How Horses Perceive Obstacles?

The University of Exeter studied how horses perceive colored obstacles. Signal colors could make the racetrack safer.

The world looks different to horses than it does to most people. They see dichromatically, similar to people who are red-green blind. But on the racetrack, the color scheme is traditionally geared towards the human eye: in the UK, bright orange is used as a signal color to mark the take-off boards, frames, and center bars of obstacles. The jockeys can see the obstacles very well. But does that also apply to the horses? Or would obstacles in other colors be more visible to the animals and therefore less prone to accidents? On behalf of the British Horseracing Authority, scientists from the University of Exeter have investigated how differently colored obstacles are perceived by horses.

Through the eyes of horses

First, the scientists photographed a total of 131 obstacles in traditional orange at eleven British racecourses in various weather conditions and at different times of the day. The images were converted to match the perception of horses. The researchers were then able to measure how well the colored parts of the obstacles were visible against their background. At the same time, the effect of alternative colors with different luminescence under the same conditions was determined. Blue, yellow, and white proved to be significantly more visible than orange.

White and yellow are easy to see

In the second part of the study, it was tested whether the color of the obstacle affects the jump. 14 horses jumped several times over two obstacles, each of which differed only in the color of the take-off board and the middle beam. The jumps could be measured using still images from video recordings. The color had a significant impact: if the take-off board was light blue, the horses jumped off at a steeper angle than with an orange board. If the jump was marked in white, they jumped further away from the obstacle. They landed closer to the obstacle when it was fluorescent yellow.

The authors conclude that many colors would be superior to traditional orange. They recommend a white take-off board and fluorescent yellow for the center bar for maximum visibility and safety when jumping.

Frequently Asked Question

What colors do horses see?

The horse sees its environment in blue and yellowish-green as well as gray tones. Therefore it does not make sense to use barriers for the horse, e.g. in red color, since it is not a signal color for them, but a dark gray-yellowish green.

What color don’t horses like?

Horses can therefore see blue and yellow best. In principle, horses like light colors, while dark colors or even black appear threatening to them. They can distinguish white, red, yellow, and blue from each other. But not brown, green, or gray.

How does green affect horses?

Red warms, and green balances energies.

Yellow: The color of the sun brightens the mood, promotes concentration, and has a particularly positive effect on the lymphatic system. Green: The color of nature relaxes, harmonizes, stabilizes, and balances all energies.

How do horses perceive us?

The all-round view

The human field of vision is forward. Due to the eyes sitting on the side of the horse’s head, the horse sees a significantly larger angle and has an almost all-around view with almost 180 degrees per horse eye.

How big does the horse see the human?

With two healthy eyes, the all-around view is only minimally restricted. There is a dead area directly in front of the horse’s nose, which is about 50 to 80 centimeters in size. For comparison: in humans, it is 15 to 40 centimeters. Even directly behind the tail, the horse cannot see anything without turning its head.

Do horses have a poor perception?

In terms of visual acuity, the horse is worse equipped than we are. However, it can perceive the smallest movements better. In addition, the horse is farsighted, which means that it can see far away better than things that are close up. Horse eyes are much more sensitive to light than ours.

Can a horse remember a human?

Sankey discovered that horses generally have excellent memories, allowing them to remember human friends even after long separations. They also remember complex problem-solving strategies from more than ten years.

What is the rarest eye color in horses?

Horses can have grey, yellow, green, dark blue, and violet eyes – but only very, very rarely. Grey, yellow and green are lighter shades of the usual brown horse eye. Greens are mostly found on champagne-colored horses.

What do the eyes say about a horse?

Horse eyes provide information about the state of mind.

The eye appears dull, cloudy, and turned inward – the horse is not doing well. They’re either worried or otherwise in pain that needs to be figured out. The eyelids are half closed, the horse seems absent – in most cases, the horse is dozing.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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