Updated: Feb 14
Blinders, also frequently called blinkers, are a very important tool in driving. There is a lot of debate on open bridles (bridles without blinders) and traditional carriage bridles that include blinders. The blinder is the part of the bridle that covers the eye so that the horse cannot see behind him.
In my training... Blinders are not negotiable. Every horse is trained from the start in blinders and everything drives in blinders. Period.
Reasons for using blinders:
Horses are prey animals. They have survived thousands of years by their flight instincts.
How does a lion take horse down?
He runs up behind the horse, jumps at the horse, puts its arms around the back end of the horse, takes a grab, and brings the horse down.
Now... How does a carriage work?
It runs up behind the horse and has 2 long arms that come up around the horse's body.
Lions and carriages have more in common than you thought, right?
I want my horses to be used to the sounds and feelings of the carriage behind them, but I don't want them to see the carriage, especially if already startled by something else. Even the best trained horse is going to follow his flight instinct when scared. Being able to see the carriage behind him when something spooks him will only make him even more fearful even if he was not afraid of the carriage to begin with.
Taking away the sight of the thing chasing behind the horse eliminates an additional item the horse has to think about and gives him more brain cells available to put into his job.
How to introduce blinders to a horse that has never had them:
1) Make sure you have a safe bridle to work with. No rotting stitching, so sharp points, no wire exposed, no worn out places. The bridle must be comfortable and be able to be adjusted correctly.
2) Start in a familiar place for your horse. My suggestion is his stall. He should know his surroundings in there already and be comfortable in his stall.
3) Put the bridle on and adjust it correctly. When the blinders are positioned correctly, the eye should be in the middle of the blinder. The blinders should not stick straight out to the sides or cup too close to the eye and rub it. I like for there to be about 4 fingers from the eye to the inside of the blinder.
Below: Savannah on the left of the image and Dancer to the right. Savannah's blinders and bridle fit are exactly how I like to see blinders fit: the eyeball is dead center of the blinder and the noseband of the bridle holds the cheekpiece and blinder flat against the face. Dancer's blinders are closed down around his eyes, because he actually prefers to drive with less sight. As you drive your horse more and more, you'll get to know if he likes more vision or less vision. Remember, every horse is an individual!
4) Leave your horse to his own devices in his stall (being sure he is safe!) Do not go too far and observe his behavior. Some horses take to having blinders on like nothing is new. Others stay at this step for many days. The longest I leave them in the bridle in the stall is about an hour. I never leave them where I am not in the immediate area.
5) If your horse is comfortable wearing his blinders in his stall, start taking him for walks in the bridle with the blinders. From here, you'll know when your horse is comfortable with his blinders to begin working in them.
6) If you start your training in blinders from day 1, your horse should be ready to progress in his training as usual.
Drop a comment below about what kinds of blinders you like (I love the look of square ones) and also like this post. Thanks! Happy driving!!