Chances are if you’ve been in the countryside, you’ve come across horses before, either on someone’s property or frolicking in a grassy field. During this time, you probably spotted a few of the horses wearing blindfold-like eye coverings on their faces. You will have also seen horses wearing eye covers during a race.
Why do horses wear eye covers? Typically, horses wear eye covers to protect their eyes from flies and other biting insects. The horses have no trouble seeing through the masks and are therefore no longer bothered by pests congregating around their eyes.
However, horses also wear eye coverings for a variety of other reasons and not just for eye protection. Below, we’ll go into a deeper explanation of the reasons why they need fly masks and provide some answers to similar related questions about eye covers.
Why do horses wear eye masks?
Here’s all you need to know about horses wearing eye masks.
Why do they cover racehorses’ eyes?
Racehorses’ eyes are covered with blinders to help them focus on what’s in front of them, rather than distractions to their sides or behind them. Horses often react to perceived danger by trying to run away, causing a dangerous situation for their riders.
You can read more about why racing horses wear eye covers in this guide.
Why do horses wear fly masks?
The most common masks horses wear are fly masks. As stated above, these masks are primarily used to protect their eyes from insects and other irritations. However, they also provide some protection to their ears which are just as sensitive.
Generally, most owners will only put fly masks on their horses during the warm spring and summer months, when biting insects are out in full force.
However, in hotter climates, such as Texas and Arizona, they may use them all year-round. Without eye coverings, horses can be at risk of developing eye infections or catching diseases spread by flies and other insects.
Additionally, a by wearing a fly mask, the horse can prevent another serious issue that commonly affects horses – sunburn. In the heat of summer, horses can quickly get sunburned unless their owner takes steps to protect them.
Alongside sunscreen and body covering garments, fly masks are a great way to protect horses from the harmful side effects of the sun’s rays.
Unfortunately, horses are at just as much risk of getting skin cancer and heat stroke as the everyday person.
Although horses may look as if they can’t see when wearing fly masks, their visibility is hardly affected because the masks are made from a special semi-transparent mesh-like material. However, most masks are not perfect and still reduce a horse’s vision to a certain degree.
Because of this, horse owners must exercise a high level of caution when putting fly masks on their animals, as they can quickly injure themselves if they panic or run into an obstacle in their paddock.
However, there are many varieties of fly masks available on the market, and some are designed for riding and other activities where horses need to see clearly.
Can horses see through fly masks at night?
In general, horses do not need to wear a fly mask at night and are much safer when not wearing one. Although most horses have no trouble seeing through fly masks during the daylight hours, it can significantly impair their vision as soon as the sun goes down.
Unfortunately, this can lead to injuries, especially if the horse is allowed to roam freely at night. Horses are naturally skittish animals and having their vision impaired can make them nervous. A loud or unexpected noise during the nighttime could easily cause them to bolt and run into a fence or another horse.
However, in certain circumstances, vets will recommend that a horse wears a fly mask during the night – generally if it has a problem with its eyes or is recovering from an operation.
During this time, the owner will need to keep their horse in a dry and sheltered area, such as a stable or field shelter, to help reduce the risk of them getting injured.
Does covering a horse’s eyes calm them?
Covering a horse’s eyes can help to calm them down. Horses are often on alert for dangers in their immediate environment due to their history as prey animals.
Because of this trait, they spook easily, and this can be dangerous for horse riders and other people who work closely with them, like carriage drivers and professional jockeys.
During training, horses will often have a set of blinkers attached to their bridle to keep their eyes focused on the road ahead of them.
The blinkers feature a semi-circular cup that sits around the horse’s eyes, preventing them from seeing behind or to their sides.
However, in some cases, trainers will forego blinkers and use their hands instead when their horse becomes fixated on something in the immediate environment.
Carriage drivers use blinders for much the same reason, to keep their horses focused on following a set path. However, the blinders also prevent them from seeing the horse adjacent to them, which helps to avoid fights between the two animals.
Why do police horses wear eye covers?
Police horses wear eye covers for protection and to keep them focused on the task directly in front of them. Mounted police are often used to help with crowd control in various countries throughout the world.
As you can imagine, at times, these situations can quickly turn volatile, and people have been known to throw items such as cans and rocks at officers and their horses. Although the horses are highly trained and will rarely panic and bolt unless highly stressed or injured, they can quickly become blinded if their eyes are not protected.
As such, officers equip their horses with special face shields and visors to keep their eyes from coming to harm. Both visors and shields are completely clear and do not obstruct the horse’s sight in any way.
However, like racehorses, police horses also wear blinders to keep them focused on the task at hand – you can read more about how this works here.
Why do horses wear blindfolds?
From time to time, owners will put blindfolds on their horses. Usually, this only takes place when the horse is highly nervous and is being transported through a busy or unfamiliar area.
Why do the cover horse’s eyes when travelling?
However, horses may also be blindfolded and have their eyes covered when travelling. This can also include when being moved from a bright area, such as a stable, to a darker place, like an outdoor paddock or transport van.
Many horse owners believe that blindfolding horses during transportation in vehicles is cruel and prefer to leave them without wearing any face covering at all.
Some horses are also blindfolded when taken to the vet, as like most animals, the sight of veterinary equipment can cause them to panic and become difficult to control.
It’s not cruel to cover a horse’s eyes if the intention is to keep them calm and safe. It’s a practice that has been used for years.
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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/horse-mould-pony-close-up-eye-fun-2574395/