So, how does my pony view things?
Your pony does not see the world as you do.
All members of the horse family, including ponies, wild ass and zebra, evolved as ‘prey’ animals, (they make good eating!) and so over millions of years, they have developed extremely sharp senses and reactions, helping them escape any predators wanting to eat them, including our ancestors! This means that your pony is naturally suspicious of anything unfamiliar to him and if he is frightened or feels that his safety is threatened, his instinct is to get away as fast as possible. If you are a horse, pony or zebra in the wild, you don’t have time to stop and think; if you’re slow to react you may well end up as someone’s dinner!
Evolution, then, has hard-wired your pony to see the world as a potentially dangerous place and his instinct to take flight is probably as alive today as it’s ever been.
When we understand just how scary some things can appear to a pony, we can appreciate even more just how amazing it is that they co-operate with us as they do, and, if they trust us, will even go against their instincts to please us.
Why is my pony’s sight so special?
Your pony’s eyesight is remarkable and is often the first sense that will alert him to danger. Just think how good he is at noticing movement in the distance, vital if you want the advantage of a head-start when you’re running for your life!
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This is thanks to the size of his eye. Horses and ponies have the largest eye of all land mammals.
Like other prey animals, your pony’s eyes are set on the side of his head. This gives him a very wide field of vision which he can extend even further by bending his neck. If there is something dangerous stalking you from behind, it pays to be able to see it as soon as possible.
Your pony does have blind spots, however. One of these is directly in front of him, another is directly behind. This is why the best way to approach a horse or pony is slightly from the side, so that you he can see you clearly.
How does my pony see?
Primarily your pony uses what is known as monocular vision, that is, he sees a different picture in each eye. Like humans though, he also uses binocular vision – using both eyes to focus on something.
The top part of your pony’s retina, (the cells at the back of the eye where images are formed) is responsible for long-range sight. This is why he will raise his head to see things in the distance. The lower part of the retina is used to see things that are nearby and so your pony will lower his head to see something close up
When your pony changes from using monocular vision to binocular vision in order to zoom-in on something, the object can appear to jump into focus, which is why he might suddenly shy at something you thought he had seen. By calmly allowing your pony time to get a good look at something that has spooked him, he will be able to get it into focus, see that it is of no danger, and chances are, he will quickly settle down.