One of the strangest things you may come across while strolling through a stable is blindfolded horses. We hope you caught this article before a horse owner rolls their eyes at you for asking a question as innocent and genuine as, “Why?”
Before you empathize with the horses, you need to know that they are not on blindfolds, those are fly masks! They’re used to cover a horse’s eyes to protect them against flies. The masks are made from transparent mesh for the horses to see and hear when wearing them.
Are the Masks Really Useful?
Summer may be a good season for humans, but it is a time of havoc to our four-legged friends. The combination of heat and moisture at this time is not only the best breeding atmosphere for fleas to breed, they also invade our spaces- and our horses.
Though we can’t cover their entire bodies, the fly mask protects the areas that fleas like to congregate on the delicate areas like the eyes and ears. The masks are not just a summer wardrobe outfit because other than the summer fleas, and they protect horses from other biting insects all through.
Are There Other Reasons Why Owners Cover Their Horses Faces?
1. Limiting Their Field of View
Riders use the masks on horses to:
Prey animals, horses included, use monocular vision as an adaptive feature against predators. They can use both eyes separately for a better view and perception. This monocular vision enables the horse to see around 350 degrees. The problem is that when you want the horse to be on a specific task in front, they’d have to lift their head to focus.
When you cover the horse’s eyes, they’ll only see what’s in front of them and not scan around. This will help the rider as the horse won’t be spooked easily by everything it sees. Binders help them maintain focus since they won’t be distracted by other events around them.
3. Protecting Their Eyes
Horse eyes are generally sensitive and are easily infected at the slightest vexation. Horses need an extra layer of protection, and hence the masks suffice. Some reasons why horse eyes need protection include:
Flies and other insects can carry diseases that can infect the horses’ eyes. They can also be a nuisance to the horse, and though the horse can use the tail to flick them away, it isn’t enough.
Recovering From Illness
Horses recovering from facial injuries or diseases should also wear masks until they are properly healed.
Protection From Sunlight
There are certain light-colored-eyed horses whose eyes get affected by sunlight. Especially if the horse lives in a sunny area, they need to have a mask to protect them from direct sunlight.
The 3 Types of Horse Eye Covers
Several types of covers are used to shield the horses’ eyes and for different reasons. For example, the blinker can be used for carriage horses and racehorses for different reasons. Here are the types of ‘horse hoods.
These are soft cloths that are fitted with plastic covers. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on what the rider wants.
Hoods are typically used for racehorses who are susceptible to distractions that come with the whole race track extravaganza. Riders also use hoods during training to get the horse comfortable with it before the race.
Some countries are more receptive to horses racing with hoods than others. Some people brand hooded horses as bad or rogue, so they do not give them merit with the rationale that they cannot perform independently.
2. Fly Mask
These masks are made of fine mesh, enabling the horse to see and not allowing flies in their eyes. They also help protect the horse’s eyes from sun and moonlight—if the horse is affected by either. These are essential for almost every horse.
Blindfolds are used in extreme cases that can make horses uneasy, like moving or strolling through a new or busy area. They also help with horses are transitioning from a bright-light place to a dark site.
Blindfolding horses during emergencies is also appropriate. Horses can be quite emotional and only loosen up around the people they trust. For instance, should a fire break out in the barns and they are hesitant to move, blindfold them to reduce the nervousness and have them move.
Lastly, blindfolds are recommended when horses are about to brave a surgery or other medical conditions. The horse may be spooked if it sees the different equipment and be hard to handle. Also, if they are healing from eye or ear-related illnesses, blindfolds keep away agents like fleas that can make the wounds septic and lead to reinfection. Have them on blindfolds until the wounds heal.
Is It Really a Blindfold?
Covering a horse’s face does not put them in total darkness. We cannot entirely say they are blindfolded, yet they can see. Their vision is just partially obscured. Before resorting to blinkers, remember that some horses are okay without them while others could use some blur. Do not force covers on them.
It isn’t uncommon to find horses’ eyes covered, and there are good reasons for that. So, the next time you spot one masked up, they aren’t injured. The owner is just a little more caring because if there’s an animal more beautiful than the horse, it isn’t on earth yet.
Featured Image Credit: Jesse Franks, Shutterstock