- 1: either of two flaps on a horse's bridle to keep it from seeing objects at its sides
- 2plural : a limitation or obstruction to sight or discernment
Blinders, also known as blinkers or winkers, are a piece of horse tack that prevent the horse seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side. They usually are made of leather or plastic cups that are placed on either side of the eyes, either attached to a bridle or to an independent hood. Blinkers that have a peep hole cut in the back of the cup are known as visors. Many racehorse trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds. Additionally, blinkers (then usually known as winkers) are commonly seen on driving horses, to keep them from being distracted or spooked, especially on crowded city streets. A “set of winkers” can refer to the whole bridle, particularly the heavy bridle used on draft horses.
Most equestrian disciplines, other than racing and harness competition, do not permit the use of blinders at any time, under penalty of elimination. In racing, blinkers are usually seen attached to a synthetic hood placed under the bridle. In driving, they are attached to the bridle's cheekpieces. A variation, called "winkers" are seen in Australian Thoroughbred horse racing. These are fleece rolls that are placed around the bridle cheek straps. They do not restrict the horse's view as much as blinkers do. Also used in Australian racing are "pacifiers," which are a blinker style hood with mesh eye-covers, thought by some to calm horses. They may be banned from use on wet days as they may clog up with mud.
A blinder is also a bag or cloth blindfold put over the head of a difficult horse while it is being handled, loaded into starting gates or mounted. The term, in both "blinker" and "blinder" form is also used metaphorically to refer to people with an overly narrow focus or inability to see the larger picture.