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Let's talk about blinkers..

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  • Let's talk about blinkers..

    I was in another thread here where blinkers were being hotly discussed. I was surprised to see pretty much everyone strongly advising against ever going without blinkers. I think this is probably worthy of a separate thread!

    My personal standpoint - I've worked in harness racing stables from a young age, and exercised a lot of racehorses in my life. I've never ever driven in blinkers, and I've never actually had a driving accident either. To me this issue seems to stand out as a cultural issue: Over there in the States (I live in Europe) all horses are driven in blinkers, are used to it, and going without could be dangerous. Over here, you never see blinker bridles, they're regarded as antiques. I've considered buying harnesses on eBay, but felt kind of bad because the bridles that follow are blinker bridles and I just see no need for them at all.

    Here is a picture of my horse winning at Momarken Raceway, in 2008. It shows "modern" blinkers which are often in use in races. Apart from that I've never seen him in blinkers at all.
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...size=960%2C613

    Go debate! I'd love to hear some input. Do you people find it's an acclimatisation issue or not?
    Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness

  • #2
    I think one has to make a knowledgeable, informed decision what is appropriate for each particular horse. I successfully drove my older Thoroughbred in an open bridle (won with him too), and also an older Hackney pony who had bad cataracts and I wasn't sure how much he could actually see, so it seemed a wiser notion not to restrict what little vision he had left in any way, but my most recent horse I would never have even CONTEMPLATED it - he was far too ADD!
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

    Comment


    • #3
      One of my favorite google image searches is for "Krakow Carriage" The commercial carriages they use are really beautiful, the pairs are lovely and varied, and the city is beautiful. I notice that in that image search- you will find about 50/50 use of blinders. I think that attitudes about blinders are culturally learned- I'd be really curious to hear the thoughts of the Polish teamsters who obviously are familiar with both sides of the coin- I wonder if their decisions are based more on individual horses- or if the people tend to have their mind made up (like "I ride english" or "I ride western") and they just happen to have a 50/50 split.

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      • #4
        I drive carriages in a downtown setting. All of our horses wear them as the city ordinances require it. They all do okay in them.

        However, my personal horse? He is far happier in an open bridle. He's an Arab and is far less spooky in an open bridle than when things can pop out at him from behind blinkers. In an open bridle, when he *does* spook (he's an Arab...), its a limited, controlled reaction. In blinkers? Forget it. He'll try the Arab teleporting spooks that are just horrifying attached to a cart.

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        • #5
          I agree that it is a cultural thing, but more along the lines of tradition too. I may be, as you say, over here, in the states and use blinkers on my bridles. But my way of driving, what I did for over 20 years was; pleasure driving (trail driving), coaching, CDEs, and pleasure shows. I was taught to mirror the English in tradition. Tom Ryder was the end all be all of turn out and now John Greenall, Micky Bowen (just off the top of my head) and others have picked up the reins to keep 'tradition' going.

          I also believe that only one brain should be making the decisions when it comes to driving and I prefer that brain to be mine. .

          I see that you are in Norway and I have many friends that have gone to school in Flyinge, Bollerups, and other equine studies institutes in Sweden. For the record everyone that I know that graduated in the above schools are Swedish. And I can honestly say, I don't believe we have ever had a conversation to use open or blinkered bridles. But this people are also in my circle of competition and we would have the same POV on most issues so perhaps that's a moot point.

          So, yes it certainly has a lot to do with what you see as 'tradition', but not where in the world you grew up.

          If I was judging a pleasure turn out class and a driver came in with an unblinkered bridle and turned out 'traditionally' I would not look at them again and place them last because in my eyes its incorrect and I am getting paid for my opinion of the class.

          I also do not think that my horse is pondering the lovely vistas we are driving on. He does not need to enjoy the scenery. He has a job to do, which is to transport me and my passengers safely from point A to point B or to navigate a hazard and marathon course quickly and safely.

          I say to each his own, just be safe, and if I ever see you on the trail I will give you a wide berth.


