If you’re wondering why do horses wear cheekpieces, it’s to help them concentrate. Cheekpieces encourage this by blocking out part of a horse’s peripheral vision, stopping them get distracted by crowds or the other horses around them.
Cheekpieces are basically two strips of sheepskin that are fitted to the bridle and run down both sides of a horse’s face. The cheekpieces encourage horses to run in a straight line and helps them concentrate their energy on going forward.
The jury is out as to how much cheekpieces can improve a horse’s performance and, in truth, the answer is they have a different effect on each individual horse. For some, they will bring about just enough improvement that is the difference between winning and losing a race. For others, they will transform them from an average horse to a world-beater. Of course, there’s also plenty of horses for whom cheekpieces do nothing, while some will resent wearing them that much that they perform even worse than they were doing before.
Cheekpieces also aren’t the only type of headgear that a horse can be fitted with.
What Other Types Of Headgear Can Horses Wear?
Horses can be fitted with a variety of different headgear as alternatives to cheekpieces. These include blinkers, a visor, a hood, a noseband, eye shields, and a tongue tie. Many of these are also applied to in the hope that it will help a horse concentrate more, while some are used to try and help a horse breathe more easily during a race. However, each has subtle differences, as explained below.
Blinkers are a piece of headgear that restricts a horse’s vision even more than cheekpieces. They are designed to make a horse focus on looking forward rather than trying to look around at other horses or objects or people in the crowd. Trainers apply blinkers to their horses when they think that improving their concentration will increase their chance of winning. That’s why blinkers are often fitted when a horse runs in handicap company for the first time.
A visor is like a pair of blinkers, but it has slits cut in each side. These slits are cut at a height that allows a horse to be able to see the other horses around them but not much else. Trainers may experiment with different headgear until finding one that suits the horse in question.
A hood is more encompassing than either blinkers or a visor. As well as helping a horse concentrate on running forward, a visor also covers a horse’s ears to try and block out or reduce the noise of the crowd. The latter can especially important if a horse is spooked by a sudden noise. Hoods are also often used by stall handlers when trying to get a horse into the stalls that is causing a problem.
Eyeshields are the least common of all headgear used in horse racing. This is because they are normally reserved for horses that may be missing an eye or are blind in one eye. This isn’t very common in horse racing, but there have been some highly rated horses that have won plenty of races with just one eye.
Nosebands, like cheekpieces, are normally made of sheepskin. But they are fixed over the top of a horse’s nose rather than down the sides of a horse’s face. They can also help a horse concentrate, as well as encouraging them to lower their heads if a trainer thinks they’re not trying 100%.
A tongue tie, sometimes referred to as a tongue strap, is used by a trainer to aid a horse’s breathing during the race. They are normally used on horses that have trouble with their tongues. The tongue tie simply positions a horse’s tongue in a place that helps it take in the amount of air that it needs to allow it to perform to its best during a race.
When Should I Bet On Horses Wearing Cheekpieces?
There’s no exact science to say when you should bet on a horse wearing cheekpieces. However, if they are to bring about some improvement in a horse’s form, there’s an argument that says it will be the first time a trainer uses them.
Just like all other attributes in a horse racing trainer’s armoury, knowing when to add headgear is a skill that some trainers have mastered better than others. Some trainers have records that suggest they win with, for example, 25% of the horses that are wearing headgear for the first time. But for others, their strike rates are no different to normal. That’s why it’s always worth a check as to whether a trainer is adept at landing winners wearing headgear.
If you don’t have access to such statistics, you can always follow a professional horse racing tipster that will consider the application of cheekpieces and other headgear as part of their overall betting strategy.
We hope that’s answered your question, why do horses wear cheekpieces. If you want any more information about horse racing, betting on horse racing, or sports betting, you’ll find loads more useful articles here on the Betting Gods blog. Happy punting!