Why Do People Cover Horses Eyes?

horse wearing blinders

Quick Answer:- Why Do Horses Have Their Eyes Covered?

Horses may have their eyes covered using a variety of equipment, such as fly masks, blinkers, and blinders. Each serves a different purpose:

Fly Masks: Fly masks are designed to protect a horse’s eyes, ears, and face from insects, debris, and harmful UV rays. They are typically made from mesh material that allows the horse to see while providing the necessary protection.

Blinkers: Also known as “winkers” in the UK, these are pieces of equipment used to limit a horse’s peripheral vision during racing or training. They help to keep the horse focused on the path ahead, reducing the chance of distractions and improving their performance.

Blinders: These are similar to blinkers but cover more of the horse’s eye area, restricting their vision even further. Blinders are often used for horses that are easily spooked or need additional focus during training or specific activities.

Covering a horse’s eyes with these various types of equipment helps to protect their well-being, maintain focus, and enhance performance in different situations.

horse wearing fly mask

What Are The Main Reasons People Cover Horses Eyes?

There are numerous reasons why people cover horses’ eyes, each tailored to specific needs and situations. Here are 12 reasons:

Protection from insects and debris

Fly masks shield a horse’s eyes, ears, and face from irritating insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and midges. They also protect against debris and dust, which can cause eye irritation, infections, or even injuries.

Protection from UV rays

Some fly masks are designed with UV-resistant materials that protect horses’ sensitive eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. This is particularly important for light-skinned or light-eyed horses, which are more susceptible to sunburn, eye damage, and even cancer.

Focus during racing or training

Blinkers and blinders restrict a horse’s peripheral vision, helping them concentrate on the task at hand. By limiting distractions and promoting focus, these devices can improve a horse’s performance during racing or training sessions.

Calming nervous or easily spooked horses

Some horses may become anxious or spooked by their surroundings. Covering their eyes with blinders can help them feel more secure, reducing stress and making them easier to handle and train.

Assisting visually impaired horses

In some cases, horses with visual impairments may benefit from having their eyes covered to prevent further damage or discomfort. Equipment such as fly masks or specially designed blinders can help protect their eyes and allow them to function more comfortably.

Enhancing safety during transportation

When horses are transported, their eyes may be covered to keep them calm and focused. This can help reduce the risk of injury to both the horse and handler during transit.

Preventing head tossing

Horses sometimes toss their heads due to irritation from flies or debris. Covering their eyes with a fly mask can alleviate this discomfort, leading to calmer behaviour and reducing the risk of injury.

Aiding recovery from eye injuries or surgeries

In cases where a horse has suffered an eye injury or undergone eye surgery, covering their eyes with a protective mask can help prevent further damage and promote healing.

Promoting relaxation during grooming

Some horses may become anxious or restless during grooming. Covering their eyes with a calming mask or blinders can help them relax and enjoy the grooming process.

Encouraging trust and bonding

In certain training methods, covering a horse’s eyes can help establish trust and build a stronger bond between the horse and handler, as the horse becomes more dependent on the handler for guidance and support.

Reducing the risk of self-inflicted injuries

Horses with certain behavioural issues, such as head shaking or self-mutilation, may benefit from having their eyes covered to discourage these harmful behaviours.

Acclimating horses to new environments

When introducing a horse to a new environment, covering their eyes temporarily can help them adjust to unfamiliar sights and sounds, easing the transition process.

These various reasons for covering horses’ eyes contribute to their overall health, safety, and performance in different situations.

racing horse wearing blinkers

What Are The Different Types Of Horse Eye Covers?

Fly Masks

Fly masks are designed to protect a horse’s eyes, ears, and face from insects, debris, and harmful UV rays. They are typically made from a breathable mesh material that allows the horse to see while providing the necessary protection. Some fly masks also cover the horse’s ears and nose, offering additional protection against biting insects, sunburn, and airborne irritants like pollen. These masks are particularly useful during the warmer months when insects are more prevalent and can also help prevent conditions like conjunctivitis, caused by excessive exposure to dust and debris.

Blinkers (Winkers)

Blinkers, also known as “winkers” in the UK, are pieces of equipment used to limit a horse’s peripheral vision during racing or training. They are usually made from leather or synthetic materials and are attached to the bridle, covering the sides of the horse’s eyes. By reducing distractions, blinkers help keep the horse focused on the path ahead, improving their performance and reducing the chance of accidents. Blinkers come in various styles, such as full-cup, half-cup, or hooded, allowing trainers to select the appropriate level of restriction for each horse.

