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The Many Purposes of Horse Blinders: Improving Focus Preventing Injury and Reducing Anxiety

Why Do Horses Wear Blinders? Horses are majestic creatures that have been domesticated for thousands of years.

They have been used for transportation, farming, and sport, among other things. One of the most common pieces of tack that horses wear is a bridle.

A bridle is a piece of headgear that is worn by the horse to help the rider control its movements. Within the bridle, there is a tool known as blinders.

In this article, we will explore why horses wear blinders and the different types that exist.

Blinders as a Tool for Behavior and Emotions

Blinders are designed to limit a horse’s vision by blocking peripheral vision, which can distract the horse and cause it to become nervous or agitated. When horses wear blinders, it helps them stay focused on the task at hand and reduces their visual distractions.

Blindness limits the horse’s visual field, which means that they can’t see what’s behind them, and therefore can’t be spooked by any sudden movement.

Different Types of Blinders

There are different types of blinders used for different purposes. For instance, carriage horses use blinders as a safety measure to avoid distractions that could compromise passenger safety.

Carriage horse blinders are typically full cups, meaning that they cover the entire eye. This design helps to reduce the amount of visual stimulus that could startle the horse at any time.

Racehorses, on the other hand, are trained to move at great speeds and are prone to becoming easily distracted by their surroundings. Racehorse blinders are designed to be more flexible and not fully cover the eye.

They are typically smaller and more streamlined than carriage horse blinders, and are known as winkers.

Winkers only block the horse’s peripheral vision, leaving its forward view unobstructed.

In the French cup, a combination of both the full cup and winker designs are used. The French cup, which is traditionally used in jumping competitions, is a full cup with a small cut-out in front.

The cut-out is intended to allow the horse to see the jump in front of it while giving it a limited view of its surroundings.

Reasons for Wearing Blinders

Horses wear blinders for various reasons, depending on their situation. One primary reason is to prevent spooking.

Spooking is a common horse behavior where the horse becomes scared or agitated by natural or artificial obstacles. A foreign object or sudden movement in the peripheral vision can startle a horse and cause it to react impulsively, potentially endangering the horse and rider.

Blinders are used as visual barriers that protect the horse by reducing the number of visual cues that can potentially startle it. Another reason why horses wear blinders is to stay focused.

Horses are easily distracted by their surroundings, which can disrupt their concentration and work performance. By limiting distractions, horses stay focused on the task at hand, which leads to better work performance.

Blinders also protect the horse’s eyes from hazards. In certain situations, horses may come into contact with objects or debris that could potentially injure their eyes.

Blinders keep these hazards away from their eyes, preventing harmful eye injuries.


In conclusion, blinders are an essential tool in the world of horsemanship. They come in various sizes and shapes, depending on their intended usage.

They help horses stay focused on their task, prevent spooking, and protect their eyes from hazards. By understanding why horses wear blinders, we can better appreciate their role in the horse’s comfort and productivity.

Horses Wear Blinders to Help Them Focus

The nature of horses as prey animals means that they are constantly aware of their environment. They have strong instincts that have helped them survive in the wild, such as the ability to sense danger and surroundings.

Horses that are raised in captivity and trained for certain activities, such as racing, must learn to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else around them. This is where blinders play a crucial role.

Horse Focus on Environment

Horses have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, and their eyesight is also incredibly sophisticated. However, their eyesight is not perfect.

They have a blind spot directly behind them, and their peripheral vision is weaker than their front vision. As a result, horses are often reactive to sudden movements at the edge of their visual field.

Horses and their riders must build trust and a strong bond where both parties understand each other’s needs. A horse can become focused on their rider, their task, and what is ahead of them.

However, they can also easily become distracted by their surroundings, making it tough to maintain focus and cooperation throughout the duration of their training.

Use of Blinders to Focus on What is in Front of Them

In competitive horse racing, the jockey directs the horse using reins, voice commands, and other subtle cues. In a race with other horses, it is essential that the horse does not become distracted and runs off course or collides with other horses.

The use of blinders is a common tool that jockeys use to keep horses focused on the finish line, specifically preventing the horse from being distracted by the other horses around them. Blinders have also been traditionally used while training or conditioning racehorses.

