There are many techniques used by trainers which are designed to improve thoroughbred performance with many handlers opting for first-time blinkers as a vice to enhance a horse’s concentration. Primarily designed to restrict a horse’s field of vision, this piece of equipment is handy for runners who are easily distracted and those who have the propensity to make slow starts.
Victorious in 2008 on Comply Or Die, Grand National-winning jockey Timmy Murphy has announced his retirement 👏
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 15, 2018
How Do They Work?
Blinkers come in a variety of sizes and can be made from either leather, plastic or cloth. They are placed either side of the horse’s head and are attached to either the bridle or a facemask. They are handy for eliminating any potential distractions coming from adjacent stalls as well as avoiding a horse becoming spooked by objects suddenly appearing in one of its many blind spots. Blinkers are also believed to reduce a horse’s vision by around 150 degrees.
They are commonly used at both UK and US thoroughbred racetracks with other disciplines such as harness racing also opting to introduce them in recent years. Outside of sport, farming horses may also benefit from blinkers, particularly those who could potentially become distracted whilst pulling a plow.
They have also been known to improve jockey safety. If a horse is to become distracted, there is very little that its rider can do to prevent it from veering off in an alternative direction.
Horses Who Benefited From the Application of Blinkers
The legendary chestnut became a household name in the 1970s and is synonymous with wearing blue and white blinkers. Following the introduction of the eyewear, Secretariat clocked a half-mile workout in just over 47 seconds. Just days later, he ran the fastest workout of the day over six and a half furlongs on a sloppy track. The 9th US Triple Crown Champion won the Belmont Stakes by a whopping 31 lengths and is still regarded as one of the best racehorses to have competed in North America.
Secretariat wearing his Belmont Stakes winning blanket pic.twitter.com/xf8N32b0oK
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Comply or Die
The Grand National has not been kind to horses wearing blinkers with only Earth Summit (1998) and Comply or Die winning the iconic steeplechase in the last forty years. The application of the headgear undoubtedly helped the David Pipe-trained runner successfully negotiate the energy-sapping Aintree course. He was the last winner of the world-famous race for the Somerset-based handler, although he is likely to send a number of runners to the Merseyside track once again in 2020. Ramses De Teillee is currently 40/1 in the horse racing betting from Space Casino for success in April and having finished second in the Welsh National, stamina is unlikely to be an issue.
Why Do Trainers Remove Blinkers?
Although the application of blinkers can often have the desired effect first time up, it is rarely seen as a long-term solution. As thoroughbreds become more experienced and more accustomed to the hustle and bustle of race day, the need for blinkers is negated. Many trainers will remove them once they believe that their charge will not become flustered or spooked by its surroundings.
Plenty will also depend on horses’ personalities, with ‘quirkier’ types often requiring them for longer periods. Age, too, makes a difference: although a handful of competitors may wear blinkers for their entire career, it is fairly uncommon practice to require them past the age of seven or eight.
Blinkers can have a significant effect on a horses’ performance and are ideal for thoroughbreds who may find themselves overwhelmed or distracted by their surroundings. However, they are often viewed as a temporary solution and the effectiveness may begin to dwindle over time.