The most common types of headgear worn by a racehorse are blinkers, visor, sheepskin
cheekpieces, hood and tongue-tie.
Because a horse’s eyes are on opposite sides of its head, each eye sees objects and
events on that side only, to the front, side and rear. Working together, a horse’s eyes
allow it almost panoramic vision, a facility vital to a prey animal in the wild. Blinkers,
a visor and cheekpieces are used to limit a horse’s range of vision. They help to prevent a
horse from being distracted during a race, and to focus on racing by ensuring that it is
looking forward rather than what’s going on around it.
There has been much discussion over the years about the fitting of headgear on a racehorse
for the first time, and whether or not it has the immediate effect of improving a horse’s
performance. Picking Winners On Looks considers the evidence, and cites the opinions of
trainers and jockeys on the effectiveness of first-time headgear.
A hood is used to cover a horse’s ears, and benefits those that may react adversely to noise.
It can help settle an excitable horse, or one that is upset by the clanging of the starting gate.
A tongue-tie may be employed to prevent a horse from getting its tongue over the bit, which makes
it harder for the jockey to steer and control the horse. More often, though, the tongue-tie is
used to help a horse to breathe normally when racing. Some racehorses suffer from a condition
which causes breathing problems when galloping, and the tongue-tie is an attempt to prevent this
by keeping the airways clear. Picking Winners On Looks surveys the research into the effectiveness
of the tongue-tie.