Can Horses See At Night & Other Questions About How Horses See

Can you ride at night? Will your horse be able to see? You may be surprised to know that horses actually have pretty good night vision. For this reason, if you happen to get caught out at sunset in a familiar area, you needn’t be too terribly worried. This is especially true on a clear moonlit or starlit night. In this article, we explore the topic of horses’ night vision and horses‘ vision in general. Read on to learn more.

Can horses see at night – FAQs

Can horses see at night - FAQs

Do horses see the same way people do?

No, horses actually see very differently than people. Although their eyes respond to darkness and light very much like ours, the way they process the things they see is quite different.

Is a horse’s vision as good as a person’s?

Horses are not able to make out details as well as people are. They must be about fifty percent closer to an object to be able to determine what it is.

What a person is able to see well at a distance of thirty feet, a horse cannot really decipher until he gets about twenty feet away. For this reason, even familiar objects that you can identify as non-threatening from quite a distance may be unidentifiable and frightening to your horse.

On the other hand, because a horse’s eyes are positioned on the sides of its head, a horse can see 350 degrees around itself. A horse has, not only excellent peripheral vision, he can also see a bit of what’s going on behind him.

People only have 45 degrees of vision. We can see what’s in front of us and a bit to the side, so while you are focusing on what’s ahead, your horse sees ahead and all around but not quite clearly.

This can explain why your horse may bolt or spook in response to something you didn’t even know existed.

Can a horse see in darkness right away?

Just as with humans, it takes a few minutes for a horse’s eyes to adjust from light to dark. This will naturally occur if you happen to be out riding at sunset. As the light fades, your horse’s eyes (and your eyes) will adjust within a span of about fifteen minutes.

Can a horse’s eyes adjust to bright lights?

Just as with a human’s eyes, sudden bright light in darkness can cause momentary blindness. Don’t ride your horse in the dark alongside a road where it may be exposed to bright headlights. Vehicles whooshing past and sudden bright lights could easily cause very serious accidents.

Where are the safest places to ride after dark?

Naturally, you would not want to ride in completely unfamiliar areas after dark, but if you are close to home in a familiar setting, your horse should be able to navigate well.

Steer clear of heavy woods and busy traffic areas, but if you are in a lightly wooded area or an open field, you and your horse should be fine.

Why do horses sometimes not see things that are right in front of them?

Even though horses have a very wide range of vision, they also have three blind spots.

  • Because of the position of the eyes on the sides of the head, a horse may not see something directly in front of it. This blind spot is specifically from eye level to the ground for a distance of approximately six feet.
  • Although a horse has a broad band of vision to the side and to the back, it is hard for horses to see things that are at ground level or higher than eye level.
  • While horses range of vision does reach far to the rear, a horse cannot see directly behind itself.

All of these blind spots present very good reasons for taking time to acclimate your horse to the areas where you will be riding and to adjust your own actions so that your horse will not suddenly be taken by surprise.

Can a horse identify unusual objects visually?

Horses are less able to focus on objects by simply moving their eyes. That’s why they must turn toward unfamiliar objects, widen their eyes, perk their ears and expand their nostrils in order to focus on and identify unfamiliar objects.

For this reason, riding in an unfamiliar setting can be an unsettling (and potentially dangerous) experience, especially after dark.

Do all horses have the same visual abilities?

Just as with people, visual acuity varies from one horse to another. Approximately a quarter of all horses are near-sighted. If your horse is nearsighted, he may be easily startled by unfamiliar objects looming ahead, day or night.

On the other hand, nearly half of all horses are far-sighted, and this is an advantage when trail riding, jumping or participating in other activities that benefit from the ability to see and understand upcoming objects and landscape features.

Of course, horses’ vision also changes with age, just as ours does. Older horses are more likely to be nearsighted. Some horses have visual maladies, such as “moon-eye” causing them to be blind in one eye.

These horses may be perfectly safe to ride in very familiar settings, and oddly, fine in dark settings, but they may have a great deal of difficulty when ridden in unfamiliar settings.

Do some breeds of horses have better vision?

It seems that horses who have longer, more convex noses have better vision. Look to breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds for better visual acuity. Horses with a short nose and dished face, such as Arabians, tend to have slightly lowered visual acuity.

How can you keep your horse from being afraid of things that he sees?

You can begin by understanding how a horse sees. Be aware of his or her blind spots. Know that your horse is receiving a lot more visual input than you are. Realize that your horse does not see that visual input as well as you do.

Before you ride in an unfamiliar setting, take the time to walk through it with your horse. Give him or her plenty of time to look at, smell and explore things.

TIP: Horses use the whiskers on their muzzle to examine and identify unfamiliar objects. It’s important to let your horse sniff and feel new things in order to overcome potential fright.

Show your horse that you are not afraid of things, and your horse will not be afraid of them.

Give riding your full attention. Look ahead and around and be aware of any potential surprises. Be ready to stop and allow your horse a little more time to observe and process if something unexpected is coming up.

What Do Horses See?

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