How Horses See: Ultimate Horse Eyesight Guide 

How Horses See

Complete Guide to Horse’s Eyesight

Having a knowledge of your horse’s eyesight often helps you to better understand how and why they react the way they do in different situations. While you may assume that a horse’s eyesight is similar to that of a human, this could not be further from the truth. From the placement of a horse’s eyes to the way they see color, a horse’s vision is much different from that of humans or other animals. 

So, how do horses see? A horse’s eyes are the largest of any land mammal. With this size comes various advantages as well as disadvantages. Horses have two forms of vision: monocular vision and binocular vision. While a horse primarily depends on their monocular vision, binocular vision plays an essential role in distance and depth perception.

In this post, we will share many fascinating facts about the eyesight of horses. This information will help you to train and care for your equine companion more appropriately. We will also discuss some of the most common eyesight problems that horses may experience during old age, as well as how to care for a horse that is going blind.

While most equestrians have a general knowledge about their horse’s eyesight, many do not understand the unique capabilities and challenges that accompany a horse’s remarkable vision. 

Horse Eyesight: Monocular Vision vs. Binocular Vision

How horses see diagramAs mentioned previously, horses have two forms of eyesight that they rely on for various purposes. The majority of the time, a horse relies on its monocular vision. Monocular vision accounts for around 80% of a horse’s eyesight. 

When using monocular vision, a horse views both sides of their vision separately with either eye. This is an incredibly important trait that allows your horses to keep an eye on approaching threats.

The remaining 20% of a horse’s eyesight is binocular vision. Binocular vision provides a rather narrow zone, roughly 65 degrees, of view directly ahead of them through both eyes. Binocular vision is important as it enables your horse to accurately judge distance and aids with depth perception. 

Because binocular vision only makes up about 20% of your horse’s eyesight, it can cause some horses to spook easily when there are sudden movements nearby.

Horses can switch between monocular vision and binocular vision, depending on the situation in which they find themselves. This ability is one of the many things that make equine eyesight so unique.

How Horses See Color

One of the most long-standing myths about a horse’s vision is that they are colorblind. We now know that this is simply not true. Although your horse does have the ability to see some colors, they do not see color in the same way that humans do. 

Two colors that horses are not easily able to decipher are red and green. Blue and white, however, are easily seen by horses. Because of this, many obstacles and arenas are painted using these two colors.

So, while horses are not actually colorblind, it is safe to assume that they do not see color as clearly or vividly as humans. 

How Horses See In the Dark

Horse seeing in the darkWhile horses have incredible abilities to see in the dark, they have a much harder time adjusting to quick changes in lighting. For this reason, you may notice that your horse blinks excessively when you turn a light on in a previously dim barn.

In low light situations, including in the middle of the night, a horse’s sensitivity to low light is evident. A horse is able to easily decipher objects in the dark, something that is very important in the wild. 

It is important to understand that it takes your horse time to adjust their vision to see in low light situations. For this reason, a horse may hesitate to enter a tunnel or shadowy area covered by trees. Over time, you can train your horse to have more confidence in these circumstances if they are something that you encounter frequently. 

If you keep your horse out at night, here are a few more tips you might find helpful.

Understanding Blind Spots In a Horse’s Eyesight

Another fascinating aspect of a horse’s vision is that it is nearly 360 degrees. Most experts agree that a horse can see about 350 degrees. Horses have two blind spots: one directly in front of them, and the other directly behind them. 

As an equestrian, it is incredibly important that you understand these blind spots and learn how to navigate them properly. Far too often, I see young riders approach a horse from a blind spot, risking injury. Here’s my guide for staying safe around horses for more tips in this area. 

Approaching a Horse From Their Blind Spots

Horses startle easily and may begin to feel uncomfortable if they lose sight of their owner for extended periods. While some situations may require you to approach your horse from their blind spots, you must ensure that your horse is aware of your presence.

As a general rule, it is always best to approach a horse from the side, where you are clearly in view at all times. No matter your angle of approach, always try to speak to your horse in a calming voice to alert them of your presence. This will minimize the potential for your horse to spook and injure themselves or you. 

Common Horse Eyesight Problems

Horse with eye problemLike humans, horses can develop a variety of eyesight problems differing in severity. Vision problems can seriously affect the behavior, abilities, and responses of your horse. 

Ocular Trauma

The most common horse eyesight problem is ocular trauma. Because a horse’s eyes are so large, there is great potential for injury. Trauma can occur due to dust, debris, food, sharp objects, or even other horses. Ocular trauma is usually very obvious, even to an untrained eye. 

You will likely notice redness, swelling, or even visible tears to the eye. It is important to provide immediate medical attention for a horse that has experienced ocular trauma as it can quickly progress into a bacterial or fungal infection. Once an infection has entered your horse’s eye, the risk of permanent damage is much higher.

Cataracts

Similar to humans, horses often suffer from cataracts or retinal atrophy due to old age. Cataracts cause a horse’s vision to appear cloudy and can eventually lead to blindness if not treated appropriately.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the least common equine eyesight problems. A neurodegenerative ocular disease, glaucoma usually occurs as a progression of another ocular disease. Horses that are suffering from glaucoma often have eyes that appear to have a blue film covering the surface of the cornea.

Uveitis

Most equestrians and horse lovers have heard the term moon blindness, the common term for uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea which eventually compromises the iris, leading to full or partial blindness. The first signs of uveitis are redness, pain, or cloudiness. This condition requires aggressive, timely treatment in order to save the horse’s vision.

Caring For a Blind Horse

Unfortunately, all horses begin to deteriorate as they reach old age. Most vision problems occur in horses older than 15, although blindness can occur at any age. When you are caring for a horse that has lost a portion of all of their eyesight, there are a few things you can do to ensure their safety and comfort.

As your horse is beginning to lose their eyesight, organize their area in a way that allows them to safely and easily navigate their surroundings. Avoid changing their environment as much as possible to eliminate confusion and stress.

Additionally, horses that are losing their vision may not do well in a large group setting. Oftentimes, they prefer solitude although some blind horses appreciate the companionship of a pasture buddy. Carefully observe your blind horse to make sure that they can receive the food and water they need if they remain in a herd setting.

We hope this look into the eyesight of horses has allowed you to better understand some of the unique challenges and abilities that your horse has. By looking at things from a horses’ perspective, we can provide better training and care.

Related Questions Horse Eyesight Questions

Can horses see 360 degrees? A common myth in the equine community is that horses have 360-degree vision. While a horse can see close to 360 degrees, they do have two precise blind spots located directly in front of them and directly behind them.

Can horses see pink? While horses can see some colors, they do not have the clarity or variety that humans do. Horses are unable to decipher red and green. Although they will notice the difference between colors, they are most likely not able to clearly see the color pink. Scientists and experts are constantly studying the ways horses view colors in attempts to gain more information on this topic.

Can horses see in front of them? Horses have incredible monocular vision which allows them to see far distances in front of them. This ability is critical to their safety in the wild. However, this monocular vision also inhibits a horse from seeing directly in front of them. One of two blind spots, it is important to approach a horse from the side as opposed to from the front.

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