Why Do Horses Wear Blinders

Why Do Horses Wear Blinders: 5 Reasons

Horses are gentle creatures that prefer calmness, but we can’t always provide them with a serene environment. People automatically think about losing vision when someone mentions blinders, but that’s not exactly what these devices do.

What Are Blinders?

A blinder is a piece of headgear that can be installed on a horse to restrict its vision. They have proven to be effective in limiting a horse’s peripheral vision, thereby reducing the sensory overload that comes from perceiving things in their line of sight as threats.

Blinders are essentially eye covers that restrict a horse’s vision for different purposes. These devices are either made from plastic or leather and don’t necessarily cover the entire eye. Some blinders have come with independent hoods to attach to your horse’s head, while others can easily be attached to its harness.

A horse can be distracted by its surroundings, and the idea is to cover its eyes in order for them to experience less of a sensory overload. These devices can either be square or circular, with a concave shape whose depth depends on how obscured you want your horse’s vision to be.

Difference Between a Blinder and a Fly Mask

You might have noticed a horse with a cloth covering its eyes and ears. This is different from a blinder and is referred to as a fly mask.

The first difference between a fly mask and a blinder is the material. You can either find plastic or leather blinders. The second difference is in regards to coverage. Fly masks cover a horse’s eyes and ears without affecting their vision. Horse owners often use fly masks to protect horses from UV light and eye infections.

A blinder’s job is mostly to restrict the perception of a horse so that they can focus on one task. This means that blinders only cover part of a horse’s eye instead of their entire face.

Reasons Why Horses Wear Blinders

Protect Against Eye Infections

Sometimes more restrictive blinders can help with eye infections, especially when there’s too much sunlight. If a horse has injured eyes, blinders can act as covers or protectors to help prevent your horse from hurting itself even more.

Limit Distractions During Races

Horse racing is a high speed, adrenaline-filled sport. A distracted horse is a slow horse. Racehorses need to go as fast as they can, and this means reducing distractions and stress.

A horse racing track comes packed with obstacles, different aura, and crowds. There could be serious injuries for both a horse and its rider if the horse gets distracted enough and misses a step.

Blinders help block a horse’s field of vision such that they don’t notice distractions and sudden movements that might cause them anxiety. Negating the distractions helps keep your horse calm, hence securing you a win.

Prevent Fight or Flight Response

Horses were domesticated from the wild, and the survival instincts that helped them stay safe are still present. Like gazelles and zebras, wild horses were preyed on in the wild, so they developed an effective monocular vision to help them see what’s behind them.

Monocular visioncoupled with a fast response to stress quickly triggers the horse to get away from a predator. When in public, horses can perceive everything coming from behind them as predators.

This triggers the flight response to run away. Blinders can reduce a horse’s vision from 180 degrees to about 30 degrees, depending on the type you use.

Help Carriage Horses to Stay on Course

Horses that help in farming, e.g., plowing, are known as draft horses. Sometimes draft horses work in pairs, and they are curious creatures. Something as simple as a neighbour passing by can distract these gentle giants.

Most times, draft horses have a plow or carriage attached to their rear, and they may perceive it as a predator coming after them from behind, which will trigger their flight response. A suitable blinder enables horses to work efficiently and undistracted.

Reduce Stress in Crowded Areas

Popular events, such as fairs and weddings, have created a high demand for horse riding, and you may find horses trotting around busy streets. Without blinders, the horses in these places have to take stock of where the millions of pedestrians are in order to protect themselves.

They could even react negatively if they think the carriage they’re pulling is a predator. Blinders can help by cutting the visual stimulation down and blocking all distractions.

Types of Horse Blinders

Why Do Horses Wear Blinders

Standard Blinders

These blinders are great for horse racing because they cover most of the eye while leaving holes to the side so that your horse can see its competition. Standard blinders are also suitable for competitive horses because they work harder to see the other horses.

Full Cup Blinders

These blinders offer full coverage and have to be worked on the outside of a mask. Some horses tend to veer off the racing track, so these blinders can help them train themselves to keep running straight on the racing track

French Cup Blinders

These are mostly plastic and prevent horses from seeing their riders wield their whips. The correct way to install french cup blinders is to stretch them away from the mask.

Cheater Cup Blinders

These are more for preparation and come in slim designs. These psychologically prepare horses for racing by blocking some of their vision, so they aren’t shocked during the actual race.

Customized Blinders

These blinders result from the rider or owner studying their horse’s reaction to blinders and customizing one that works best for them.

Are Horse Blinders Cruel?

Blinders help reduce sensory stimulation for horses. These might seem inhumane for some people, but imagine the stress that happens to you when faced with large crowds or noises. The stress is even worse for horses because they can’t communicate. Blinders help horses stay calm and focused instead of having a sensory overload.

Final Thoughts

Horses have different temperaments, and what works for one won’t work for the next. Studying your horse and forming a rapport with them will help you gauge its reaction to new additions such as blinders. Choose what’s best for your horse and take care of it in order to elongate its lifespan!

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