Limiting the horse’s field of vision to only what is directly ahead helps to keep them moving forward, prevent them from becoming distracted by passing scenery or sounds, and increase their concentration on the task at hand.

Horses May Wear Blinders to Keep Them Calm

Horses can easily become anxious in new environments. Loud noises, crowds, movement, and changes in lighting can all trigger nervous behavior in horses.

In these situations, it may be challenging for a horse to stay calm, which could lead to harmful effects, such as potential injury or damage.

Calming Anxious Horses

Many techniques can be used to calm anxious horses, with most of them relying primarily on reducing visual stimuli. Placing blinders on horses is a common trick that many horse owners use to prevent their horses from becoming nervous in new surroundings.

Horses that are already prone to anxiety can become more relaxed when they are wearing blinders, which block out irrelevant distractions and help them stay focused on what is ahead of them. This, in turn, helps to reduce their level of anxiety and can lead to improved performance in situations where a calm focus is required.

Use of Blinders in Unfamiliar Environments

One of the most common areas where horse blinders are used is during transport. Horses may need to be transported from their home farm to new locations for shows, competitions, or performances.

The journey can be a stressful time for the horse, which is often more prone to become anxious in an unfamiliar environment. In this situation, blinders may be used to help keep the horse calm and reduce their stress levels.

Blinders are also commonly used on carriage horses, which are typically exposed to new and potentially frightening environments. The blinders help prevent the horses from becoming distracted by passing vehicles and urban landscapes, which can help keep them calm and focused on their task at hand.


In conclusion, blinder use in horses is a widespread practice in a variety of different contexts. They help horses to stay calm and focused and can be beneficial when training, racing, or traveling.

As long as they are used correctly and with careful consideration to the horse’s needs, they can be an invaluable tool for horses and their riders alike.

Horses May Wear Blinders to Protect the Eyes

Eye injuries are a common affliction for horses. They can result from a variety of sources, such as contact with sharp or blunt objects, dust and debris, or infection.

Eye injuries can be painful, and if they are not addressed promptly, they can lead to more severe complications, such as blindness. Horse owners and trainers often use blinders as a preventative measure, to help prevent eye injuries from occurring.

Eye Injuries in Horses

Eye injuries are a common concern for horses. They can occur in several different ways, including trauma to the eye, insects, dust, hay, and debris.

Eye injuries can be painful and sensitive, with swollen and sensitive eyelids, and it’s often difficult to judge the extent of the injury without help from a veterinarian.

Blindfolds as a Mode of Eye Protection

The use of blinders for horses originated centuries ago, typically as a way of reducing spooking and ensuring teams of horses moved in a particular direction. Early reining mechanisms used blindfolds, which were also known as “blinds,” to limit the horses’ field of vision and prevent them from being startled by external stimuli.

Blinders can also protect eyes from damage by limiting a horse’s visual field. It’s crucial to note that blinders aren’t a perfect or guaranteed solution to eye protection.

They don’t entirely block everything out, but rather limit a horses vision in a way that keeps them focused on what is ahead, while simultaneously blocking out distracting stimuli. This can help minimize the risks of horses becoming distracted while under pressure, whereas unrestricted vision can result in a horse veering off course.

Different Types of Horse Blinders

There are various types of horse blinders designed to suit different purposes and preferences. The following is a list of the most commonly used:

Carriage Harness Blinders

These are square-shaped plastic cups that are attached to a headstall and fit over the eye on either side of the horse’s head. The cups limit the horse’s vision to what is outside the vehicle preventing distractions and improving safety when carrying passengers.

Standard Cup Blinders

This is the most common type of blinder used in horse racing. It has a design that feature curved cups which fasten to the bridle to cover the horse’s eyes, preventing the horse from seeing anything behind or to either side of them.

These blinders are ideal for racehorses, as their restricted vision allows them to race more confidently without the distraction of other horses.

French Cup Blinders

These are similar to standard cup blinders in shape but are less restrictive. They are more commonly used by horses that don’t require severe restriction of their peripheral vision.

French cup blinders are useful in steeplechase events where horses need to have a wider field of vision to judge the distance to obstacles.

Full Cup Blinders

These devices are full plastic cups that fit over the horse’s eye completely, blocking out all vision. These blinders are not recommended as a first choice, given that they obscure the vision completely, although they may be an option where there is a prior history of injury to the eye, or blindness.

