Horse Vision: How They See
and What That Means To You

Horse vision is monocular. They have eyes set on the side of their head and mostly see two of each image.

Why do you need to know this if you are a beginner rider?

Because they have blind spots in front of their nose as well as near their tail.

  • Horses have two places where they can't see you at all.

The two images they see separately come together right right in front of their nose. As they get closer to an object, the image then disappears, creating a “blind spot” where they can’t see you.

Seeing this way helps them locate danger because they have great peripheral (side) vision compared to humans. They can spot the lion that might want to attack them more easily. This helps them survive in the wild.

  • Because horse vision lacks depth perception like we have, they can’t tell that a mud puddle is not an infinitely deep hole.

  • Equines also process images in each eye separately.

    That is why they can sometimes spook at something you already showed them on one side when it is presented to them in the other eye.

  • He may be more used to having people handle him from the left side, as this is the traditional side they are trained and handled from.

    He may react differently if you are on his right and he sees you out of his right eye or vice versa and it is something to be aware of.

Horses also lose vision at the rear near their tail where their peripheral vision ends.

That means in these areas he is most likely not going to see you if you appear suddenly. While most of the time they don’t intentionally bite or kick to hurt someone, they can react when startled.

  • The most common example of this is if he is napping (horses sleep standing up) and then all of a sudden you show up right in back or front of him.

He may wake up quickly and not be able to see you in his field of vision. Because of his instinct you could have just found yourself on the receiving end of a horse kick, bite or strike.

  • To stay safe, approach the horse at about a 45 degree angle to the shoulder and speak to him saying his name if possible before you get close.

If he’s dozing your talking should wake him up. Approaching like this at the shoulder is best because you will be out of range of his front legs and be in a less likely spot to get hurt.

I hope you enjoyed learning about horse vision and how you can enjoy your time around horses while being safe.

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