Researchers Study Near-, Farsightedness in Horses

While two-thirds of horses have normal vision in both eyes, others are either near- or farsighted in one or both eyes.

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While two-thirds of horses have normal vision in both eyes, others are either near- or farsighted in one or both eyes. | Photo: iStock
You’re rounding the corner toward a big blue oxer, hoping your horse will clear it right out of stride. All you’re thinking is, “Jump, buddy, jump!” But all your horse is thinking is, “Is that a … jump? Or another horse? Or … Man, I wish I had some glasses!”

Alas, it’s true. According to British researchers, horses don’t always see clearly. While about two-thirds of horses have normal vision in both eyes, some horses are slightly nearsighted and others are farsighted in one or both eyes. And knowing that might lead to improved safety and performance in the competition ring, the researchers said.

“There are current concerns about fence design and the contribution that this may have in the all-too-common accidents that occur in different equestrian disciplines,” said Carol Hall, PhD, principle lecturer and reader in equitation science at Nottingham Trent University, in the UK. “Although we will not be able to remove the risks associated with horse riding, by understanding more in relation to how horse and human vision differs we may be able to reduce this risk. Currently, design is based on how things are seen by the human. We need to look at things from the horse’s point of view.”

And while that doesn’t necessarily mean horses will be sporting contact lenses or Armani frames anytime soon, it does mean science could help humans develop obstacles that are better adapted to equine vision. It also means vision tests could help select the young horses with good vision for a performance career

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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