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Why Do Horses Wear Blinkers? Does It Help Them Win?

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and wondered why some of the horses are wearing blinkers, then wonder no more.

Horses wear blinkers, also known as blinders, when they race to help them maintain focus and prevent distractions.

The blinkers are made of leather or plastic cups that attach to the bridle and cover the sides of the horse’s eyes.

This restricts the horse’s vision and allows them to see only what is directly in front of them, reducing their chances of being spooked or distracted by other horses, spectators, or objects in their peripheral vision.

By wearing blinkers, horses are less likely to become overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the racetrack and can concentrate on running their best race.

It is important to note that not all horses wear blinkers, as some horses are naturally more focused and less easily distracted than others.

The decision to use blinkers is typically left up to the horse’s trainer and jockey, who may experiment with different equipment to find what works best for each individual horse.

When Were Blinkers First Used?

The use of blinkers or blinders on horses is believed to date back to ancient Greece, where chariot racers used them to keep their horses focused and prevent them from being distracted by the other horses, the crowd, or the surrounding environment. The use of blinkers gradually spread to other cultures and became a common practice in horse racing.

In the early days of horse racing, blinkers were not yet widely used. However, as horse racing became more organised and competitive, trainers and jockeys began experimenting with various equipment and techniques to help their horses perform better.

In the late 19th century, the use of blinkers became more popular, and they were eventually adopted as standard equipment for many racehorses.

One of the earliest documented uses of blinkers in modern horse racing dates back to the late 1800s in France, where a trainer named Henry Jennings began using them on his horses.

The practice quickly caught on, and many other trainers and jockeys soon adopted blinkers.

Today, blinkers are commonly used in horse racing and other equestrian sports, and they are considered an essential piece of equipment for many horses.

They can be customised to fit each horse’s individual needs, and different types of blinkers are used for different purposes, such as reducing distractions, improving peripheral vision, or providing additional eye protection.

How Much Can A Horse See With Blinkers On?

When a horse wears blinkers, its field of vision is reduced, and it can only see what is directly in front of it.

The exact amount of vision that is blocked by the blinkers can vary depending on the type of blinkers used and how they are adjusted. Generally, blinkers block out the horse’s peripheral vision, meaning they can only see straight ahead.

However, horses have a wide range of vision even without the use of blinkers. They have a field of vision that extends to almost 350 degrees, much wider than the human field of vision, which is around 180 degrees.

Horses have eyes located on the sides of their heads, which allows them to see almost all around them without having to turn their heads.

Blinkers are typically used to help horses focus and reduce distractions, rather than to limit their vision entirely. When used correctly, blinkers can help a horse stay more focused and perform better during a race or other equestrian activity.

Why Don’t All Horses Wear Blinkers?

But if blinkers were so successful then wouldn’t we all be placing bets on horses that wore them?

Not exactly. Not all horses wear blinkers because some horses are naturally more focused and less easily distracted than others.

Horses that are naturally more relaxed, have a good temperament, and are not easily spooked or distracted may not require the use of blinkers to help them focus during a race or other equestrian activity.

Additionally, the decision to use blinkers is often based on individual horse characteristics and performance. Some horses may benefit from the use of blinkers during training and certain races, while others may not require them at all.

Horses that have difficulty focusing, are easily distracted, or have a tendency to veer off course may benefit from wearing blinkers, as they can help the horse maintain its focus and stay on track.

It is also worth noting that the use of blinkers can have both positive and negative effects on a horse’s performance.

While they can help a horse stay more focused and reduce distractions, they can also limit the horse’s peripheral vision and make it more difficult for the horse to respond to sudden changes in its environment.

Therefore, it is important for trainers and jockeys to carefully consider each individual horse’s needs and abilities before deciding whether or not to use blinkers.

Is There Any Scientific Proof That Blinkers Work?

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that blinkers can be effective in helping horses maintain their focus and perform better during races or other equestrian activities.

Several studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of blinkers on horse behavior and performance, with varying results.

One study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in 2010 found that horses wearing blinkers had a reduced heart rate and were less likely to become distracted than horses without blinkers.

The study also found that horses wearing blinkers were more likely to maintain a straight line during a race and were less likely to veer off course.

Another study published in the same journal in 2016 found that horses wearing blinkers had improved performance in races and were less likely to become stressed or agitated during the race.

The study also found that blinkers had no negative effect on the horse’s vision or ability to navigate the course.

However, other studies have produced mixed results, with some finding no significant effect of blinkers on horse performance, while others have found that blinkers may have a negative effect on peripheral vision or cause discomfort or stress for some horses.

Overall, while there is some scientific evidence to support the use of blinkers for certain horses, their effectiveness can vary depending on individual horse characteristics and performance, and they should be used with caution and careful consideration by trainers and jockeys.

What Famous Races Have Been Won By Horses Wearing Blinkers?

Many famous and successful racehorses have worn blinkers during their careers, including several winners of major races around the world. Here are a few examples:

Secretariat

Secretariat, one of the most famous racehorses of all time, wore blinkers during some of his races. He won the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes (also known as the Triple Crown) while wearing blinkers.

Black Caviar

Black Caviar, an undefeated Australian mare, wore them during most of her races. She won all 25 of her career starts, including the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in England.

Frankel

Frankel, a highly successful British racehorse, wore blinkers during some of his races. He won all 14 of his career starts, including the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

These are just a few examples of horses who have won major races while wearing blinkers. Many other successful racehorses have used blinkers to help them perform at their best.

Has A Grand National Winner Ever Won With Blinkers?

Yes, a horse has won the Grand National while wearing blinkers. And that horse is Tiger Roll.

Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell, Tiger Roll won the race in both 2018 and 2019. Interestingly though, he won the first time without them but wore them for the 2019 race.

Other horses have also worn them in the Grand National, although they may not have won the race. However, their use is carefully considered by trainers and jockeys, as the Grand National is known for its unique and demanding course.

What Is The Difference Between Blinks and Cheek Pieces?

Both are types of horse tack that are designed to help a horse maintain its focus and perform at its best, but they work in slightly different ways.

Also known as blinders, they are a type of headgear that restrict a horse’s vision by covering its eyes or limiting its peripheral vision.

Cheek pieces, on the other hand, are a type of strap that attaches to the bridle and runs down the side of the horse’s face. They are designed to hold the bridle in place and prevent it from slipping, but they can also have a minor effect on a horse’s vision by partially blocking its peripheral vision.

While both can affect a horse’s vision, they have different levels of restriction.

Blinders completely block or limit a horse’s vision, while cheek pieces only have a minor effect. Additionally, cheek pieces are primarily used to keep the bridle in place and are not specifically designed to improve a horse’s performance or focus.

It’s also worth noting that there are different types of cheek pieces, such as full cheek pieces, which have a larger effect on a horse’s vision, and half cheek pieces, which have a smaller effect. The type of cheek piece used may depend on the individual horse’s needs and preferences.