Your horse’s eyes serve many purposes beyond giving you that look that says “one more treat, please!”. As a prey animal, the eyes are on the side of their head, giving them close to a 360 degree field of vision. Their eyes are also sensitive to movement, thanks to being a prey animal. You may wonder if horse night vision plays a part in their biology – keep reading to find out!
Horse Night Vision – Fact or Fake?
Take your guess. Ok, got it? And the winner is…fact! Horse night vision is indeed better than human night vision. Your equine companion has eyes that contain more rods to cones 20:1 compared to humans, which allows them to see better (the rod cells specialize in light sensitivity, the cones are more sensitive to color).
Horse vision is also built better for nighttime because their eyes have a secret weapon: the tapetum lucidum. This is a layer of tissue behind their retina that reflects light, allowing them to see better in the dark. But be wary – horses take longer than humans to adjust to changes in light. Let your companion acclimate to changes in light before making them move around too much.
Why Is Horse Night Vision Useful?
Horses have the same level of vision under full moonlight as they do during the middle of a sunny day, isn’t that neat? So, what’s the purpose of this? As I touched on earlier, horses are prey animals. In the wild, it’s important that a horse can better sense its surroundings at night to detect possible predators.
Now, pretend you’re on a nighttime trail ride. The moon illuminates the path in front of you, but you cannot see past its cute little ears. A large tree stump sits on the path ahead, and you have no idea it’s there. Your horse may not know what that large object blocking your trail is, but they will know to trot around it.
Can All Horses See Well in the Dark?
Generally speaking, yes. Some breeds (primarily Appaloosas) experience genetic Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB), but it is pretty rare. Other horse vision issues can interfere with their eyesight as well, but as long as you’re investing in good horse health care, you’ll avoid most issues. Make sure to take your horse in for routine checkups, and call a professional if you’re concerned about their vision.
Other Horse Vision Facts
One of my favorite bits of information is that horses can switch between monocular and binocular vision – meaning they have the option to see different things with each eye. It’s also worthy to note that horses have a blind spot directly in front of and behind them when they are looking straight ahead with their neck straight. Horses can see colors, but in a much more muted palette than humans do.
According to Equisearch.com, researchers have also tested how sharp a horse’s vision is with an experiment. Trained horses were shown images of vertical black and white stripes, and the widths narrowed until the horses could no longer tell a difference. They scored a 20/30, meaning your horse could probably pass a drivers’ license eye exam.
And, there you have it – your horse can see better than you at night. Pretty amazing, right? If you have any questions about your horse’s vision, feel free to contact the horse health care experts at BRD Vet Rx.