fjords were bred to pull a cart, pull a plow, be ridden, and be DINNER if need be (or of inferior quality).  (We are not planning to eat Curly Moe, however.)  In National Geographic this month is an article about Kazakhstan.  The Kazakh’s are (were?) famed for their horsemanship.  They eat horsemeat (sausage was ordered in the article) and their national drink is koumiss–fermented mare’s milk.

The Fjords in Norway and the Kazakh horses were an integral part of cultures that were once subsistence in nature, thus fully utilizing everything was important. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like in both, because the living working animal was crucial to survival, as was the meat of a dead equine, horses may have been both prized companions AND dinner.

Eye wonder? Is it only because our society is so affluent that we have the luxury of separating the two?

The wind has died down.  So much for the lecture eye was going to write.  Eye am going out to the barn!




About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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7 Responses to The Eyes Have It.

  1. Crysta says:

    If you hadn’t said the last photo was a horse, I’d have thought it was a dog. XD Moe’s head is so rounded, and his eye so soft that he reminds me of a labrador for some reason, lol.

  2. patty says:

    Hi Crysta–ol Curly Moe does have a very nice eye! He is doing really well –he is 9 and just now being trained. Sometimes that is a bad combo, but he is making excellent progress! It must be that eye!

  3. Vicky says:

    If Norwegian’s will eat “lutefisk” (lyed fish) and “Sursild” (pickled herring) I’m sure that some horse meat would be a good and welcomed change. Not all the world is rich enough to have the luxury of just wasting a 800-1,000 pounds of meat by burying it.
    The Cheyenne, Cherokee and Shawnee considered mule meat to be even better that horse.

  4. Patty says:

    I really really LIKE pickled herring!!

  5. Cathy McManus says:

    This is going to sound weird but you can use a product called cephapirin sodium which is a antibiotic used for lactating cows (it’s shot up the utters) in your horse’s eyes when they look goopy and used two or three days in a row gets rid of most anything and best of all it onlly costs around $2.50 for a whole syringe you can use many times if kept refrigerated. Better than Terramyacin I think.

    • BlogPatty says:

      Hi Cathy–will look into that one.
      Hi Lori! Those nosey ones are the “babies” even though they are technically 2 at this point!

  6. Lori Wilson says:

    I enjoyed your blog. Lots of interesting stuff. Loved the pic of the two nosey horses! 🙂

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