The eyes are the window to the soul. What many people don’t realize is that the eye – the iris, to be exact – can also mirror physical health, in both humans and animals. By analyzing the various spots, flecks, lines and discolorations in the iris of a person, dog, cat or horse through eye iridology, potential health problems and imbalances can be determined and corrected.

Looking back
The Greek physician Hippocrates was said to have looked in the eyes for signs of illness, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that eye iridology was rediscovered by Hungarian physician Ignatz von Peczely and Swedish clergyman Nils Liljequist. Legend has it that as a boy, Peczely captured an owl and, during the commotion, the bird broke its leg. Peczely noticed that an odd mark appeared on the owl’s iris shortly afterwards, and that as the wound healed, the spot changed.

In 1950, Bernard Jensen, DC, PhD, pioneered iridology in the U.S. and developed a grid which mapped out the relation of various organs and tissues to the human iris. Although this grid loosely correlated to the horse’s eye, it wasn’t until recently that a specialized grid was developed for equines.

How does iridology work?

Iridology involves reading the iris (the colored part of the eye) for imbalances in the body. Essentially, the iris is a “blueprint” of the tissues and organs, and can reflect areas and stages of inflammation as well as the healing process. Each part of the iris correlates to different areas of the body, with the left eye corresponding with the left side and the right eye with the right. Interestingly, the iris is set up in the same order as the body. In other words, going in a clockwise direction around the pupil, issues associated with the head appear at the top of the iris, then move down and through the internal areas and organs, and back up towards the head again.

Issues show up as spots, flecks, streaks, lines and texture changes in various colors and shades. Iridologists believe these marks occur because of the thousands of nerve endings attached to the optic nerve as well as the base of the brain and every other tissue and organ in the body. The iridologist uses a specialized grid to correlate the markings to the related locations in the body. It should be noted that iridology is not a true diagnostic technique in that it cannot determine specific diseases. It only picks up imbalances and changes within the body.

Reading equine eyes
Thanks to naturopath Mercedes Colburn and Dena Eckerdt, DVM, eye iridology is quickly becoming an integral part of preventative horse care. “The markings of the iris represent a detailed picture of the body’s integrity in areas such as constitutional strength, areas of congestion, toxic accumulations, digestive health and inherent strengths and weakness,” says Dr. Colburn.

Using either a sophisticated camera to take a picture of the horse’s iris, or a penlight to document the marks on an eye diagram, the iridologist compares his or her findings to the Equine Iridology Grid. This grid, developed by Drs. Colburn and Eckerdt, took almost ten years to finalize through charting hundreds of horses and using a double blind system of testing and follow-up veterinary exams. A dog and cat grid has also recently been developed.

The grid, which is shaped like an iris, is sectioned off and labeled with the corresponding areas of the body. Those who study eye iridology can not only see where tissue damage or imbalance is located, but also the degree of damage and whether it is recent or old, depending on the color of the sign and the smoothness of the iris. According to Dr. Colburn, there are four stages of inflammation, each with a corresponding color.

1. Acute – shows up as a white mark on iris and is often a painful issue.

2. Sub-acute – yellow and still often painful to the horse.

3. Chronic – presents as gray in color and often indicates a less painful, older issue.

4. Degenerative – shows up as dark gray or black, indicating long-term, often more serious issues, such as toxicity or a deficiency.

Iridology is a valuable tool that can be used to detect underlying signs of imbalance, often before physical signs show up. However, it is up to the caregiver to take the appropriate action to correct problems. “The main issues seen in horses today are related to improper worming and feeding practices as well as continuing to work a horse before injuries have been corrected or healed,” says Dr. Colburn. Even non-physical problems such as stress, which can lead to physical issues, can be seen in the horse’s iris. It is especially important to follow a holistic approach to correct any imbalance and support the horse in every aspect of his life. This includes nutrition, environment, handling, and even the discipline he is being worked in.

Next time you gaze lovingly into your equine partner’s eyes, take a closer look – he may be telling you more than you know!

Want to learn more? Through the Eye International offers a variety of educational materials, products and services including a study course, seminars, consultations, an equine iridology book, and grids for horses, dogs and cats.