ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Equine Vision: How Horses See

Updated on November 23, 2019
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

Equine vision is different from human vision.
Equine vision is different from human vision.

Ole Paint jumps out of his skin and you are left hanging in the air. Once you get your bearings, you search the landscape trying to figure out what he saw that was so confounded scary? It might not seem like there is anything at all out there to spook Ole Paint, but he sees it differently!

Equine vision is quite different from human vision. Let's take a look at how horses see. Horses, like most grazing animals that are preyed upon, have monocular vision. With the eyes positioned on either side of the head, they see independently with each eye. This gives the horse a wider range of vision, which is important in watching for danger and eating at the same time. They can see front, back and sides all at once. In addition to monocular vision horses have very poor depth perception and are colorblind.

Now, if something moves and catches his interest, the horse can switch to binocular vision and he can zero in on whatever moved. He does this by facing the object and using both eyes see the one picture. That is the reason Ole Paint suddenly jumps and turns around when he spooks.

Because of the way the horse's retina is designed he has very poor depth perception. As far as Ole Paint knows, that shadow on the ground could be a ten-foot hole. He's got to REALLY trust you to step into that shadow. But, learning to judge depth and distance can be learned by your horse, with patient and skillful training. In Horses and Horsemanship, M.E. Ensminger points out that today's performance horse is required to do many things that the wild horse would never experience, like jumping a course of hurdles, running a reining pattern, or barrel racing. The domestic horse has learned to trust the human trainer's judgment, rather than relying on what his sight tells him.

Because the horse cannot change the shape of the eye's lens the way we can, he has to focus by raising and lowering his head. In addition to using his head and neck for balance, it is important that the horse have freedom to move his head so he can focus. This is especially important when jumping. Keeping your hands elastic to afford head movement allows him to focus on the fence you are asking him to jump.

In The Mind of the Horses R. H. Smythe writes, "The horse does not see a landscape as we do. In the first place, being colour blind, the horse fails to see green fields, blue skies, and water, and the spring and autumn tints of trees. The eyes of the horse are quite incapable of breaking up the visual image. . . It cannot sort out a grey rabbit from among a patch of green cabbages, unless the rabbit moves."

So, when you take into consideration that Ole Paint doesn't know how far away "it" is, what "it" is, or anything else about "it", except that "it" MOVED, you can understand why his first instinct is to jump and run, THEN stop and LOOK at "it" from a SAFE distance.

Horses  cannot judge depth, so this horse is testing the water.
Horses cannot judge depth, so this horse is testing the water.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Donna Campbell Smith


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)