          ETA: I am also in the camp of always having my whip in my hand. But that is a tread for a different day.
          www.facebook.com/doggonegoodgoodies
          http://doggonebakedgoods.com/

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          • #6
            You know those endless shod vs barefoot threads you see elsewhere? This subject is the Driving Forum equivalent of that. Except that it will probably remain genteel so there's no need to go fetch your popcorn and margaritas. Bottom line: use blinkers if you need them, don't use them if you don't think they're needed.

            Personally I fall squarely in the camp of everything Goodhors has ever written on this subject (see the other recent thread) and I think you will generally find the majority of experienced drivers in agreement with her with (always) a few dissenters. I'm always happy to see her willing to offer her considerable expertise when this subject comes up again as it does from time to time. The rest of us who've been here for awhile don't seem to want to post much any more (me included) so I'm glad she is still weighing in on important driving subjects.

            I will be the first to agree that there are some horses that absolutely cannot be trained to accept blinkers. I am personally not sure I'd want to drive such a horse but that's just me and folks are free to try whatever they want to. Also there are certain situations where you wouldn't want blinkers (such as logging in the forest). But that is not the majority of horses or driving situations. I also feel pretty sure that I could drive my ponies without blinkers but I don't feel a pressing need to prove that to myself. Over the years I've been very thankful on a number of occasions that the blinkers were there to help finesse some sticky situations.

            One of my ponies did not take well to blinkers as a youngster and it took me quite some time to get him accustomed to them, like over a year of groundwork followed by the initial 6 months or so of hitching and driving. He was a mite goosey back then. If there were still archives for this forum available from 2004 or so you'd see posts from me seeking info on alternatives such as the 'Kantseeback' style of blinkers. In the end I stuck it out with training him to accept the regular driving blinkers and I'm glad I did. He's turned into a pretty solid boy and he accepts that when I put the harness on, things are going to look and feel and work a bit differently than when we go riding. It was a matter of patience and persistence with his training and in the end our safety (mine and his and everyone around us) is more assured with the use of the blinkers.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MunchingonHay View Post
              If I was judging a pleasure turn out class and a driver came in with an unblinkered bridle and turned out 'traditionally' I would not look at them again and place them last because in my eyes its incorrect and I am getting paid for my opinion of the class.
              Well, then you'd need to allow for the possibility that someone might protest you and you may want to reassess your knowledge of the rule book. Last time I checked it was pretty dadgum difficult to get blinkers on the HUNTING BRIDLE required to be worn by the lead horse in a SPORTING TANDEM.
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

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              • #8
                I will never be asked to judge a class, and I did not state as to whether such fictitious class was a SPORTING TANDEM class or a single horse class. I was merely pointing out I would be pinning according to tradition.

                Let's not split hairs.

                And of course, if I was ever asked to judge a class I most certainly would go over the rule book.





                Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
                Well, then you'd need to allow for the possibility that someone might protest you and you may want to reassess your knowledge of the rule book. Last time I checked it was pretty dadgum difficult to get blinkers on the HUNTING BRIDLE required to be worn by the lead horse in a SPORTING TANDEM.
                www.facebook.com/doggonegoodgoodies
                http://doggonebakedgoods.com/

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                • #9
                  ummm.... in harness racing maybe there aren't blinkers but the much of the rest of the driving industry in the EU, blinkers are a normal part of the harness. Where do you live where blinkers aren't used?

                  It took me two minutes to find these examples.


                  Holland:
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSmveYLhR4M
                  (this is a great video)

                  Portugal
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68e4sy32QH0

                  or in Germany:
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eQtqMMM3CA

                  Geneva:
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzld25I5Acg

                  Driving vacation portugal
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxx79s0Ls2Q

