Got My Horse

Decoding Horse Eye Language: What the White Reveals About Their Emotions and Health

Why Horses Show White in Their Eyes and What It Means

Have you ever noticed that when horses get scared or excited, their eyes show white? This is a common occurrence in horses and can happen for many different reasons.

In this article, we will discuss the reasons why horses show white in their eyes and what it means. Plus, well identify what horse owners and riders need to know about eye color, pigmentation, and the different types of eye conditions that may occur in a horse.

Fear as a Cause for Eye White Showing

The most common reason why horses show white in their eyes is fear. Fear is a natural and healthy emotion for horses, especially in the wild when they need to protect themselves from predators.

When a horse feels scared or threatened, it will try to make itself appear bigger and more intimidating. One way to do this is by showing its eye white, as this makes the horses eyes appear larger.

Natural Eye Coloring of Horses

The natural eye coloring of a horse can also play a role in how much white is shown in its eyes. Some horses have dark eyes with a large iris, which can make the white of the eye more visible.

Other horses have lighter-colored eyes, such as blue eyes, which can cause the eye to appear to show more white than normal.

Excitement as a Cause for Eye White Showing

Another reason why horses may show white in their eyes is excitement. This could be excitement from a new experience, from seeing a familiar horse or human friend, or from anticipation of food or attention.

In the case of excitement, the horse may show its white more subtly, with a less pronounced appearance.

Blue Eyes in Horses

Blue eyes are more common in certain breeds than others, such as the Paint Horse and Appaloosa. However, they are not a normal or healthy color for most horses.

Blue eyes in horses can indicate a lack of pigment in the eye, which can cause sensitivity to light, eye infections and cataracts over time.

Eye Direction and Eye White Showing

An interesting aspect of horse behavior is that where a horse looks and what it sees can also influence how much white it shows in its eyes. For example; if a horse is looking off to the side, and if it is looking at something that appears to be scary or threatening, then it may show white in order to make itself look more intimidating.

Also, if the horse is looking directly at a person or object that it considers threatening, it may show more white in its eyes.

Eye Injuries and Anomalies

Horses can get eye injuries and anomalies, such as cataracts, which can cause the white of the eye to appear more pronounced than normal. Eye injuries are dangerous and can lead to blindness or loss of the affected eye.

This is why it is important for horse owners and caretakers to monitor horses’ eyes regularly and to seek medical attention if anything seems unusual.

Eye Infection and Irritation

Eye infections and irritations are common in horses and can cause the eye to appear red, swollen, and may produce discharge. Common causes include exposure to dust or flying debris, injuries such as scratches on the eye surface, underlying health issues, and contamination from other animals.

Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further complications, discomfort, and in severe cases, blindness.

Importance of Reading Horse Body Language

Horse body language is complex, but it is an essential aspect of horsemanship and equine welfare. Observing eye language is one way to recognize a horses emotional state.

When a horse’s body language expresses fear, pain, anxiety, or aggression, the horse may show white in its eyes as a sign of compliance or submission. Conversely, when a horse is relaxed and comfortable, its eyes are usually large and appear to glow, with little or no white showing in the eyes.

Eye Color and Pigmentation as Indicators of Eye Health

Monitoring the color of a horse’s eyes and the level of white they show is a way to monitor a horses health. If a horse’s eye color changes or the white of its eye becomes more pronounced, it is time to consult a veterinarian.

Horses with blue eyes may require additional veterinary inspections. Changes in eye pigmentation should always be closely monitored as they can be a sign of underlying health issues or diseases.

Types of Eye Conditions and Symptoms to Look Out For

Horses are susceptible to many types of eye conditions and injuries, including conjunctivitis, uveitis, corneal ulcers, and glaucoma. Symptoms include redness, swelling, discharge, pain, discomfort, itching, crusty eyes, and difficulty seeing.

These symptoms are often accompanied by an excessive amount of white showing in the eye, which can be a clear sign that something is wrong and that the horse requires medical attention as quickly as possible.

Importance of Consulting a Veterinarian

If you are ever concerned about any aspect of your horse’s eye health, it is important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Even small changes in a horse’s eye color or the level of white showing in its eyes can be signs of serious health issues.

Only a veterinarian has the necessary training to fully diagnose and correctly treat any health problems that a horse may be experiencing.


In summary, horses show the white of their eyes for many different reasons. From fear to excitement, natural coloring to eye conditions, many factors contribute to a horses eye appearance.

It is important to pay attention to changes in your horse’s eye color, pigmentation, or the level of white it shows in its eyes. By doing so, you can better monitor your horse’s health and ensure that it receives the medical attention it needs at the right time.

Remember, healthy eyes mean a healthier, happier horse.

Case Examples of Eye White Showing in Horses

Horses communicate through their body language, and a significant component of this language is expressed through their eyes. In this section, we will explore case examples that demonstrate how horses show white in their eyes under different circumstances.

These examples will help us understand the underlying reasons why horses show white in their eyes and what this behavior means.

