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Horse Vision Through Your Horse’s Eyes

The placement and structure of your horse’s eyes is vastly different from a human’s. While we can easily wear glasses to correct poor vision, this isn’t possible for horses.

Also, we are used to a clear field of vision in front of us.  Horses, however, have amazing peripheral vision with two blind spots—one directly in front of its nose extending around four feet in front of it, and the other behind the tail, about ten feet long.

When you consider the front blind spot, the abilities of jumping horses seem all the more incredible. The horse loses sight of the obstacle when it is a few feet away and has to rely totally on the rider to tell it when to jump.

Horses also are unable to focus their eyes the way humans and most animals can. Have you ever seen a horse raising and lowering its head as it looks at an object? It does that to adjust the focal length, moving until the object comes into focus on its retina. Also, since the horse’s field of vision doesn’t overlap—the right eye sees what’s happening on the right side of its body, and the same on the left—it’s amazing that the horse isn’t confused all the time by two images that don’t match up at all.

The horse’s eyes also act something like a human’s bifocals. If the horse lowers its head and looks up, gazing through the upper portion of the eye, it can focus on the horizon. However, if it needs to look at something closer, it will raise its head to regard the object through the lower portion of the eye, where it can focus more clearly.

When you see a horse startled by a sudden movement just behind or beside it, its peripheral vision has sighted the movement but it has not yet had time to focus on it. Even when the horse is traveling a familiar path, such as to the stable or pasture, it can be startled by something as small as a paper blowing past.

Horses’ night vision is generally superior to that of humans. Horses have a reflective panel on the retina that helps to gather all available light at night. However, horses have a much lower sense of color than people. While they can distinguish green and blue, a horse’s sight is mostly in shades of gray.

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