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3h9iN4WRWI
                  Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I agree with some of the other posters with blinkers. If it works for your animal, use them. If they go better without them, then take them off. Just remember if you do pleasure shows, don't be surprised if you don't place well in a turnout class. It is not considered "traditional" to many judges (I'm talking a regular turnout class, single, pairs etc). If I didn't have blinkers, I would keep this in mind and would not have a problem if I didn't place (or place well) in a turnout class.
                    We drive a very nice spider phaeton with a beautiful turnout (top hats, proper livery coat - correct amount of buttons - proper dress boots with toppers), nice harness with brass and our initials on the blinkers, harness and livery buttons- and though we do well in the individual turnout classes (even been told on several occasions that we have the best turnout at the show) but because we have breaks on the vehicle, we do not usually win the concours d'elgance. And we have been told from a few judges it is because of the breaks. It is not traditional - and they have said they will never place a vehicle with breaks as a concours d'elgance winner. We knew this when we had the vehicle built. But we liked it for safety issues and we do more combined driving shows. We are ok with this....
                    My ponies do a lot better in blinkers. They tend to shy a lot less and concentrate more on their work. So I like using blinkers on our guys. Someone I know does not use blinkers as her pony has a melt down with them on. She shows without blinkers...I don't see a problem with that either (though I would not feel safe driving a pony that has has issues in the past, blinkers or not....). But that is her choice.
                    I personally would never drive without blinkers. I like the look of them, and to me they finish the look of a very nice turnout. I would not feel safe without them...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ecrklaveness View Post
                      To me this issue seems to stand out as a cultural issue: Over there in the States (I live in Europe) all horses are driven in blinkers, are used to it, and going without could be dangerous.
                      I do not drive horses (I've done it a couple of times, and would love to do more someday, though), but I don't think you've done much fact checking here...

                      From what I've seen (and once again, this is coming from an "outsider" standpoint), in pleasure and CDE driving, yes, blinkers are traditional, but in harness racing "over here" in the States, they're a piece of equipment that's used depending on the individual horse (much like in flat racing). From the USTA: http://fanguide.ustrotting.com/equipped_for_racing.cfm
                      Google images will give you plenty of examples like this one, as well: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j...59578790438023

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm in the boat that if a horse needs them put them on, if they do not need them leave them off.

                        My current project is an OTSTB trotter that absolutely cannot wear blinkers, he never raced in them and is a horse that NEEDS to see. He is really smart and is very keen and is always thinking while my other OTSTB pacer goes in blinkers and I'm on the fence on putting an open bridle on him (he is losing sight in one eye from Moonblindness) or just putting him as the off horse and keep him on pair. The Shetland mare must be closed up, she has serious ADD and needs that focus.

                        I'm hoping to have my OTSTB trotter become a nice CDE horse even in an open bridle.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I started a thread about this a while back. None old the old roman, greek or egyption pottery shows horses wearing blinkers and somehow I can't think roman war chariot horses were sprititless dogmeat.




                          This doesn't deserve it's own thread but this looks creepy does it actually work? http://www.ebay.com/sch/Equestrian-/...=horse+harness
                          A pussycat of a horse with a chewed off tail won the triple crown, The Cubs won the world series and Trump won the Presidency.
                          Don't tell me 'It can't be done.'

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 5 View Post
                            I started a thread about this a while back. None old the old roman, greek or egyption pottery shows horses wearing blinkers and somehow I can't think roman war chariot horses were sprititless dogmeat.

                            This doesn't deserve it's own thread but this looks creepy does it actually work? http://www.ebay.com/sch/Equestrian-/...=horse+harness
                            Link only showed a list of Ebay harness for sale. What specific detail did you want us to see?

                            Chariot horses fall into a catagory, like logging horses, chuck wagon racing, doing a specific job, in their own setting.

                            There was a recent rebuilding of a chariot, from ancient pictures, writings, in as true a recreation as they could manage, hand made parts, at a local College. Their research showed the animals pulling it, were about 11-12H equines. A local Driving Club member was contacted to find a Pair to pull it, and she went down and drove the chariot, gave the kids building it rides to see how it worked. I understand everyone had a great time. Hitching and driving the chariot made the kids VIEWPOINT of how things were done, in building, possibilities of the hitched vehicle, change dramatically. Made things come to life for them in relating to all the written records they had reviewed. Even with such small equines, the speed of travel was increased incredibly. Looking at as a war machine, speeding across fighting ground, changed the whole game.

