Any equestrian or horse lover will be quick to tell you just how much equipment a horse requires. From saddles to bridles, supplements to feed, horses are an investment! One of the less popular items that a horse may require are horse blinders.
What are horse blinders used for? Typically used in horse racing or for working horses, horse blinders reduce the horse’s field of vision. This allows the horse to focus on the track ahead or pull a carriage or wagon without easily spooking. In some cases, horse blinders are used to help horses remain calm in stressful or overwhelming situations.
So, does every horse benefit from horse blinders? What type of horse blinders are best for your horse? Are there alternatives to using horse blinders? In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about horse blinders, allowing you to make the decision that is best for your horse.
Everything You Need to Know About Horse Blinders
While not every horse needs or benefits from horse blinders, they can be an incredible tool when used in the right situation! Although horse blinders are typically used in racing or pulling, they can also benefit horses who have trouble focusing on tasks or remaining calm during stress.
What Are Horse Blinders?
Horse blinders are cups that are attached to the horse’s bridle to restrict their field of vision. Blinders are made from either plastic or leather and come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate the horses’ unique needs.
Most commonly used for racehorses or working horses, horse blinders are incredibly effective in helping a horse focus on the task at hand without outside distractions. This both improves the horse’s performance and minimizes the potential of spooking during the event.
How Do Horse Blinders Work?
Horse’s have the largest eyes of any land mammal. As you can imagine, this provides them with an incredible field of vision. Astonishingly close to 360 degrees, most equine experts agree that a horse can see around 350 degrees. Because horses are naturally prey animals, they rely on their impeccable eyesight to alert them of a threat. While this is an excellent trait in the wild, it can present challenges for riders.
Horse blinders work to effectively restrict a horse’s field of vision, forcing the horse to focus on what is in front of them. By minimizing possible distractions to the sides and rear of the horse, blinders often help a horse to perform with greater focus and dedication. Additionally, horse blinders eliminate the potential for spooking, something that can cause disruption or possible injury during a race or pulling work.
If you’re going to use blinders on your horse, it’s important to be able to read your horse’s emotions. Since horses can’t talk, they have to communicate with us through other methods. To learn more, read our article How Horses Show Fear: Everything You Need to Know.
Common Uses for Horse Blinders
Horse blinders, or blinkers are they are sometimes called, are used in a variety of situations and horse disciplines. Here are a few of the most common uses for horse blinders today.
Blinders Are Used for Horse Racing
Perhaps the most common use for horse blinders is for racing. Racehorses must be solely focused on the track in front of them. Oftentimes, races are full of possible distractions and potential for spooking. By equipping your racehorse with horse blinders, you minimize potential injury to both horse and rider while encouraging a successful race.
Blinders Are Used for Working Horses
Although not as common as they once were, horses used for working purposes are often equipped with horse blinders. Draft horses were, at one time, used to pull carriages for transportation, plow fields, and transport other loads. While some horses excel at these tasks, they all present plenty of opportunities for stress or distraction.
Today, draft horses are commonly seen pulling carriages or marching in parades. As you can imagine, these types of busy environments can prove to be incredibly stressful and overwhelming for horses. With blinders, the horse can avoid unnecessary stress and injury due to spooking.
Blinders Are Used to Help a Horse Focus
Because of a horses’ wide range of vision, they are particularly susceptible to distraction. Horse blinders can be used to help a horse focus on what is ahead of them, whether that be a racetrack, trail, or another task. Some equestrians use horse blinders to help their horse pull in a straight line.
When a horse hears a sound or senses movement, they will move their head in a natural response. Blinders can reduce this, helping the horse continue to move ahead. Additionally, blinders can be used to help your horse focus on your verbal and physical cues as they will develop a stronger reliance on your direction due to a limited field of vision.
Blinders Are Used to Calm a Horse In High-Stress Environments
Oftentimes, horse blinders are used to help a horse remain calm in an otherwise stressful environment. Whether walking in a parade, participating in a race, or simply moving to a new home, some horses can have a negative response to stress. By equipping your horse with blinders, you help them remain calm and eliminate possible injury as a result of stress.
Types of Horse Blinders
While all types of blinders serve essentially the same purpose, there are multiple designs and shapes. The type of blinders that are best for your horse will depend largely on the situation and the horse’s needs.
Full Cup Blinders
Full cup blinders cover the entirety of the eye. Because of this, they are only worn on one side of the mask. Full cup blinders are great for racehorses that have a tendency to veer to the outside of the track. In order to keep your horse on course, you can attach a full cup blinder to the outer eye.
The next step down from full cup blinders is standard blinders. These are horse blinders are ⅔ of a cup with a hole on the side. The most common style of blinders, standard blinders eliminates distractions while allowing the racehorse to see other horses at his sides.
French Cup Blinders
Unlike the traditional cup shape of the full cup or standard blinders, French cup blinders are a piece of plastic that blocks the jockey from the horse’s view. Attached to extend straight out from the mask, French cups help a horse focus on the race without anticipation of the jockey’s whip.
Cheater Cup Blinders
The smallest type of horse blinder is a cheater cup. This type of cup restricts only a small portion of the horse’s vision, acting as a psychological reminder of race time.
Of course, there are several other types of horse blinders available. Experienced equestrians may choose to customize horse blinders to accommodate for the unique training needs of their horse. As with other pieces of equipment, you may need to try several types of horse blinders before finding one that works well for your horse.
Alternatives to Using Horse Blinders
Although horse blinders are great for many situations, they are not always the best solution to your horse’s challenges. Fortunately, there are a variety of solutions that provide similar benefits to blinders.
Using a Mask Without Blinders to Calm a Horse
If your horse suffers from overwhelm or extreme stress, you may try using a mask without blinders. Sometimes called a batman mask, a mask without blinders helps to minimize noise or sudden motions that could contribute to stress and distraction.
Attach a Shadow Roll to The Bridle to Restrict Vision
Another alternative to horse blinders is called a shadow roll. This piece of equipment is attached to the noseband of the bridle and works to restrict a portion of the horse’s vision. Shadow rolls work well when you are trying to restrict your horse’s view of objects or movement on the ground. Instead of becoming distracted by things below them, shadow rolls allow a horse to concentrate solely on what is in front of them.
Reduce Stress or Distraction to Help Your Horse Focus
If your horse seems to be having a hard time focusing on the task at hand, you may need to assess their level of stress of distraction. Some horses become easily distracted by other horses, riders, or even cars riding by the barn. This can make training or riding an absolute nightmare. Other times, stress or anxiety could be causing your horse to seem withdrawn and unfocused.
In both of these situations, it is important that you take time to uncover the root of the issue instead of simply seeking a coverup. While horse blinders may be an excellent tool to help your horse re-focus, it is also wise to reduce things that could be contributing to stress or distraction.
As with any area of the equine world, have confidence in the fact that you know your horse’s needs most accurately. Do not use blinders without the assistance of an experienced horse person who has used blinders before. While blinders can be used to help your horse focus and not get distracted, the most effective way to handle these situations is by taking the time to train and work with your horse. To learn more, check out this article How to Get Your Horse to Pay Attention to You.