If you’re someone who enjoys equestrian sports, you must have wondered, “Why do horses wear blinders?” From the Grand National horse race to the Derby Roundhouse in Peaky Blinders and dray wagons pulled by horses, you’ve seen nothing but a team of horses with blinders.
But the answer to “what blinders actually are, and why do horses wear them” remains elusive.
- 1 What are blinders?
- 2 The History Behind Horse Blinders
- 3 The Uses Of Horse Blinders
- 4 Types of Horse Blinders
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Final Thoughts
What are blinders?
According to the American Academy of ophthalmology, blinders, colloquially known as blinkers, are a piece of horse tack attached to a horse’s bridle or hood to restrict its rear-side view and avoid distractions. The blinders can either be a full or half cup, depending on the circumstances and reduce a horse’s vision from 180 – 30 degrees.
The History Behind Horse Blinders
The use of horse blinders dates back to the 1850s when a priest placed a bet with his friend that he could make his horse go up and down the stairs of his home.
Surprisingly, the horse climbed up the stairs effortlessly. However, as soon as the horse reached the top, it faltered and was hesitant to come downstairs. In order to calm the horse, the priest covered his eyes so that he could not sense any potential danger. As a result, the horse managed to get downstairs calmly and safely.
Ever since the blinders are used as a handy tool to keep the horses focused and less distracted.
The Uses Of Horse Blinders
We have already discussed the main use of horse blinders – to keep the horse away from distractions and to gain focus. But there’s more to the story.
Let’s dig further.
Dealing with stress
Even though your best bet to deal with stress would be proper training and overcoming the root cause, horse blinders provide a temporary solution to overcome stress and anxiety in horses.
Some horses can get easily stressed out by other horses, new environments, cars, and an overwhelming crowd that can give your horse a tough time focusing on the jobs at hand.
Therefore, horse blinders are used to reduce a horse’s vision to ease distractions and help gain focus on what’s more important, i.e., the task.
Ideal for Racehorses
Have you ever been to a racecourse? The crowd is insane, and the competition is real, which sometimes results in spooking the horse and causing potential injuries. Hence, horse blinders are imperative for racehorses.
Horse blinkers keep your horses calm and are less inclined to pull in the early stages of the racecourse, so they have less vision and time to find something startling or spooky and more energy to win the race.
An Excellent Choice for Draft Horses
Have you seen the horses pulling a royal carriage at weddings? Such a breed of horses is known as the Draft horse, or working horse, traditionally used for transport, agriculture, and pulling carriages.
Even though the flight response in draft horses is weak as compared to racehorses, their natural instincts work no different. A busy environment and crowd can trigger a horse anytime and cause incredible stress. Therefore, horse blinders are used for working horses to minimize the chances of injury due to spooking.
Armor for war horses
Today, the concept of using horses in wars is almost obsolete. Nevertheless, they are still being used by organized army fighters in third-world countries.
Artillery, approaching armies, and reverberations might trigger the horse, and they end up hurting themselves. In order to block their vision from getting distracted, horse blinders serve as armor for war horses.
Reducing Equine Vision
Horses have an excellent field of vision provided that they have eyes on the side of their head and possess a thin scope of binocular vision, which estimates the depth and distance in the blink of an eye.
Horses are prey animals. They can see almost 360 degrees and so sense danger a lot faster than humans. This trait saves the horse from potential predators. However, it is a source of distraction on racecourses. To cater to this, horse blinders are used to reduce equine vision from approximately 180 – 30 degrees.
The Advantages of Horse Blinders for Racehorses
The biggest asset on the racecourse is the horse that’s about to win or lose the derby. Horse blinders are proven to improve equine performance in a variety of ways.
- Horse blinders keep your horse focused on the target.
- They prevent dirt and other pollutants from entering your horse’s eyes.
- Blinders improve your horse’s speed, providing more chances to win the derby.
- Since the horse cannot concentrate on his surroundings, the blinders automatically sharpen his focus on finishing the straight-line course.
Types of Horse Blinders
While all the mentioned types serve the same purpose, the size and shape make the difference. The horse blinders are divided into the following types on the basis of style.
Based on your preference, you should choose the one that fits your horse’s needs.
These blinkers cover the entire eye and are usually worn on one side of the mask. Full cup blinders are excellent for stubborn racehorses that tend to veer towards the exit of the racecourse.
The standard horse blinkers are widely used that restricts vision while allowing the sight of other horses at either side. These blinders comprise ⅔ of the cup with side holes.
French Cup Blinders
Sometimes the jockey can trigger stress in horses. French cup blinders are pieces of plastic that were invented to block the jockey from the horse’s view and to build focus on the racecourse.
Horses may or may not respond to blinders well. Racing Connoisseurs prefer to get the blinders tailor-made to suit their horse’s needs and comfort. You can choose a variety of headgear equipment in different styles and sizes and customize them as per your liking.
What are horse blinders made of?
The horse blinders come in various types, and the material depends on the type of horse blinders.
However, they are made of either leather or specialized plastic cups. The leather ones are attached to the horse’s bridle, while the plastic ones are attached to a separate hood. Whatever the material and placement are, all horse blinders serve the same purpose.
Why do horses wear blinders in the pasture?
Horses wear blinders while racing or driving (working). If you see a horse with its eyes and face covered in the pasture, it’s simply a fly mask to protect the horse from pests and flies.
Can horses see with blinders on?
Blinders guard a horse’s rear and side vision enabling it to focus on what is in front and encouraging it to pay attention to the race rather than distractions.
What are the alternatives to using horse blinders?
No matter how effective, some horse owners and trainers don’t recommend using horse blinders “too often.” Here are a few alternatives to using blinders that would help you in the long-run.
Fly mask without blinders
Sometimes, the only reason contributing to horse stress and anxiety is “noise.” Fly mask without the blinders is an excellent solution to minimize noise and other sudden movements that can trigger equine stress and anxiety.
The fact that no one knows your horse’s needs more than you gives you the leverage to train your horse accordingly. Reduce the things and instances that add to your horse’s stress or distractions to help your horse re-focus on the task.
Horse racing is considered a luxury equestrian performance sport that demands patience, time, and a lot of training. Expert horse trainers believe that blinders prevent distractions and keep horses focused on the goal, i.e., the derby.
However, in most equestrian disciplines, the use of blinders other than racing and harness competitions is prohibited under the penalty of elimination.
We recommend using blinders under the supervision of expert racehorse trainers to avoid inconvenience and nuisance.