Why Do Horses Wear Blinders?

Why do horses wear blinders?

You may have observed horses wearing blinders or blinkers, but what exactly are they? They are in fact  small pieces of leather that attach to a horse’s bridle and are placed on the side of their head.

There are many types that are used as a way of limiting their peripheral vision. 

If you’re familiar with the saying “he’s got blinkers on” this is where it originated.

It refers to someone who can’t see a wider perceptive, just like a horse with a  blinder or blinker. But what exactly is their purpose? 

Vision And Behaviour

It’s useful to consider how a horse’s vision affect how he behaves. Horses in the wild need to be on alert for predators.

As a result of evolution, their eyesight is excellent and an important part of protecting themselves from predators if needed. 

Horse’s eyes are positioned at the side and because of this, they have a wide range of vision. They are able to efficiently switch between binocular and monocular vision.

Simply put, this means that they are able to use their vision to view both sides at separate times. They are also able to view an object using both eyes at the same time. 

All this suggests that equines can get large quantities of aesthetic data in their environment. Whilst this is vital in the wild, it can cause horses to behave anxiously and get distracted.

This is where the benefits of blinders are plentiful. They help to reduce the field of vision for a horse and focus on what’s directly in front of them.

It helps them relax and focus on the job it’s doing. Let’s look at some examples of when this may be needed.

Why do horses wear blinders?

Pulling Carriages 

With all the visual information that horses have to deal with, they can sometimes become distracted and volatile. 

Horses usually pull carriages in areas that are popular with vacationers, as many horse-loving people enjoy watching them.

However, that can suggest they operate in places packed with sights and audios, and full of both people and traffic.

Horse-drawn carriages are a popular attraction in cities like New York as well as New Orleans, for instance.

A horse that’s drawing a carriage needs to concentrate on its task. If it’s shocked by something taking place around it,

it may get spooked and bolt, creating a dangerous situation for them and any passengers behind them. 

Horses typically operate in pairs to pull carriages and they are also very curious animals by nature. They can even get sidetracked by their partner.

If they happen to take a dislike to each other, it can create a difficult situation. 

An additional problem when horses are engaged in pulling carriages is their instinctual nature when it comes to chasing prey.

On occasion, a horse can think that a carriage behind them is actually a predator. This also can cause horses to bolt. 

Every one of those issues can be prevented by using blinders. They maintain the horse’s focus on what’s taking place in front of them,

reducing distractions around the periphery. This helps the horse to keep moving forward and prevents bumping into any other equines paired alongside him.

Why do horses wear blinders?

Horse Racing 

During horse racing, there are a lot of stimuli for our equine friends. There are hoards of people shouting,  the commentator, and the rider, not to mention lots of horses running alongside each other. 

In addition, there are lots of other risk factors. Horses are galloping at full speed and jumping fences. A foot wrong can cause catastrophic consequences.

If a horse looks around and gets distracted, it could cost them the race, or worse. Therefore, it’s vital that the horse is able to stay focused and calm amidst the general chaos. 

In the United States, blinders are regularly used to aid with this task. Cups are fixed onto a material hood that the horse wears.

As a result, their vision is impaired and can see around them between 20-180 degrees. 

Whether to utilize blinders is the choice of the jockey or horse trainer who has worked with the horse and learned about his temperament. 

It’s been discovered that for some horses, restrictive blinders can make them feel more anxious as they can be claustrophobic.

Some jockeys think this is a good thing as it helps horses get the race off to a good start as they are trying to escape the blinder that has been placed on them.

However, this is counterproductive as the horse will tire quickly and slow down sooner. 

Blinders used in competing come in several designs, with various functions.

Medicinal Reasons 

Sometimes blinders are used to help a horses recover from surgical procedures or damaged eyesight. For some horses, the light can cause pain and blinders can help protect the eyes from the brightness.  

If a horse has injured its eyes, it can further damage them if they rub them on something, so a blinder with cups is helpful and will prevent causing painful abrasions. 

Types Of Blinders 

Full Blinders or the extension cup type seem to be the most restrictive. They are often used on horses that have a habit of drifting towards the outside of the track.

They are placed on the side of the horse that they veer towards, enabling them to keep running in a straight line.

Standard Blinkers are the most common design and are used the most. A cup that has a small hole in the center covers around 2 3rds of the horses’ eye.

It is less restrictive than the previously mentioned blinder, and a small hole enables the horse to see other animals.

A Semi Cup Blinder allows even more freedom, and a French cup is simply a small area of plastic that extends out from the hood.

There are also the Cheater Cup designs that are simply used to let the horse know it;’s time to race and serve no other purpose in terms of limiting vision.

Blinders aren’t usually used during races in Europe. They tend to use Cheekpieces that are made from sheepskin and sit in strips on a horse’s cheeks.

They are bound by certain rules, and they aren’t allowed to be too big. Furthermore, they limit peripheral vision without causing anxiety and are smaller than blinders.

So we can see that sometimes blinders are useful and sometimes restrictive, it’s up to you to decide if they are something worth utilizing for your equine friend.

Catherine McDowl
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