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Horse Whiskers (For Blind Horses) - Interview With The Creator

By Jeffrey Rolo

When you're a life-long horse owner, you tend to stumble across a wide assortment of niche horse products, whether at the local tack store, at horse conventions, or on the Internet. When I received an e-mail from Kirk Simon introducing me to a new product he created (Horse Whiskers) that is designed to assist blind horses, my curiosity was sparked. Although I've never owned a completely blind horse myself, I know full-well that even partial sight-impairment can present certain challenges to both horse and owner. So anything that can effectively improve an impaired horse's situation catches my interest.

I thought it would be pretty cool to do a quick interview with Kirk so that he could briefly provide advice to blind horse owners as well as discuss his product, Horse Whiskers, with you. Before moving on to the interview, I would like to pass on a disclaimer: I have not used this product, and as such I am not providing a personal recommendation. This interview is provided for your information only since I do believe it is worth considering if you own a blind horse.

Now on with the interview…

Picture of Hank wearing Horse WhiskersAH: Hi Kirk, thanks for taking the time to chat about the challenges of blind horses and your new product, Horse Whiskers. Before we begin, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your equine buddy, Hank?

Answer: I worked at a horse ranch with 185 horses and Hank was in his stall and was not allowed out because of his sight. The owner wanted to shoot him because he said he couldn't work or make money for him. So I asked the owner for several months if I could buy him, and on Christmas, he gave him to me. And he's been with me ever since.

AH: Was Hank always blind, or was this a condition that you both had to adjust to?

Answer: No. When I got him he was half blind, and as time went by his vision got worse. I understand it all started with a stick that poked him in the eye, which was never taken care of properly. His other eye developed cataracts.

AH: What are some of the special challenges that an owner of a blind horse may face?

Answer: The two must learn to trust each other, so the fear factor is removed.

AH: For those who haven't heard about Horse Whiskers before, could you explain a bit about your product and how it works?

Answer: All details are listed with photos in my website, but basically, Horse Whiskers is an aide to assist the horse with feelers and bumpers that will alert him as to the closeness of objects and to protect him from injury.

AH: How quickly did Hank adapt to your invention, and how has it improved his quality of life?

Answer: It took about 30 minutes for Hank to adapt to this new product. He has more confidence in his surroundings, is able to maneuver better in his environment, and is willing to socialize more and participate with me more.

AH: Some that are reading this might be thinking to themselves, "Great, it protects the forehead, but horses don't walk around with their heads tucked into their chests – they use their nose and natural horse whiskers!" What would you say to them?

Answer: Hank still has all the natural senses he was born with.  This product will assist him from bumping into obstacles that are placed higher in his environment, such as hooks, beams, open windows, posts, branches, fences -- all items that would not normally be felt by his nose whiskers, but would have been obvious if he had his sight.

AH: Many horsemen and veterinarians often advise owners of horses that are losing, or have already lost, their vision that euthanasia is the best answer. People often believe that a horse owner will no longer gain anything fruitful from a blind horse, and that the horse itself will never have a good quality of life again.

Obviously you disagree. What made you decide to buck this all-too-popular belief, and what advice would you give to someone facing the prospect of a horse going blind?

Answer: You must love that horse, decide that he is worth working with, and you must make the commitment to safety-proof his environment and ensure that his safety and quality of life are positive place to live. I have a saying, "My horse may be blind, but he still knows how to love."

AH: Are there any tips or words of wisdom that you would like to share with blind horse owners that may make their situation more comfortable or productive?

Answer: Blind horses are still very usable, and are ridden everyday. There is no reason to discard a good, loving animal because of one handicap. Horses are very adaptable, such as if we come to a step or log, he now listens to my verbal cues, and I can tell him "Hank...step up" and he lifts his legs accordingly. They are amazing.

AH: Thanks again Kirk for sharing your insight about blind horses, and letting AlphaHorse readers know about your new product.

If you think your horse may benefit from Horse Whiskers, I recommend you visit www.horsewhiskers.com to learn more about them. You can also contact Kirk directly via his website, or by phone at 516-455-0431.

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