It is important for your daily management, training and riding to know how the senses of your horse work.
A lot of misunderstanding in interpreting the horses behaviour comes from a lack of knowledge about how their senses work and how their perception of OUR world is.
My aim is to provide more knowledge and facts here, so you can use this for your training, riding and approaching your horse in general. I hope this will help to understand your horse better and make the daily management easier. For the horse AND for you.
Enjoy the read and "see" your horse through different eyes afterwards.
The vision of a horse is quite different to ours.
Some facts first:
Overbending the horse is very very harmful!!!!!
First, it causes a big damage in the neck BUT also restricts the vision of a horse immensely. As a prey animal that cannot see properly it puts a lot of stress onto them PLUS the stress of the pain in the neck....Unfortunately we still see so many overbend ridden horses....Hopefully more riders educate themselves and question some training methods more as they gain more knowledge and get a better connection to their horse.
Some examples of how important the knowledge of vision is, is everything that includes jumping.
Please see these brilliant illustrations out of the book "Horse Brain/ human brain" from Janet Jones:
If you need a Christmas present idea, put this book on your wish list. Its great to read and includes a lot of useful and easy to understand information.
The accuracy for objects depend on age but also of the breed of a horse.
So, the best sight ability will be around the age of 7 years ( the time it has fully developed) for a horse, with older age is will decrease just like in humans.
Scientists found some breeds have a better acuity than others.
Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds with their long convex faces have a better acuity than Arabians with their short concave faces. This is not a general rule of course, you will always find exceptions.
Another interesting fact is, horses need much longer to adapt to changes in brightness. For example, when riding from an outdoor arena to warm up into an indoor arena for competing.
Eyes adapt to light by contracting the pupils and to darkness by expanding their pupils.
Human eyes need about 25min to adjust from bright sunlight to darkness.
Equine eyes ,in comparison, need about twice as long, approximately 45min to adjust.
Means: When you entering a dim arena from daylight, your horse will struggle with darkness longer than your own eyes have adapted. After adapted, his eyes are about 25000 times more sensitive than at the beginning. Now he can see, but unfortunately the 45min riding lesson or 10min competition time is already over by then...
Helpful for the horse will be
So, now that you know more about the vision of your horse ( there is much more, but too much for this blog...) you will probably act different now, when your horse spooks or raises their head while you train or ride them. Humans just have a smaller range of sight as illustrated in the picture above.
(Source is again : Horse brain/Human Brain from Janet Jones)
Our horses have much stronger accurate senses than we have, so we should consider this when they show a certain behaviour such as raising their head, freeze or turn their head.
They might have heard, smelled, or seen something concerning ( from their perspective!).So do not punish them for "bad" behaviour or not being obedient. They just act how their equine brain tells them to.
Think about it next time : )
I hope you enjoyed this little journey and stay tuned for next Sunday to read about the "hearing" ability of a horse.
For the love of horses,
Britta Bruns, Invercargill