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Focused or Flying Blind: Why Horses Wear Blinkers

racehorse wearing blinders
Written by Natalie Gasper

Help for the distracted horse

The old saying out of sight, out of mind is true for more than people. While some people think horse blinders are simply decorative, this piece of equipment can actually serve a range of helpful purposes.

Blinders, or blinkers, are small plastic or leather cups used to restrict how much a horse can see. They can help horses stay calm, focus on their jobs, and can prevent horses from spooking. Blinders are most often used with racehorses (to stay focused on the race) and carriage horses (to block out distractions on the road).

draft horse wearing blinders

Source: Canva

Blinders can sometimes be confused with fly masks. Fly masks are made from fine mesh that covers the eyes but doesn’t restrict a horse’s vision. While they may appear to be somewhat like a blinder, a mask’s only role is to deter flies.

Horse Blinders & Blinkers: Defined

Blinders, or blinkers, are small pieces of leather or plastic used to restrict a horse’s field of vision. Typically square or circular, blinders limit what a horse can see to only what’s in front of him.

There are even some blinders designed to prevent a horse from seeing the ground (shadow rolls, typically used for jumpers prone to shying).

Blinders vs. Blinkers

For the most part, these terms can be used interchangeably, as they both refer to the same piece of equipment.

The biggest difference comes from either regional or industry use.

For example, the word blinkers is more commonly used in racing circles and in the UK (where winkers is also a common phrase). Blinders is the more commonly used term in the USA.

racehorse with blinders on

Source: Canva

Form & Function

Blinders are used to shrink a horse’s field of vision. Without them, a horse has an almost 360-degree view of the world. They can see everything clearly (except what is directly in front of or behind them).

Because horses are prey animals, instinct tells them to run anytime they sense movement or see something new.

For a racehorse or a carriage horse, this can lead to deadly results. Blinders narrow his field of vision and help him focus on the task at hand.

Fit & Flair

Blinders come in various shapes and sizes and limit vision to varying degrees. Most attach to the horse’s bridle, but some blinders are sewn into a face mask, like with racehorses.

There are several different styles of blinders available, and it’s even possible to customize them.

  • Full Cup: the most restrictive, typically used on just one side for racehorses
  • Standard Blinder: a 2/3 cup with a small hole in the middle
  • French Cup: not actually a cup, but plastic that extends from the mask to hide the jockey
  • Cheater Cup: sometimes called a quarter cup, one of the least restrictive
  • Semi-Cup: a cross between a standard blinker and a French cup
racehorses wearing blinders

Source: Canva


Blinders, or blinkers, can serve many purposes, including:

  • Racing
  • Driving
  • Eye protection
  • Stress reduction

The EquiVizor Solar Vizor Horse Fly Mask is a popular blinder/fly mask combo that can be used for many conditions, including head shaking, photosensitivity, and uveitis.

It has a solid EVA lining that blocks the sun and offers UV protection. This is one way that blinders can be used to help a horse’s eyes to heal.

two gray horses pulling cart

Source: Canva


Blinders have evolved over time, but what could be recognized as a modern blinder evolved around the 1600s.

This new blinder fast became the standard for racing and driving around the late 1800s in Europe.

Blinders are still popular today, with several different types available.

When were horse blinders invented?

While archaeology can’t say for sure, evidence has been found dating as far back as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece for chariot races.

Best Blinders For: Product Name & Link Price Point
Thoroughbred Racing Intrepid International Half Cup Blinker Hood $$
Driving Horses Equitem Black Leather Harness Bridle $$$
Riding Horses Intrepid International Can’t See Back Quarter Cup Blinker Hood $
Fly Control Cashel Crusader Fly Mask $

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do horses wear blinders in pasture?

Most horses have little need for blinders in a pasture since that’s when they need their vision most. You’re probably thinking of a fly mask, which is used to keep flies away from a horse’s eyes.

Q: Why do horses wear eye covers?

Eye covers can serve a lot of purposes with horses. Sometimes, eye covers are used while a horse heals from an eye infection or eye surgery. Other times, they are used to prevent flies from getting into his eyes.

Horses can also wear blinders to help block out distractions and focus on their jobs.

Q: Why do horses wear blinders masks?

Chances are good you’re thinking about fly masks. Fly masks look opaque from a distance but are made of a fine mesh that horses can see through with ease.

Q: Are horse blinders ethical?

Yes! Horse blinders are a safe piece of equipment that helps prevent horses from getting distracted by stimuli and hurting themselves or others.

Q: Are horse blinders cruel?

No! Even with blinders, horses can still see and function as they normally would. Blinders can help keep a racehorse focused on the track, prevent a carriage horse from being distracted on the street, and stop a jumper from spooking at flowers on a course.

Q: Why do racehorses wear blinders?

Many trainers use blinders on their racehorses to help keep them focused on the race (so they won’t get distracted by the other horses and the crowds). Less distraction = increased chance of winning.

Q: What do horses wear on their face when racing?

Racehorses often wear blinders, or blinkers, when racing. Instead of attaching to the bridle, like with carriage horses, racehorses will wear nylon masks with plastic cups attached.

two black horses with blinders

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Blinders can be a great option to help keep your horse calm and focused. Like any piece of equipment, make sure you work with a trainer to acclimate your horse and make sure you’re using the blinders correctly.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to: 


Why Do Horses Wear Blinders? 4 Primary Reasons 

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About the author


Natalie Gasper

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!