A question that comes up a lot is what are blinkers? Well to sum it up they are eye wear added to horses for a variety of different reasons. Often they are referred to as blinders but this is mostly in American horse racing. So let’s start with the basics, blinkers are a piece of horse tack that is to help horses focus ahead in a race and stop looking behind and to the side.
Generally blinkers are made from leather, plastic or cloth and are placed either side or around the horses eyes. A lot of trainers in the early days of a horses career will test out blinkers to see if there is an advantage to wearing them. Now technically you would think if it helps with concentration then it’s a no brainer that it will be beneficial to winning a race but it’s not always the case.
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So what are the advantages of using blinkers? Having blinkers on a horse can also be beneficial to a jockey, mainly because if a horse gets spooked or distracted in a race by crowds or obstacles it can be very dangerous. In fast races like sprints a distraction can be a very dangerous and scary experience for a jockey and most definitely a amateur jockey.
So coming back to why having blinkers isn’t always effective. Not all horses react well with them on and can be really negative on a horses performance. One of the reasons is due to some horses not reacting well with the lack of sight. Having less vision in a race can be fearful for many horses and causes them to start too fast and lose pace towards the end.
A benefit of adding blinkers is if a trainer believes the horse isn’t running as well as it could. Adding blinkers can increase pace early on and strong horses can keep the pace towards the finish. This is why they work so well on short sprint races and gives good indication on the future potential of a horse.
There is information to prove that blinkers work best first time out but the performance isn’t necessarily lost. We often see trainers removing blinkers and performance staying on form. The more experienced the horse gets the less the blinkers are needed. This doesn’t mean that if a horse is wearing blinkers then it’s not worth a bet, it’s a positive that the trainer believes the horse will have a better run and can have a huge transformation in future races.
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