Why Do Horses Wear Blinders (and Why Are They Used?)

Why do horses wear blinders if it has nothing to do with blinding the horse?

While going to horse races or visiting farms for horse riding, one thing that we observe often is the piece of leather or plastic covering horses’ eyes, attached to their hood or bridle. Even though they are called horse blinders or blinkers, unlike the name suggests, they do not make the horses blind, nor are they intended to.

Horse blinders come in variable designs depending on the needs of the horse and their intended purpose.

If you’ve seen horses wear blinders and not sure why they are used, read on as this article will take you through every aspect of why horse blinders are used. 

Why Do Horses Wear Blinders?

Horse blinders are worn over the eyes and their main purpose is to block a certain portion of the horse’s field of vision—around 30 to 180 degrees. These blinders prevent horses from looking at anything besides the track they are on. Thus, keeping them calm and focused. 

Like us humans, a horse performs better when there are fewer distractions in its surroundings.

Horses have an exceptional vision which allows them to stay alert and safe in the wildlife. Horse eyes are equipped to see almost 360 degrees around. Moreover, being a prey animal makes them increasingly cautious. They tend to get scared easily, especially in a new environment.

So, horse blinders also eliminate the risk of the horse getting spooked during horse shows and races that involve cheering crowds. Therefore, using horse blinders is mandatory during horse racing.

Horse blinders can be dated back to World War I where horse blinders were used to prevent the horse from being jumpy during transportation. 

Why are Racing Blinders Used?

Horse blinders help a horse to stay on a course and avert visual distractions. Moreover, the blinkers protect the horse’s eyes from dirt and sand. This protection is vital in preventing eye infection or any other eye irritation.

During a horse race, the performance of a horse typically depends on how focused and calm it is. The surroundings of a race track are full of distractions with people shouting and horses running together, all of these can contribute to your horse being scared.

To prevent it from occurring, horse owners prefer racing blinders.  

Racing blinders also have a psychological effect on the performance of the horse. They help the horse in maintaining focus which automatically improves its speed and increases the chances of winning the race. A noticeable difference can be felt in the speed of the horse when it wears blinders for the first time.

It is important to note that your horse would take time to get used to horse blinders, make sure to get them comfortable with the blinders before getting them on a field.

Why are Carriage Blinders Used?

Carriage blinders cut off the peripheral vision of the horse and establish better coordination between the driver and the horse which helps in driving the carriage.

Before the transportation advancements, draft horses were commonly used to pull carriages and carts. They were the main mode of transportation responsible for moving people and/or luggage. 

Horses have a strong instinct, they can easily sense the presence of a carriage or passengers behind them. Such a high level of sensitivity causes them to get scared, because of their primordial prey instincts, and they start running frantically. Furthermore, they can easily get distracted on the busy streets.

Carriage blinders were, thus, suggested to keep carriage horses from panicking. 

With the visual field limited, the horse depends on the driver more and follows his cue for changing direction or speed. Carriage blinders ensure the safety of both, the rider and the horse. It eliminates stress from the horse making it more open to instructions and less distracted.  

Difference between Horse Blinders and Fly Masks

Horse blinders block a portion of horses’ vision for increased focus and minimal distraction, whereas, fly masks are prevent flies from irritating or infecting the horses.

However, people often confuse the two, but the differences are obvious upon careful inspection.

Horse blinders cover the eyes from the sides such that they block the horse’s vision such that it only sees what is in front of it. These are either made of leather or plastic and come in various shapes. the cup blinder is the most common form of blinders and it covers most of the visual field. 

Horse blinders have variable functions including protection from dust, keeping the horse calm and focused, helping it stay in a straight line, etc. 

Fly masks, on the other hand, are completely different. They cover the entire face of the horse which not only covers the eyes but the ears and face, too. 

Their sole purpose is to protect the horse from flies which may cause irritation or infection. Horse owners put fly masks on their horses during the summer and spring seasons when there are more flies. Fly masks are safe to use compared to fly sprays that often have dangerous side effects. 

Types of Horse Blinders

Though all horse blinders are used for the same purpose of increasing focus and minimizing distress, they are divided into different types to offer varying levels of vision blockage and added features. The five available types of horse blinders are:

  1. Full Cup Blinders: They are known to be used among racehorses because of their ability to cover almost the entire eye, thus, preventing the horse from changing lanes while racing.  
  2. Standard Blinders: These blinders are the most commonly used ones and are 2/3 the shape of a cup with a hole on the side that allows the horse to look at other horses on its side in a race.
  3. French Cup Blinders: The plastic blinder is different from the traditional cup shape and extends from the mask,  blocking the jockey from the horse’s view. This way, they maintain focus without the jockey’s whip scaring them.
  4. Cheater Cup Blinders: They are the smallest of all and block almost no view of the horse. They only have a psychological impact on the horse reminding it to be ready for the race.
  5. Customized Blinders: Depending on the needs of the horse, these blinders can be customized into the required shape or size.

FAQs Related to Why Horses Need Blinders

Here are quick answers to the most commonly asked questions. 

What is the purpose of blinders on a horse?

Horse blinders block more than 70% of the visual field of the horse. This helps them to focus on what is in front of them.
Moreover, it protects their eyes from the dirt and debris in the air. All of which helps maintain the calm and focus of the horse. Moreover, little things can scare horses because of their primordial prey instincts and wearing horse blinders prevents that.

Are horse blinders cruel?

Though the name horse blinders somewhat appears to be cruel, the reality is different.
Blinders or blinkers only serve to block a certain percentage of the vision of the horse so that it may not look at anything rear or to its sides. This is only to ensure the efficacy of the work and to protect their eyes.
However, in recent years, many people have raised questions that why do horses wear blinders in the pasture? The removal of blinders is often demanded as they add extra pressure on the head and cause overheating due to their insulating properties.

Can you ride a horse with blinders?

Riding a horse that is wearing blinders is better as it allows the rider to full control of the horse. With the blinders on, the horse can not have a complete vision. Thus, they depend on the rider for changing directions or maintaining speed. 
Also, horse blinders help keep the horse calm and prevent it from getting scared of the minutest distractions allowing the ride to be safe for both the horse and the rider. 

Do police horses have blinders?

Police horses have blinders because their work can get messy, especially during an accident that involves screaming or people. It is situations like these that can panic your horse. It is to prevent such situations that police horses have blinders.
A blinder fends off the risk of a horse acting frantically in an emergency. 

Can horses see behind them?

Horses cannot see right being their body. The eyes of the horse are on the sides of their head which allows them to have a vision of, almost, 360 degrees. They have a great visual field. However, they are unable to see at short distances right in front of them or behind them.

Horse blinders may come off as cruel or unnecessary, but they play an important role in a horse’s life. You must love your horse and covering their eyes with a blinder might seem sceptical to you. However, it is a very important part of horse riding. 

Horse blinders limit the horse’s peripheral vision. Having an almost 360-degree vision can be distracting for a horse, especially when they are out in the field. Adding a simple horse blinder can make your horses and your life so much easier.