Can horses die after seeing too much?
April 7, 2007 12:19 AM   Subscribe

I once saw/heard something on horses that were used underground in (coal?) mines... the reference was short and was phrased as something like this "... it's like those horses used in the (coal?) mines, they are underground in the dark for so long (years?) that when they are brought up from the mines and get to see far away into the horizon they die of shock."

I can't remember if the reference was in a movie or it was something just said out loud... Does this have any validity? I couldn't find anything online about it... but I guess I am wondering 1st of all where I heard this before? 2nd Is it the light that would kill them or the sudden depth, color, or "amount" of vision? and if this does happen; is it just to horses that this happens to?
posted by MrBCID to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Yep. They were called Pit ponies. They were used to drag the carts along underground.
posted by Solomon at 12:38 AM on April 7, 2007


I don't know about "death from shock" after being exposed to light, but horses were used in mining, and some sources claim they were kept mainly underground, while others oppose this claim. Here is one good source on pit ponies and their behaviour above/below ground.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 12:44 AM on April 7, 2007


Well, yeah, pit ponies are real but the "died on seeing the horizon" thing sounds like bullshit. Pit ponies would regularly come above ground.
posted by ninebelow at 12:45 AM on April 7, 2007


It sounds like the Pit Ponies were well cared for.

http://www.newrider.com/Library/How_it_Was/pit_ponies.html

Sorry, don't know how to link :(

What Felicity said
posted by JujuB at 12:50 AM on April 7, 2007


They used them in Wales and England, mainly. The BBC did a show about them, hosted by some guy from the Fast Show (if you're Bri'ish, please drop the name in).
posted by parmanparman at 1:09 AM on April 7, 2007


This reference is very familiar, and the two books I've read recently on mining are Germinal and The Road To Wigan Pier. I can't locate the reference anywhere in Wigan Pier, and I don't have a copy of Germinal to check.
posted by liquidindian at 4:25 AM on April 7, 2007


The oldest surviving pit pony in the UK actually died this past week.
posted by meerkatty at 5:26 AM on April 7, 2007


parmanparman
I think it was probably Mark Williams
posted by kenchie at 10:18 AM on April 7, 2007


AFAIK they went on holiday to some grassy paddock at the same time as the miners went to the seaside.
posted by Dr.Pill at 10:33 AM on April 7, 2007


I remember a story associated with the uranium mines of Joachimstahl in the present-day Czech Republic, about donkeys(?) born in the mines who had never been above ground, that were brought to the surface during an unprecedented miner's strike, but instead of dying, these donkeys threw themselves down in the high grass and writhed on their backs in prolonged ecstasy.
posted by jamjam at 12:51 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks all for your answers; after reading some more into this with the help of your answers it seems that the pit ponies acted erratically when surfaced after being underground a long time… nothing on them “dying of shock” though… The reference I had heard if I remember correctly was implying that the shock experienced by these animals after being in the dark for so long would also be the same in humans; any scientific evidence that humans after being in the dark for an extended period of time or since birth can go into shock if brought out to the open? I think the reference had more to do with the overload or distance of vision more so than the amount of light entering the eye…
posted by MrBCID at 10:10 PM on April 7, 2007


any scientific evidence that humans after being in the dark for an extended period of time or since birth can go into shock if brought out to the open?

There's a new book out about how most people who have been blind for most of their lives end up committing suicide after their sight is restored.
posted by drezdn at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2007


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