Horses are prey animals, therefore have eyes on the sides of their head. This allows them to see more of their surroundings to better prepare for a predator. In order to not be some kitty cats lunch they have to be alert at all times. If they don’t react to a stick breaking that could be the pause that costs them their lives. The spookiest horse is the safest horse in the wild.
Having eyes on the sides of their head provides great advantage for larger view area but they can not see directly in front or behind them. Everyone and everything has a weakness. This is theirs. That’s why horses when alert will move their heads constantly to be able to literally see everything! No more blind spot if they keep surveying for danger! They see two different pictures instead of one like us.
We are predators. We hunt, we eat meat. Being Hunters we see one picture and we have depth perception which helps us judge distance for accuracy. Our weakness is that we can’t see behind us at all. Predators don’t usually need to see behind them because they are superior and odds are, nothing’s hunting us. Unless is mister kitty cat then we and the horses are both SOL if we don’t have a weapon haha!
Horses judge us and are natural fearful of us due to the fact our eyes are placed in front of our faces not on the side like them. They immediately know we are predators. That’s why while training we turn to not directly face the horse when building trust and so he can only see one eye of ours. This body posture shows him we aren’t hunting him and don’t mean to harm him.
Horses are two-in-one if you will. You e got the right side “Righty” we will call him and “Lefty” the left side. They will learn a task like leading from the left side and be a pro but you try the same thing on the right and you meet the stubborn “Righty” side or “off side”. This one is not as forgiving as “Lefty” since we naturally do almost everything on the left side, the right feels left out. So, as trainers and horse folks we do as much, or try to, on both sides to keep the horse balanced. By nature the horse will prefer one side or the other just like humans being right handed or left. Expect to introduce something to the other side as if he’s never seen it because, well, he hasn’t!
Q: Do horses have depth perception? Meaning can they judge distances?
A: no they just “run now, look later”. Horses don’t see depths because of where their eyes are placed unlike us. If you want to see what horses see, cover one eye. Weird huh? Now you won’t be so judgmental when your horse thinks a small ditch is the Grand Canyon!
“Understanding, Patience and a sense of humor” go a long way when working with these amazing animals.