Shadow Roll

These are fleece tubes that attach to the noseband of a bridle. They prevent low-lying obstacles and the ground from distracting a horse while running.


Winkers are fleece tubes that attach to the cheek pieces of a bridle. They limit the horse’s peripheral vision, while still allowing enough vision forward to maintain optimal behavior in certain circumstances.


In conclusion, blinders are an essential piece of equipment for many horses involved in competitive and non-competitive work. While they may seem to be more focused on a horse’s sight, blinders also reduce distracting visual stimuli that can startle a horse and lead to injury.

The use of blinders can help maintain the horse’s focus, leading to improved work performance and lower anxiety levels. With different types of blinders available, owners can choose the one that benefits their horse the most and fits their purpose.

Horse Blinders vs. Fly Masks

Horses need protection from various hazards and discomforts, both in terms of their eyes and their skin.

In the summer, flying insects such as flies, gnats, and mosquitoes can trouble horses greatly, thereby requiring a reliable shield. Fly masks are one option, whereas some opt for blinders, which restrict the horse’s vision, and effective method of controlling exposures to potential spooking scenarios.

Fly Masks as a Mode of Horse Protection

Fly masks are an essential piece of summer horse gear that should be included in any horse’s wardrobe. They work by covering the horse’s face and eyes, providing a barrier between the skin and flying animals that can cause severe irritation to the horse and related health issues.

Fly masks are made of mesh materials that offer both protection and ventilation. This design allows for the horse to have clear vision while maintaining excellent breathability, thereby reducing heat stress and sweat buildup.

Fly Masks vs. Blinders

While fly masks and blinders can both serve as forms of protective gear, they serve entirely different purposes, and ideally, horse owners should use both according to the particular needs of the horse.

Blinders and fly masks, for instance, both provide eye protection, with blinders providing a barrier between an insect and a horse’s vision, whereas fly masks are a barrier between the eye and any flying object, including insects. Both blinders and fly masks can help reduce the likelihood of an eye injury, although the scenario in which they are most useful differs.

One significant difference between fly masks and blinders is that fly masks might not be suitable for horses that suffer from excessive fly secretions or mucus buildup around their eyes. In such cases, the mask can lead to moisture buildup and irritate the horse’s skin, thereby causing significant harm.

Blinders Are Important for Both Horses and Humans

Blinders are an essential tool for horse safety. While some people may believe that blinders are cruel or unnecessary, properly used blinder equipment has been shown to be safe and effective in improving focus and preventing anxiety-inducing distractions.

The use of blinders is imperative during racing to prevent collisions, veering, or restricting a horse from seeing other horses.

The Effectiveness of Blinders

Studies have shown that blinkers are an effective tool in reducing anxiety and calming down horses. They work by blocking the horse’s peripheral vision, directly in front of them, allowing them to focus easily on the area they’re most likely to pass.

This exclusive focus allows horses to concentrate better and perform optimally under more controlled circumstances. Cruelty vs.

Aid of Blinders

While many people believe that blinders are cruel, they are an essential measure in preventing potentially dangerous situations for both horses and their human counterparts. Horses using blinkers are less likely to be affected by visual distractors, therefore reducing the likelihood of jockey falls.

Jockeys also have a safer, more stable position when riding horses that are using blinders. By eliminating spooking behaviors, blinders contribute to a safer ride, to avoid accidents and injuries to both the horse and the jockeys who ride them.

It’s essential to point out that blinders should never be used as a punishment, as they are designed to reduce anxiety and improve the horse’s ability to concentrate in specific situations. The well-being of the animal must always be the priority.


In conclusion, both fly masks and blinders serve essential protective functions, although they play different roles in horse welfare. Fly masks shield horses’ skin and eyes from the scorching sun and flying microorganisms, while blinders protect horses from potential spooking scenarios and prevent distractions in sporting events.

While some people may view blinders as cruel, they have significant benefits for both horses and their human riders, improving safety and reducing the likelihood of anxiety-induced spooking. Above all, when the use of blinder equipment is used appropriately and within ethical guidelines, it can have a positive impact on the horse’s overall behavior and welfare.

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