Understanding Horse Vision

By Terry Golson

Note: This is one article in a series about horse vision. I’ve compiled all of them, including more information and references, in this blogpost: Horse Vision.

I’ve been delving deep into understanding horse vision. I started, of course, with a Google search, and read numerous articles written for the horse owner. Read enough of them, and you start seeing similar phrases and threads of thought, because they’re all using the same sources. Some articles mentioned original research, so I went looking for that.


I found out that although the articles written for the public were fairly accurate, some repeated older theories that have been disproven. Some had interpreted the science incorrectly. Some tried to illustrate the science, but did so in a way that the information became skewed.

I’m presenting a talk at Equine Affaire on horse senses, and I want it to be as up-to-date and accurate as can be. I also want the graphics to clearly explain how horses perceive their world. I couldn’t find illustrations that clearly explained the points that I wanted to make, so I needed to create my own. I wouldn’t be able to do that alone. I enlisted Steve, my husband, to help. Not only is he an MIT grad and total geek (in this household, that’s a compliment and sign of endearment) but he’s an accomplished photographer. He’d be able to create the visuals for my talk.

We quickly discovered why illustrations of horse vision are so rudimentary. Vision is complex, and what a horse sees is far different than what we humans take in, and also not at all like what is recorded on a camera.

Scientists have numbers and measurements that detail a horse’s field of vision, their visual acuity and what colors they perceive. But taking those numbers and creating an illustration that a human can understand requires this.

Remember in school when you thought that geometry had no real purpose?


Then, once you have that done, you need to take photographs.


Then you need to know how to enter those photos and numbers into Photoshop. Then you do more manipulations with the computer program.


Now I have a photo that shows, in the lighter area, where the horse has clear and sharp vision. Tuck your horse’s nose in, and the horse is focused on the ground. The jump is visible, but blurred. I have more photos that show what the horse sees when their nose is up. I’ll be talking about how this impacts their behavior and performance.


Steve has helped me to illustrate other features of horse vision, such as their panoramic view and how their modified ability to perceive color helps them to more sharply see other details in the landscape.

This knowledge can even change how you think about feeding your horse a carrot. This photo isn’t altered. Later in November, after Equine Affaire is over, I’ll be sharing this photo from the horse’s perspective. Stay tuned! (Don’t want to miss that post? Subscribe to this blog using the button on the right-hand side of this page.)


In the meanwhile, a huge thank you to Steve. This project continues to be time-consuming. Also, not only is he creating these photos, but he’s willing (and interested!) in having conversations with me to hash out the science so that I can understand it in a way that enables me to apply it to everyday life with horses.

7 thoughts on “Understanding Horse Vision

  • No

    Fascinating! Nerd and Geek are endearments in our house too. Glad to see we’re not the only ones.
    I will definitely be sharing this in my horse training group. We are talking a bit about what colors horses can see and I think this falls right into that category. Some very important stuff to take into consideration when training. Can’t wait to see where this takes you once Equine Affair is over!
    What a great husband you have too! He deserves some major +R for all this.

  • Shaste

    Can I just say WOW! I would have stopped with the sketch drawing with the angles. The photo highlighting the area of clarity makes it so much more understandable. Nice work!!

  • sara russell

    Wow, just wow!!! This is so amazing !! I am very thankful that you are doing this and that Steve is helping you so that we can better understand how our beloved horses see the world.

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