You might have seen odd items on a horse’s face and wondered why are horses eyes covered?
There are several different types of horse eye covering, each with a specific purpose.
If you aren’t familiar with these you might think that the horse can’t see!
However, I’m going to clear everything up for you and you might be surprised that most of these items don’t have much effect on a horse’s vision.
READ MORE: Horse Riding Helmet Covers
Why Do Horses Have Their Eyes Covered?
The two main reasons why do horses have their eyes covered are for protection and controlling the field of vision. You will also occasionally see a blindfold used on a horse. I’ll explain the purpose of that in a bit.
But first, let’s take a look at the two main reasons. The most common reason why are horses eyes covered. This is for protection.
These horse face covers protect the eyes from flies and other irritating insects.  Some of them are extra long along the front so that they cover the nose.
In addition to protection from flies, the materials used sometimes block UV rays. For horses with pink skin on their noses, the cover helps prevent sunburn for this sensitive pink skin.
For these horses, I always recommend a full fly mask with UV protection. Horses with light-colored eyes can also benefit from this type of fly mask.
The other main purpose for why cover horses eyes are to block certain areas of its vision. There are different styles of these face coverings. You will usually see them on carriage horses and racehorses.
But there is also a style that attaches to the bridle and is used on show jumping horses.
These items block the horse’s vision to the side and back. It helps the horse focus on what is in front of them only. They are also helpful for horses that get worried about moving objects or other horses coming behind them.
Finally, one purpose of these covering is after eye surgery. This might be just one eye. The special cover will protect the eye from dirt, allow healing, and help prevent infection.
What Do Horses Wear on Their Face?
So what do horses wear on their face? I’ve just given you the reasons for these odd-looking face covers but what are they called? Let’s find out!
Going back to the common reason, protection, first. This face covering is called a fly mask. A fly mask is made from a white mesh with small holes that insects can’t penetrate.
If you are unfamiliar with horses and see one wearing one of these, it is easy to think the horse can’t see!
I totally get that and it’s a question I’m asked often! However, don’t worry, a fly mask does not affect the horse’s vision. It does provide shade from sunlight but that’s a good thing!
Fly masks also block out some UV rays which helps protect from the damage these can cause.
I always suggest that horse owners that travel their horse in a stock trailer use a fly mask. This is because stock trailers have open slates on the side.
Debris from the road can easily enter the trailer can cause an injury to your horse’s eyes.
Something you want to avoid. Any eye injury to a horse is considered an emergency. A fly mask will prevent a lot of debris from affecting the eyes without causing any visual impairment.
Here’s how you can introduce your horse to a fly mask:
It’s pretty simple and a great piece of equestrian gear to have for your horse.
The other common item horses wear are blinkers. Blinkers are not necessary for most horses. They come in different shapes for various equestrian disciplines.
Race horses will wear a blinker hood that fits under the bridle. Racing blinkers have holes for the eyes the edge will have a plastic cup of varying sizes. They come in all kinds of colors.
Carriage horses wear eye coverings called blinders. They don’t actually blind the horse! They are pieces of leather that fit onto the bridle. They help keep these horses calm and improve safety by altering their range of vision.
Showjumping horses also wear a type of blinder, though they are usually called blinkers. Confusing I know! But they are more similar to blinders than the blinkers you see on racehorses.
Showjumping blinkers attach to the bridle cheek straps. They are shorter than what carriage horses wear and don’t block as much of the peripheral vision as blinders.
One of the strangest items you will see horses have their eyes covered with is goggles. Yes, they make goggles for horses!
Goggles are clear and usually used for harness racing. They prevent flying mud and dirt from getting in the eyes.
Finally, have you ever taken a look at a police horse? Most of the time and always when carrying out crowd control the horse will wear a face shield. This protects the face from projectiles that rowdy crowds throw.
5 Reasons Why Do Horses Wear Blindfold
Horses wear blindfolds for several reasons but their use should only be a last resort because you are taking away the horse’s vision completely.
- Loading into a horse trailer or racing starting gate
- Preventing the horse from seeing the vet carry out a procedure such as taking a blood sample or giving a shot.
- In an emergency, such as fire evacuation
- Calming a very nervous horse
Here’s a video explanation:
Is a Blindfold Really Helpful For Horses?
Yes, a blindfold is really helpful horse horses. However, only use it as a last resort and with care. While the purpose of the blindfold is to help calm an upset horse by taking away triggers it can also cause panic.
Before completely blindfolding a horse for the vet, try to cup your hand over one eye on the side the vet is working so it can’t see him. The blindfold can help keep a horse more relaxed making the vet’s use of a needle easier.
During a fire horses will panic. The quietest and gentle horse can become impossible to manage. Also, horses will often refuse to leave or return to their stable as they see that as their safe place.
Using a blindfold to evacuate during a fire can help make the horse calm enough to get to safety. However, since the blindfold itself can cause panic, I suggest practicing using it before you are in an emergency situation.
To get into more depth I’ve answered a few questions to help you get a better understanding of horses’ eyes.
Why shouldn’t you look a horse in the eye?
Not looking a horse in the eye is a myth!  There is no reason you shouldn’t look a horse in the eye. In fact, horses prefer if humans don’t hide their eyes.
You should actually look at your horse’s eyes. They can reveal a lot about their temperament and state of mind. In turn, horses can read your expression.
Clever horses that want to escape will take advantage of you looking away for a second to make their move!
Can horses sense a good person?
Yes, horses can sense a good person. Horses are extremely good at learning how to read a human’s body language and can sense their emotions. A good person will give nice vibes and a horse will pick up on this.
Why do you cover horses eyes when traveling?
The main reason to cover horses’ eyes when traveling is protection. If you have open windows or slates in a trailer, debris can fly into the trailer and cause a serious eye injury.
You might also temporarily cover the eyes to load a horse that stresses about this.
Why do horses have their eyes covered? I hope I’ve answered this common question for you. The particulars for using specific blinders or blinkers can get quite advanced and requires a lot of horse training knowledge. However, you now have a great understanding of the basic purpose of horse eye covers.
- 1. Niekerk T van. Everything You Need to Know About Covering Your Horse’s Eyes [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 26]. Available from: https://bestfarmanimals.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-covering-your-horses-eyes/
- 2. Horsemanship M. 10 lies you shouldn’t believe about horses – by Don Jessop [Internet]. Mastery Horsemanship. [cited 2022 Jan 26]. Available from: https://masteryhorsemanship.com/blogs/mastery-horsemanship/10-lies-you-shouldnt-believe-about-horses-by-don-jessop
Do you cover your horses’e eyes? Let us know below!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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