Blinders

Blinders are similar to blinkers, but they cover more of the horse’s eye area, restricting their vision even further. They are often used for horses that are easily spooked, overly reactive, or need additional focus during training or specific activities. Blinders are typically made from leather or synthetic materials and are also attached to the bridle. By limiting the horse’s vision, blinders can help reduce anxiety, improve focus, and prevent potential accidents caused by sudden distractions.

Calming Masks

Calming masks, also known as relaxation masks, are designed to help soothe anxious or stressed horses by covering their eyes and reducing visual stimuli. These masks are usually made from soft, opaque materials that block out light, providing a calming effect. Calming masks can be particularly useful during situations such as grooming, veterinary procedures, or transportation, helping to keep the horse relaxed and cooperative.

white horse

What Are The Different Types Of Horse Face Covers?

Nose Nets

Nose nets are designed to protect a horse’s nose and muzzle from insects, particularly biting midges that can cause discomfort and irritation. They are usually made from a lightweight mesh material and are easily attached to the bridle or headcollar. Nose nets can help prevent conditions such as sweet itch, a common allergic reaction in horses caused by midge bites. They can also shield the horse’s nose from dust, pollen, and other airborne irritants, reducing the risk of respiratory issues.

Ear Bonnets

Ear bonnets are used to protect a horse’s ears from insects, noise, and debris. They are typically made from a breathable fabric or crochet material and fit over the horse’s ears, attaching to the bridle or headcollar. Ear bonnets can be especially useful for sensitive horses or those competing in events where noise reduction is beneficial, such as show jumping or dressage. They also help to keep the horse’s ears clean, preventing the buildup of dirt and wax that can lead to infections.

Poll Guards

Poll guards are designed to protect the sensitive poll area (the top of a horse’s head) from injury, particularly during transportation or when the horse is wearing a headcollar. They are usually made from padded materials, such as neoprene or sheepskin, and can be attached to the headcollar or bridle. Poll guards can help prevent bumps and bruises that may occur when a horse tosses its head or comes into contact with objects like trailer roofs or stable doorframes. They can also provide additional comfort for horses that tend to rub their heads against walls or fences.

Face Guards or Muzzles

Face guards or muzzles are used to protect a horse’s face and muzzle from injury, as well as to control biting, cribbing, or other unwanted behaviours. They are typically made from sturdy materials like nylon, rubber, or plastic and can be easily attached to a headcollar or bridle. Face guards and muzzles can help prevent injuries caused by self-mutilation, fighting with other horses, or getting caught in fencing. They can also restrict a horse’s ability to graze, which may be necessary for horses with specific dietary needs or those prone to overeating and obesity.

Each type of horse face cover serves a specific purpose, addressing various needs and situations to ensure the horse’s overall well-being, comfort, and safety.

Things To Consider When Covering A Horses Eyes

Purpose

Before covering a horse’s eyes, it is essential to determine the primary purpose of the eye cover. Whether it is to protect the horse from insects, reduce distractions during training or racing, or provide a calming effect in stressful situations, understanding the specific need will help you choose the appropriate type of eye cover.

Material

The material used for the eye cover should be comfortable, durable, and breathable. Materials such as mesh, fabric, or leather should be considered based on the specific purpose of the eye cover. Ensure that the material doesn’t cause irritation, rubbing, or discomfort to the horse.

Visibility

While some eye covers, like fly masks, allow the horse to maintain visibility, others like blinders or calming masks may limit their vision. It’s crucial to consider the horse’s safety and whether the chosen eye cover will impede their ability to navigate their environment or interact with other horses.

Proper fit

An ill-fitting eye cover can cause discomfort, chafing, or even injury to the horse. Ensure that the eye cover fits snugly but not too tightly, and allows the horse to move its head and ears comfortably. It’s also essential to check that the eye cover doesn’t obstruct the horse’s nostrils or impede their breathing.

Adjustability

Choose an eye cover with adjustable straps or fastenings to ensure a secure and customised fit. This will help prevent the eye cover from slipping off or causing discomfort.

Easy to clean and maintain

Horse eye covers should be easy to clean and maintain to ensure hygiene and prolong their lifespan. Opt for eye covers that are machine washable or can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Safety

Ensure that the eye cover doesn’t pose any safety risks to the horse, such as getting caught on fences or other objects in the environment. Avoid eye covers with sharp edges or protruding parts that could cause injury to the horse or others.

Horse’s temperament and sensitivity

Consider the horse’s temperament and sensitivity when selecting an eye cover. Some horses may be more comfortable with a specific type of eye cover, while others may require time to adjust to wearing one. Introduce the eye cover gradually and monitor the horse’s reaction to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Regular checks

Regularly check the horse’s eyes for any signs of irritation, injury, or infection when using an eye cover. If you notice any issues, remove the eye cover immediately and consult a veterinarian if necessary.

