Seeing Stars

Q: I have a Quarter Horse mare that stares into lights. She does this with both electric lights and the sun or moon. She'll stare for a while when she first gets into the arena and when she's just turned out, then she goes about her business. She's always done this, and she has no eye or sinus problems that we know of. Why might she be doing this?

A: There are several possible reasons for the behavior, and we will probably never know the real reason. Some animals take longer to adjust to the change in light intensity and so hold still, or appear to be staring, until they have adjusted. This would most likely be true if there is a sudden significant difference in the amount of light. For example, if the mare goes from one very light area into another very light area we wouldn't expect her to stop and "stare," but if she goes from a relatively dark inside of the barn to a brighter outside, or if she is inside a barn at night and the light is then turned on, time to adjust seems like a reasonable explanation.

Another possibility is that some animals have a fixation with light. While this is seen more often in dogs than horses, it certainly can occur. Because the light is noticeable compared to things around it, it seems to draw attention. Humans have a tendency to look at the lightest area in a landscape, too, we just tend not to stare at it very long.

About the Author

Bonnie V. Beaver, BS, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVB

Bonnie V. Beaver, BS, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVB, is a professor of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.

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