Unfortunately my five-year-old Haflinger mare lost her eye because of an accident. I wondered how you would work with her, because she can not see anything on her left side and your training methods are based on body language. Have you ever worked with a (half) blind horse and how would you do that?
Noa van Os (The Netherlands)
Dear Noa van Os,
It was 1984 and during the Los Angeles Olympics that I was notified to appear in Superior Court dead center in Los Angeles. It was memorable because they called it the traffic challenge of the century as the Olympics were in full swing. As an expert witness, I remember taking the stand to testify in the case of a young lady being severely injured while riding a borrowed horse which had only one eye.
The case happened to be against the owner who loaned the horse to the young lady. I didn’t have a connection with either side of the lawsuit. I was called by the attorneys to give expert testimony regarding the issues faced by the rider of the one-eyed horse. I felt I was doing a good job when the judge interrupted the proceedings and said he had a few questions himself.
The judge then asked me if I had ever given advice to someone who intended to ride a one-eyed horse. I responded by saying I had done that on many occasions. The judge then asked me if I was in the habit of teaching people to ride, train or handle horses in general. My answer was yes, most of my life. The judge asked me if I felt the rider or handler was placed in the safest possible position when riding or handling the one-eyed horse. I responded by saying “Other things being equal, a horse with two eyes is safer than a horse with one eye.”
With that the judge announced that he appreciated my testimony and in the future he would use that knowledge to find that an instructor/advisor was not giving the best advice possible to someone intending to ride or handle a one-eyed horse. The judge indicated that the owner of the horse should have given the advice stating that this was less than an entirely safe situation. The judge went on to say that in his opinion no professional should give any advice about handling or riding a one-eyed horse to anyone at any time.
He said that there is evidence that there are many horses on this earth with two eyes and if they are safer then that is what the inquirer should be riding or handling. I had a private conversation with the judge at the close of the day. He advised me against risking my reputation as a professional against giving any advice regarding a one-eyed horse. He said its simply too risky, and he reminded me that one has probably no idea regarding the ability of the inquirer or in fact, what that person might be intending to do. I hope you understand, Noa, why I have followed that advice without exception since 1984.