Prepare for Takeoff! – Equine Vision (Part 2)

An equestrian grand prix show-jumping class takes place over a course of 10 to 16 obstacles that reach heights and spreads of up to 6’6″. It’s a thrilling event to watch! Horse and rider try to beat the clock while leaving all of the rails up. So how does the rider get the horse to jump something that’s taller than them both? Is it training, enjoyment, perception, or a combination of these elements?

Part 1 of this series on equine vision examined the difference between monocular vision (using one eye to scan a broad area of the visual field) and binocular vision (using both eyes to look ahead and perceive depth). The horse uses both techniques: one for protection and one for speed. Although the equine is an animal with a broad range of vision (350 degrees), it has two blind spots – one directly behind it and the other just in front of its nose to beneath it.

Binocular Vision Impairment

Without getting too technical from an equestrian’s standpoint (I’ve spent many hours in the saddle during the past 19 years), there are certain things a rider asks a horse to do before jumping is even considered. One of those things is for the horse to go “on the bit”, also known as “in a frame”. A simple visual is to picture a vertical line running through the horse’s ears, forehead, and nose – straight to the ground. This head position usually indicates that the horse is accepting the rider’s aids (signals) and is fully engaging the muscles in its body.

Click to read more of this blog on CR4’s Animal Science blog.

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