By considering these factors, you can ensure that covering your horse’s eyes is done safely and effectively, catering to the specific needs and well-being of the animal.

FAQs

What Are The Eye Covers On Horses Called?

The eye covers on horses can be called fly masks, blinkers, blinders, or calming masks, depending on their purpose. Fly masks protect against insects and UV rays, blinkers restrict peripheral vision during racing or training, blinders further restrict vision for easily spooked horses, and calming masks reduce visual stimuli to help soothe anxious horses.

Why Do People Blindfold Their Horses?

People blindfold their horses to help them stay calm and focused in stressful situations or when they need to concentrate on a specific task. By reducing visual stimuli, the horse can be less distracted and more at ease. Common scenarios where horses may be blindfolded include grooming, veterinary procedures, transportation, or training exercises.

Why Shouldn’t You Look A Horse In The Eye?

Looking a horse directly in the eye can be perceived as a threat or a challenge, making the horse uncomfortable or anxious. Horses are prey animals and can be easily spooked, so it’s essential to approach them calmly and respectfully, avoiding direct eye contact and sudden movements.

Why Do People Cover Horses Eyes When Transporting Them?

People cover horses’ eyes during transportation to help keep the horse calm and reduce stress. The limited visibility provided by a calming mask or blinders can prevent the horse from becoming anxious or agitated by the moving environment or unfamiliar sights during travel. This can make the journey more comfortable and safe for both the horse and its handlers.

How Do I Get My Horse Used To Wearing An Eye Cover?

Introduce the eye cover gradually and positively. Start by letting the horse sniff and inspect the eye cover, then gently place it on their face without fastening it. Reward the horse with treats or praise for staying calm. Gradually increase the duration of wear and eventually secure the eye cover in place. Always monitor the horse’s reaction to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Can A Horse See Through A Fly Mask?

Yes, a horse can see through a fly mask. The mesh material used in fly masks is designed to be breathable and provide visibility while protecting the horse’s eyes from insects, debris, and UV rays.

Do Blinkers Improve A Horse’s Performance?

Blinkers can improve a horse’s performance by limiting their peripheral vision and reducing distractions. This helps the horse focus on the path ahead and can improve their performance during racing or training by preventing them from becoming startled or veering off course.

Is It Safe To Leave A Fly Mask On A Horse Overnight?

It is generally safe to leave a fly mask on a horse overnight, as long as it fits correctly and is comfortable for the horse. However, it is essential to monitor the horse for any signs of discomfort or irritation and remove the mask if necessary. Regularly check the horse’s eyes for any signs of injury or infection, and ensure the fly mask remains clean and well-maintained.

How Often Should I Clean My Horse’s Eye Cover?

You should clean your horse’s eye cover regularly to ensure proper hygiene and maintain its effectiveness. Depending on the type of eye cover and the environment, it may be necessary to clean it daily, weekly, or as needed. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance.

Can I Use A Fly Mask For A Horse With An Eye Injury?

If your horse has an eye injury, consult your veterinarian before using a fly mask. While a fly mask can protect the injured eye from further irritation by insects, debris, or sunlight, it is essential to follow your vet’s advice on the appropriate care and treatment for the injury.

Do Horses Need Eye Covers In Winter?

Horses may not need eye covers such as fly masks as much in winter due to fewer insects being present. However, if your horse is sensitive to cold wind, a fly mask with UV protection can help protect its eyes from wind and glare on bright, snowy days. Always monitor your horse’s comfort and well-being, and adjust its protective gear as needed.

Is It Necessary To Use Ear Covers Along With Eye Covers?

Using ear covers, such as ear bonnets, along with eye covers depends on the specific needs of your horse. If your horse is sensitive to noise or prone to ear infections caused by insects or debris, using ear covers in combination with eye covers can provide additional protection and comfort.

Can A Horse Wear A Fly Mask And A Bridle At The Same Time?

Yes, a horse can wear a fly mask and a bridle at the same time. Many fly masks are designed to fit comfortably under a bridle or headcollar, allowing the horse to wear both simultaneously. Ensure that both the fly mask and bridle fit correctly and don’t cause any discomfort or rubbing for the horse.

How Do I Know If My Horse Needs An Eye Cover?

Monitor your horse for any signs of discomfort, irritation, or sensitivity that might indicate the need for an eye cover. This can include excessive head shaking, rubbing its face on objects, or visible irritation around the eyes. Additionally, consider factors such as the presence of insects, bright sunlight, or specific activities like racing or transportation that may warrant the use of an eye cover.

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