Why do horses wear blinders?

Ever wondered why some horses in a race wear blinders during the race? Perhaps you have seen a horse with blinders in a parade pulling a wagon. I have also noticed this from time to time and I wanted to really understand why.

The main reason is that the blinders or blinkers can keep the horse safe and less worried by limiting his vision to the peripheral and focus on the task at hand instead of other disturbances. This focus stops them from spooking and causing damage to themselves or others.

Knowing what they are for is one thing but I really wanted to know their history and when the right time is to use them. Read on to find out more.

History

Blinders date back far further than people would think. The exact date is unknown; however, it is believed to have been first introduced by a priest who had bet with a friend that he would make his horse go up the stairs and come down.

At first, the priest had asked his horse to go up the stairs, and the horse did that quickly. However, when it reached the top and turned to come down, the house was full of fear and would not budge. Eventually, he decided to cover the horse’s head so that it cannot see the danger. He had realized that the blinders would keep his horse focused and less afraid. His horse managed to come down the stairs safely, and since then, blinders, also known as blinkers, have become a handy tool for people working with horses.

How much of their vision do they block?

The blinders restrict the horse vision with a percentage ranging from 180 to 30. The blinders can be worn by the horse on the cheeks, making it part of the bridle or integrated into a framework, for instance, in a facemask and put on over the head of the face.

Each blinder size is going to be different depending on the horse. Imagine a horse on a hill, eating away. What you will notice is the animal’s ears moving back and forth. What they are actually doing is moving their ears to hear what their eyes see. By putting blinders on a horse you are changing a few millennia of defensive instinct. Horse owners need to tinker with them in order to find the right one for their horse.

Understanding how effective blinders are

Horses have the potential to see what happens behind them, and pretty much everything happening around them. This is because they are created like other many prey animals with their eyes at the sides of their head. You can find them doing nothing but listening and looking to things around them. By doing this, they are trying to make sure that they are ready for any danger that might come their way. They develop such behavior as a defense mechanism towards any harm. According to the horse’s instinct, anything can potentially harm them and are easily startled by anyone or anything. The blinders are therefore created to reduce the horse visual awareness, with the primary objective being helping them to focus and finish the task ahead of them. The blinders help the horses to remain calm and fearless as they are less distracted by things in the surrounding.

Uses of blinders in a horse

Horse racing

Blinders are used to help improve the performances of racehorses. The general function of blinders is assisting the horses in focusing on the task ahead by reducing their visual distractions. Blinkers are supposed to improve horse performance in various ways;

  • Extension blinkers are supposed to prevent horses from running on one side but focus on finishing a straight course.
  • Blinders reduce visual distractions and allowing the horse to focus\
  • The blinders also help to keep dirt from entering the eyes of the horse. This usually happens when the horse is in a poorly maintained dirt area. During the race other horses may kick up dirt from the track causing irritation in your horse’s eye.
  • The blinders can make the horse sharpen their focus automatically. This is a psychological effect resulting from the association.
  • Horses that use blinders will improve and increase their speed.
  • Wearing blinkers for the first time by the horse will ensure that the horse runs further than it usually does.

Carriage racing

This is one of the common sport that calls for a horse to pull carts and wagons during the race. In this sport, the legs of the horse are hampered by harnesses preventing them from galloping. Eventually, the winning horse is the one that can trot faster than the others.

For many horses, the blinders are used to reduce distractions caused by things in the surrounding. Horses that farm can also be distracted and need blinders to stop from losing concentration and forgetting their main task. The blinders will cover the horse rear vision forcing it to look in the direction forward and keep on track. The blinders will also help the horse not to run while still attached to the wagon.

In big cities like New York City and others, you can find that there are many horse carriages available to be used for transportation. However, with the nature of a horse and a large number of people in the city, it is right to think of how this is possible and successful in this city.

Millions of people are moving back and forth the streets, and this needs a calm horse. A horse can sometimes feel that the carriage is a predator following him to cause harm.

The worst-case scenario is when the carriage has put together two horses, as this will keep the focus of the horses towards each other. However, blinders have made all this possible by cutting down the horse vision, and instead of him looking around, his little vision is focused on the road and the task at hand.

Equine vision

Horses are prey animals and therefore have peripheral vision. The blinders help in covering the rear sight of the horse forcing him to concentrate on one direction, and that is the forward direction. The vision reduction is significant as it can go from 180 to 30 degrees, depending on the size and depth of the blinder.

War blinders

Blinders were used during World War I. During this period, horses were used to transport cavalry units and armory. The horses needed blinkers to block them from getting distracted by artillery and the approaching armies.

Jeremy

Hey! My name is Jeremy. So far I haven't convinced the wife to hop on and write anything so I'm pretty much the only face you'll see. I've been a horse owner now for about 10 years, I bought my first horse while in college for a measly hundred bucks to impress this crazy horse lady that I wanted to date. Turns out we got married, adopted some kids, and kept on with our horse lifestyle.

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