Through the Eyes of a Horse

People often comment on the beauty of a horse’s eyes without even realizing how amazing they really are, how their unique vision assists them as professional athletes, or how their sight abilities can some times hinder them from completing a job. And as one explores the world through a horse’s eyes, you realize just how much trust there must be between a horse and rider in some of the various disciplines horses take part in every single day. Discovering the sight capabilities of the horse opens a doorway into understanding these wonderful animals.

Horses are able to see almost three hundred and sixty degrees all around them, with the exception of two blind spots. The first blind spot is in front of the horse’s nose and for almost four feet ahead of him, in that blind spot. The other is directly behind his tail, and for an estimated ten feet behind him in that line. How these blind spots affect the horse will be explored later. Horses usually only use one eye at a time to see, which means that they have Monocular Vision. Riders therefore often experience that their horses get a fright ar an object they have previously passed, and this is because they are seeing it for the first time with that particular eye. The left eye therefore sees for the left hand side of the body, and the right eye for the other side.

A horse will lower and raise his head when investigating an object, bringing it into focus. Horses also have the ability to focus in two different ways. He can use his eye muscles as a human would, or he tilts his head to line the object up with a specific part of his eye, for better vision. When approaching a hedge, fence or jumps, which he would encounter in jumps racing, cross country events or showjumping, he will often raise his head on approach and then lower it again the closer he gets to keep it in focus as he gets ready to jump. Restricting these natural movements can cause a horse to see the blind spot and causing him to stop or turn away when he can no longer see the object, or it becomes obscured. When horses sometimes raise their heads quickly or get startled, it is often because they have noticed movement, but have not had time to focus on it. Horses see in shades of grey, yet they are able to distinguish between blue and green coloring.

With these facts in mind, riders will be able to understand the reactions of their horses better, and assist their horses accordingly. Next time a horse suddenly raises his head toward the horizon with ears forward, you will know that he is trying to focus with both eyes and investigate a movement in the distance.