                            However, those chariot animals were "just animals" who were to serve the people driving them. There wasn't a lot of working around horse issues, equipment was severe to keep control, training was minimal. You could "always" just run them until they stopped if you couldn't hold them with muscle. Going from ponies to horse size (14+H) they still were not enormous for physical control. You COULD wrestle them into submission, keep them somewhat controlled for drives. I expect that as time went along, better methods of training came along, less of a fight with each animal. But you just don't know how many equines failed the class, got wrecked with lost control on chariots. It is part of the "way of doing business" that happens when you MUST have animals working for you. Problems with driving animals were probably too common to mention, same as many other things that used to be part of daily living. Times were harsh, animals had to do what was required of them or bad things happened to them. Drivers of those horses EXPECTED them to be snorty, some would shy, others didn't. One of the plus of Multiples is they often don't spook at the same time! Hitching the old horse with the learner training method, probably started way back then!

                            You also may want to review some of the old pictures of chariot drivers. They carried whips, which they used as ruthlessly as needed, to charge FORWARD in the chariots as a solid line of destruction. SECOND person in the chariot was the warrior with arrows, spears, swords, doing the fighting. Driver had his hands FULL with reins and whip, used sharp bits for control. There was NO reason acceptable, that war chariots didn't advance as required if Driver meant to keep his job. Probably killed the Driver who didn't go as told, so maybe death by enemy or FOR SURE by your commander, for failure to advance. I am SURE the horses got lively at times, but Horses get NO VOTE in charging towards the scary stuff!

                            People learn as time goes along, so not letting horses SEE a problem got learned pretty early. All kinds of uses for that! Horses go forward into places they wouldn't CHOOSE to go with full vision.

                            Settings where various kinds of Driving took place, would make a huge difference in whether you reduce vision in your working animal. Speed of travel, congestion on roads, all make a difference as well. Places with lots of miles to cover before you reach a destination, straight forward travel, often have no blinders on their traditional harness. Nothing to get in your way, horses get TIRED doing those miles, maybe bad ground to cover so you want him looking down, don't need or want blinders in those places. Again, the horse was a tool, to get from here to there, so he commonly was forced to work against his will. Lots of ways and means to get around a fighter, nice or not, turning him into a useful animal. He received no "win" for fighting, so probably just gave up and got used to being driven. Can't afford to throw away a good horse, can't afford to keep one that doesn't work.

                            Driving these days is not nearly what it used to be, 50 years ago or 300 years ago, or in ancient times. Few horses really get worked very hard, don't go home tired after their Driving activities. Farm horses have usually worked pretty hard, pulling their loads and doing it for hours each day. They learn the value of standing quietly when they have that offered. They work at slower speeds, a BIG walk is their most valued gait, since it is used the most for their jobs. Routine is their friend, see and do the same things over and over, rock solid in their reactions in those settings. They CAN BE a totally different personality in a strange setting.

                            If I meet a blinderless driving horse in a gathering, I keep an eye on that turnout. Just want to MAKE SURE I am nowhere close IF the horse loses it. Don't want that horse hurting MY HORSE/S in his effort to leave! I did my efforts in education for Drivers, some make other choices about bridles and blinders. I am not going to get hurt because they may have chosen badly. Horses still react like they did 200 years ago when they get frightened, spook, try to get a better look at scary things. You HOPE the Driver has trained him well, can hold him from running. Blinders often give you that fraction extra time, as head swings eye away from scary thing, can't see scary thing now, to change his mind, hold him in place. Most horses are not THAT BOLD, to go right up to scary thing, face it down. So while a great many things have changed in driving over the hundreds of years, the HORSE is still the same kind of prey animal, tries his BEST to get AWAY from scary things he sees. Instinct is in the bones, so any Driver has to stay on their toes with their animal.
                            Last edited by goodhors; Feb. 1, 2013, 01:42 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 5 View Post
                              I started a thread about this a while back. None old the old roman, greek or egyption pottery shows horses wearing blinkers

                              OOOPS - My Bad. Looks like some of the Hittites used them.

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hittite_Chariot.jpg
                              A pussycat of a horse with a chewed off tail won the triple crown, The Cubs won the world series and Trump won the Presidency.
                              Don't tell me 'It can't be done.'

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