Much same way cats can see in the dark, horses too see the world in a very different way compared to humans. This is a very important point to remember if you are a horse owner or trainer. Simply having this knowledge alone would help you to avoid many unnecessary incidents and aid you in better training and handling of your horse. Nonetheless, apart from knowing that we have differences in our sights, it is good to go a little more in depth and find out exactly how our vision differs from our horses’.
First of all, do take note that the human eye can perceive a lot more details than the equine eye. Another point to note is that horses are unable to see depth as clearly as we can. This is one of the reasons why many riders have difficulties getting their horse to jump over water. To a horse, a puddle of water may seem so deep that he may fear to drown in it. In addition, do also try to remember that horses cannot perceive very accurately how far an object is from them. As such, they have far more difficulty judging distances compared to human beings.
Nonetheless, horses are able to see much clearer than human beings when light conditions are low. Furthermore, their eyes are more attuned to picking out movements whether or not it is in the dark. This helps them to guard against natural predators and other dangers regardless of the surrounding environment. However, despite their better vision in the darkness, horses require a much longer time to adapt to changes in lighting conditions as compared to a human being. Thus, always try to make it a point to ensure that your horse has enough time to adapt when you are moving between areas which have a drastic change in lighting conditions.
It is also vital that every serious horse owner knows that horses tend to be able to see a much wider view than we can. This is partly due to the fact that their eyes are placed on the sides of their heads, giving them a much clearer view of everything that is happening around them. Nonetheless, never take their wider vision for granted as even horses have blind spots.
Much like how human beings cannot see behind their heads, horses too have certain spots which they cannot see, albeit much less than a human being. Apart from the obvious, which is from directly behind them, the horse’s blind spot mostly lies in front of its face. As its eyes are positioned on the side of its head, the horse is unable to see very well a small spot which extends to roughly 4 feet in front of its face. Although the distance the blind spot extends to is roughly the same for most horses, how wide it is generally depends on the shape of the horse’s head. A wider head usually results in a much wider blind spot as well.
Knowing that, you should bear in mind that approaching a horse directly from the front or back has a high chance of startling it. In order to avoid unnecessary incidents or get your horse anxious and frightened, never approach it from these angles. Approaching from the back is especially dangerous as the horse’s hind legs are its main weapons. You want to avoid any situation where there is a possibility of these strong hind legs kicking at you. Instead, do try to approach your horse from the sides in a slow and calm manner whenever possible. If approaching a horse from behind, ensure to make yourself heard so the horse knows you are there.
When a horse is frighten of an object, you should always make the horse see it from both sides so both eyes have a good view of it.
In addition, many people believe that horses are unable to see colour but there has been no concrete scientific proof of this thus far. It is also commonly believed that horses which do not have dark coloured eyes are unable to see as well. However, once again, this is merely a myth and there is no evidence or research to back up these claims yet.