What are blinkers?

What are blinkers? In horse racing, blinkers are one of the most commonly used types of headgear. Standard blinkers consist of pair of fabric, leather or plastic cups positioned, one either side, on a headpiece. The cups are placed next to the horse’s eyes with the intention of restricting its field of vision to the rear and, in some cases, to the side. Naturally, horses have a 275° field of vision, such that they can be easily distracted or upset by events on either side or behind them. Thus, by restricting the field of vision – to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the design of the blinkers – trainers hope to encourage a horse to focus on looking, and moving, forward and thereby improve its racecourse performance.

So-called ‘French’ blinkers, also known as ‘cheek pieces’, are less restrictive than standard blinkers, but serve a similar purpose. They consist of strips of sheepskin, which are attached to the straps on either side of a horse’s bridle and restrict how much the horse can see behind it. Blinkers and cheek pieces must be declared overnight and horses wearing these types of headgear can be identified by a small letter ‘b’, or ‘c’, next to the their names on a racecard.