eli5 How do horse blinders work?

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The horses can still hear all the distractions. I would think that would be more distressing to hear but not be able to see things like cars or pedestrians. The horse must know things are going on around it by sound. So because they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist?

In: Biology
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The blinders are not there so they aren’t startled, they’re there so the horse doesn’t get distracted. Atleast that’s how i understand it. I’m sure there is a 90lb jockey about to correct me.

Even if horse blinders only reduce the *chance* the horse freaks out about something nearby, that’s still a reduction of potential injuries to a rider for the small cost of using horse blinders.

They aren’t meant to stop the horse from getting spooked by every potential stimuli…they’re meant to *reduce* the amount of stimuli the horse can detect by limiting vision. Someone on a bike might not make a bunch of noise riding around, but if they come zooming up directly beside a horse into their view suddenly it might spook them. By using blinders you limit their field of vision and therefore reduce the amount of things suddenly appearing in their vision, which is safer than not using them at all.

Unlike us, horses can see what’s going on on either side of them with their left eye watching their left side and their right eye watching the opposite side. As a prey species, this helped them watch out for predators better. Alternatively, they can use both eyes to focus at something straight in front of them like we do.

Switching from one mode of vision to the other seems to be jarring for the horses. I recall one incident in which doves taking off from a race track caused the horses to switch from panoramic view to focused view, and it was so confusing on the horses that several ended up throwing their riders or breaking a leg. Blinders keep them focused on what’s in front of them all the time. Had those horses been wearing blinders, they wouldn’t have been as startled by the doves.

I was a harness racing groom for five years: as others have said blinders help horses focus on the direction ahead rather than anything else. That includes the driver, as some horses will take the opportunity to kick if they see the driver raise/move the whip, or if they see another horse coming up behind/along side them.

There are also ear hoods and ear plugs that can be used to reduce audible stimulation, pop out plugs being strategically popped out to give a flood of noise when needed to get a brief extra boost of speed.