Adding Blinkers to a Racehorse’s Equipment

November 7, 2019

I received an email from a racing fan wondering why you put blinkers on a horse? Good question and one of the most important ways to change a horse’s way of running. 

Before I go any further, let me explain what blinkers are and how they are made. Generally, blinkers are made of a nylon hood with different size cups.  It’s placed over the horse’s head and fastened with two Velcro straps. They can be any color, most times they match the color of the jockey’s silks. So with that being said, let’s get into the mechanics of blinkers. 

When a trainer decides that a horse needs blinkers, it’s from what he observes. He will talk to the exercise rider and the jockey to see if they believe it’s time to put blinkers on. If they decide it’s time, the next thing is, how big a cup to use? Basically, when you put blinkers on you want to keep your horse focused. Horses generally like to look around and don’t have their mind on racing. So you close them up! There are all different size cups from cheaters to full cups. Cheaters are the smallest cup you can use . They are inch size cups on each side, meaning the “cup” is cut back to one inch. Why do you start with such a small cup? Remember, you’re experimenting to find the size that will be most effective.That will come with trial and error, your exercise rider or jockey usually can tell.

You just don’t put blinkers on and send the horse to the track. It’s good practice to put them on and walk the horse a few days with the blinkers on so the horse gets used to them. Remember, I said you want the horse to focus and look straight ahead. You really don’t want to close them up with full cup blinkers from the beginning. That can be worse than having no blinkers on them. You’ve got to let a horse see and look around some, less is better than more.
Once you’ve decided the size of the cups, you can put diamond shape holes in the middle of them. You do that so a horse can see and hear a horse coming. If you have them too closed up, a horse can hear them but he can’t see them. They see them too late and the other horses catch them by surprise and run by them. At that point the jockey has to urge them on. 

When you’re happy with the way your horse is handing the blinkers, you have to take them to the gate. The starter has to be satisfied the horse will break straight. Horses like to see other horses on both sides of them. It helps with the breaking process if they hear and see them and they all break together. At that point the Starter will give you a blinker card. You turn that in when you enter them. It will also be notated in the program and the racing form. I hope that explains how a horse gets blinkers put on.

See you at the races. 

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in...

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