Horse Blinders : What, Why, How, Impacts and Amazing Facts


Horse Blinders : What, Why, How, Impacts and Amazing Facts

Gears and equipment are important for horses. From bridle, halters to saddles, we have seen horses wearing different gears. And often we have seen horses with leather or plastic cups placed on either side of their eyes.

Horse blinder restricts horses’ wide peripheral vision and makes them focus on what is there in front of them. It minimizes their chance of getting distracted and stressed out in an emergency.

Unlike humans, horses have about a 350-degree field of vision, which makes their peripheral vision strong. This, however, tend to limit their focusing power on what lays in front of them. Horse owners often believe that to increase horses’ working efficiency, it is necessary to make them focus on their front. 

Hence, here comes the usage of blinders or blinkers. But how do blinkers work for horses? Does every horse need blinkers? How do these pieces of leather flaps or cups help horses? This post will help us know all the why’s, how’s, what’s, and other amazing facts associated with horse blinders, or blinkers. 

Let’s delve deep to learn more!

Image Credit: Horse with blinder by Tanuj Handa from Pixabay

What is a horse-eye cover called?

Horses have their eyes on the sides of their heads. It means they have peripheral vision and can get easily distracted unless their eyes are covered from the sides to make them remain focused. 

The leather bands or cups that are used to cover horses’ eyes are called blinkers or blinders. The blinkers are attached to an independent hood or bridle. Nowadays horses are also adorned with blinker hoods, which can mostly be seen among the racing horses. Blinkers help horses to stay focused on what is there in front of them. 

Although not mandatory horse gear, blinkers or blinders are common among racehorses. This equipment helps racehorses to concentrate on the task in front of them without any outside distractions. Similarly, driving horses also wear these eye covers to avoid being distracted by the street noise. 

What do winkers do for a horse?

Racehorses are encouraged to enhance their focus on what is ahead, rather than what is at the side or behind. For this reason, paddings or cups are attached to their bridle to limit their wraparound vision.

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Much like the blinkers, winkers also act as peripheral vision restrictors. Winkers are blocked leather eye shields attached to the cheek-pieces of a bridle to limit the horses’ range of rear vision. In other words, much like blinkers, winkers are also used to prevent the horses from seeing sideways or behind them. 

That being said, winkers tend to be softer than traditional blinkers and can be a good option for young horses. Also, winkers are better than blinkers, as they are less intrusive and do not restrict the horse’s view much. 

Why cover horses’ eyes?

There can be more than a single reason to cover your horse’s eyes. And by covering it does not mean your horse won’t be able to see. Let’s get into some of the most common reasons to cover a horse’s eye. 

Horses’ eyes are needed to be covered to limit their almost 350- degree peripheral vision. By covering their eyes, with blinkers, their field of vision gets reduced and they stay focused on their tasks. Also, by covering horses’ eyes, we can block out distractions around them. 

That being said, horses that are trained for racing, riding, or carrying loads are more prone to be geared with eye covers. Other than limiting their vision, horses’ eyes are covered to

  • Protect them against flies and irritants
  • Protect them from sunlight
  • Save their eyes
  • Maintain the safety of the riders
  • Reduce startling

Do blinkers help horses?

Blinkers come in different sizes and are made of either leather, plastic, or cloth. Many horse trainers believe that blinkers keep horses focused on what is in front.

Blinkers do help horses in more than one way as below:

  • Shielding their eyes 
  • Helping horses to run straight 
  • Keeping them focused during a race
  • Helping them run faster
  • Taming the horses that dealing with new riders
  • Keeping them calm in a busy place

It is also believed that blinkers can assist horses to use their binocular field vision by restricting their monocular field vision. In other words, blinkers act as external forces that help to shape the way a horse sees.  

How do blinkers affect horses?

Equines have the largest eyes of any land mammal. They have an incredible field of vision, which is an astonishing 350-degrees. It is their nature to depend on their eyesight to respond to any threat.

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Blinkers shut off the peripheral vision of horses, thus encouraging them to focus on what is in front of them. It is believed that blinkers can reduce a horse’s vision by almost 150 degrees. In other words, these gears narrow down what the horse actually sees, which in a way reduces possible distractions to the sides and rear. 

Blinkers are used to calm horses down, especially when they are surrounded by a crowd, other animals, or noise. That being said, whenever you use blinkers on your horse, try to read its expressions and body language to understand its emotions. 

Does covering a horse’s eyes calm them?

The main purpose of using blinkers is to narrow down the field of vision of horses. Now there remains a question if covering a horse’s eyes can help it calm down?

Covering the eyes of a horse means making it see less of what is happening around and eventually makes them calm. When walking in a parade, running in a race, or walking through a busy road, some horses can have a negative stress response. By covering their eyes, you can help them to focus only at the front and eliminate any distractions that may agitate them. 

Can you ride a horse with blinders?

Horse blinders, or blinkers, are used to cover the peripheral vision of horses, to make them see less. These types of equipment help the equines to stay focused and less distracted while in action. 

It is better to ride a horse wearing blinders. Although not “must-needed” equipment, you will often find race and draft horses wearing blinders with people on them. Blinders do not fully cover horses’ eyes, but their ability to see peripherally. So, the rider can have full control over the horse in terms of changing direction and speed level. 

Blinders prevent horses to freak out in an emergency. That being said, it is always recommended to have some horse riding experience before you attempt to ride your horse, with or without blinders. 

Can you drive a horse without blinkers?

Image Credit: Horses driving cart wearing blinkers from Pxhere

As we have already stated, blinkers are not mandatory equipment for horses. However, they can drastically improve the equines’ performance during a race, or any other activity.

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That being said, you can drive a horse without blinkers but it is not recommended. Horses are prey animals and tend to get stressed out even with the minutest issue. If a horse is not happy and tends to show signs of stress while driving it, a wide field of vision may go against it as well as the rider, putting both in danger.

If your horse is well trained and used to carry out actions without blinkers or bridle, you can try to drive it without any equipment. However, you must understand the nature of your horse before taking any decision. Your horse’s body language, sight, and expressions would tell you what it prefers. 

Racing horse-eye cover

Image Credit: Racing horse with blinker hood by MJ Boswell (CC BY 2.0)

Perhaps blinders or eye covers are mostly used on racehorses. Racehorses must focus on the track in front of them. So, different horse-eye covers are used n racehorses or thoroughbreds.

The blinders, or blinkers, in racing, are a part of the horse’s headgear. They come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, racehorses, or thoroughbreds, are equipped with blinder hoods that cover their head as well as eyes from the sides. Some common types of racehorse blinders are:

  • French cups
  • Semi cups
  • Extension cups
  • Standard blinders
  • Cheater cups
  • Masks without blinders
  • Customized cups

Horse owners who do not prefer blinders are often found to use cheek-pieces. They are attached to the sheepskin to the bridle to prevent horses from seeing its jockey and rear distractions. 

Are blinders cruel for horses?

The philosophy behind using horse blinders is to restrict horses’ wider field of vision. They help horses to ignore the triggers around them that could possibly stress them out. 

Now there remains an ethical tug of war between if blinders are cruel for horses or not. The answer to this varies. From the human perspective, putting on blinders is beneficial for the horses as they help them calm their nerves. But from the equine’s perspective, this equipment prevents them to see their surroundings naturally. 

That being said, if put in a proper way, blinders do not harm the horses. But making them wear the blinder for long, especially during the hot summer days, can surely cause distress and overheating.  Also, in certain situations, putting blinders, or eye covers becomes necessary to prevent horses from eye injuries or spooking out while visiting the vet.

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