Fear and Anxiety in Horses

Fear is one of the most common reasons why horses show white in their eyes. A classic example is when a horse comes across a new object or situation that it perceives as a threat.

The horse may experience a fight or flight response, resulting in showing more white in their eyes as their defensive response intensifies. In some cases, fear and anxiety can be related to past experiences, as Lindas story illustrates.

Linda owned a beautiful black mare named Shadow, who was generally calm and gentle. However, whenever Shadow heard the sound of a truck, she would start to show more white in her eyes and become agitated.

Linda realized that this behavior was due to a traumatic experience Shadow had with a truck earlier in her life, resulting in her showing white in her eyes anytime she heard a similar noise.

Natural Eye Color in Horses

The natural colors of a horse’s eyes also play a role in determining how much white a horse shows. Having light-colored eyes or blue eyes may make the white more visible.

Baba was a Chestnut mare with light brown eyes. Baba had a distinctive habit of showing white in her eyes whenever she was content or receiving attention.

Excitement and Playfulness in Horses

Horses will show white in their eyes when they are excited, as well. This behavior may be exhibited when horses are playing or engaging in a more vigorous activity.

For example, when horses are playfully running around in a pasture or competing in a race, they may display more white in their eyes. In such cases, the behavior is indicative of vigorous excitement rather than fear or agitation.

Blue-Eyed Horses

Blue eyes in horses are rare but can be found in some breeds, such as Paint and Appaloosa. Horses with blue eyes often show more white of the eye than horses with darker eyes due to their lighter pigmentation.

The lighter pigmented eyes can make the eyes more likely to be sensitive to light and are more prone to eye problems such as cataracts and infections due to its diminished defense against sunlight.

Eye Direction and Eye White Showing in Horses

The direction in which a horse is looking can also affect how much white is shown in their eyes. For example, when horses are looking straight ahead, but downward, they may show more white, especially when they perceive a threat in the space that they are looking into.

Horses are also known to show more white in crowded or busy places, adjusting their gaze to take in more peripheral vision.

Eye Injuries and Infections in Horses

Eye injuries and infections in horses can cause them to show white in their eyes. For example, when a horseshoe or other object hits a horse’s eye, the horse will show a great amount of white and the eyeball will turn red and swollen.

Injuries like these are painful and can have potentially dangerous results if left untreated. Eye infections can present symptoms like redness, swelling, and discharge that may cause the horse to show more white in their eyes due to the pain and discomfort.

In tackling such eye injuries and infections, early diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and management. In a particular case, Astrids gelding, was stricken with pink eye after grazing for long periods out in the fields.

Astrid observed that Shadows eyes were always watery, appeared to be sensitive to sunlight, causing him to show more white in his eyes. Fortunately, she sought veterinary attention swiftly, and her vigilant attention to treating her horses pink eye protected him from experiencing further complications and prolonged discomfort.


The amount of white in a horse’s eyes can indicate different emotional states such as fear, excitement, or a specific medical condition. This behavior can be normal or abnormal, and close monitoring of a horse’s eyes is essential to preliminary detection of conditions that require veterinary treatment.

It is important that horse owners and caretakers pay attention to changes in eye color and the amount of white shown in the eyes. This course of action ensures timely treatment for conditions that may cause discomfort, pain, and sight problems.

By observing a horses eye language over time and tracking any fluctuations, horse owners are better positioned to keep their animals healthy and happy. In conclusion, the white showing in a horse’s eyes can communicate different emotional states, including fear, anxiety, excitement, and indicate various medical conditions.

Owners and caretakers must pay close attention to their horse’s eye language, spotting early symptoms of underlying health conditions, eye injuries, and irritations. Early diagnosis, prompt veterinary attention, and timely treatment can prevent further complications and enhance the well-being of horses.

Be vigilant, monitor your horse’s eye health carefully.


Q: How can horse owners tell if their horse is experiencing a vision issue?

A: Eye issues in horses can be noticeable through symptoms such as redness, swelling, discharge, sensitivity to light, and discomfort, and in severe cases, blindness. Q: Can horses suffer from anxiety or fear and what makes them afraid?

A: Yes, horses can experience anxiety and fear. Horses can be afraid of different things such as loud noises, sudden movements, unfamiliar objects, being separated from their herd, and negative human interactions.

Q: Are blue eyes in horses normal and are they a cause for concern? A: Blue eyes in horses are not typically normal, and it can indicate a lack of pigment formation in the eye, translating to higher risks of eye infections and cataracts, requiring close monitoring by a veterinarian.

Q: What should horse owners do when their horse’s eyes show unusually high amounts of white? A: It is best to consult promptly with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and initial treatment to prevent the onset of additional complications.

Q: Are there any ways to avoid eye injuries or irritations in horses? A: Horses can be safeguarded by wearing a fly mask to protect their eyes from flying debris, and horses should be subjected to regular cleaning measures to prevent the buildup of dirt and other irritants.

Popular Posts