Equine Vision: Impact on Trail Behavior (Book Excerpt)

Once you learn how the equine eye functions, you’ll better understand your horse’s actions. And you’ll have insight managing your trail horse when it becomes skittish for no apparent reason.
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It’s all in the eye of the beholder. That cliché has been around for years, but when we consider it in light of the human eye compared to the equine eye, the saying takes on a whole different meaning.

Humans and horses literally see things differently, and this difference can sometimes lead to problems on the trail. No doubt you’ve ridden on windy days when suddenly your horse became agitated and excited. A piece of paper flew across the road or trail and your horse jumped or stopped dead in its tracks. This might well be the same horse you rode on this trail yesterday without a hint of skittishness.

This comprehensive guide is the first to cover all aspects of trail riding whether that trail ride is for an hour, a day, or a week. Veteran horseman and author Les Sellnow uses his firsthand knowledge of training and riding the trail horse to prepare every horse enthusiast for this fast-growing American recreational activity. Topics include the psychological and physical makeup of the ideal trail horse, training and conditioning on the trail and at home, proper equipment for both horse and rider; how to plan and prepare for a pack trip, and how to monitor the horse’s condition on the trail. How to ride a trail safely alone or in a group also is discussed.

Why the sudden change in behavior? Because of the way your horse sees. Once you learn how the equine eye functions, you’ll better understand your horse’s actions. And you’ll have insight managing your trail horse when it becomes skittish for no apparent reason. Let’s consider the windy day-flying paper scenario. You didn’t give a second thought to that piece of paper skittering across the trail. Your horse, though, saw a strange, out-of-focus object moving across its path. The inability of your horse’s eye to send a clear message to the brain brought on apprehension and fear

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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