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Horses and Colors: Which They Fear, Hate, and See Best

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Kids always have the best questions about horses, and one that I often get is what color do they see better than others. This led to more questions about horses and colors, like which one scares them most and what is their favorite color?

Horses are able to identify colors such as yellow, blue, and green with ease but struggle in identifying shades of red or distinguishing them from other hues like gray. Horses fear yellow, seem to see blue the best, and hate bright fluorescent orange and yellow.

Horses’ eyes are huge, and it turns out they see the world in a somewhat different way from what we humans do. To ride and train them, it’s important to know how they see the world. Want to learn which colors horses see, fear and which their eyes can’t see? Stick around!

Picture of a horse jumping a red and white obstacle.

Horses can see colors.

Horses aren’t color blind; they have dichromatic vision, meaning they have two-color eye vision. Those unfamiliar with the term, horses can recognize colors in two wavelength regions instead of the three colors that humans can see.

According to research, the horse’s color vision compares to the human’s red-green color blindness, in which colors with red tones tend to appear as yellow or green. Horses see objects with color contrast to the ground easier than tones that blend with the background.

What colors are horses scared of?

While horses are known for their intimidating size and posture, these tender creatures react in a frightened way with specific colors. Researchers have found that horses tend to respond negatively to colors such as yellow, white, black, and blue tones.

Colors such as green, brown, red, and gray don’t bother the horses, but they react less when these colors are on walls rather than the floors. So if you’re thinking of redecorating and painting the walls a different color, it’s essential to learn which ones they like versus the ones that scare them.

Having the wrong colors in their environment is not only disruptive for their training and management, but it could potentially be dangerous when riding and handling horses. You never know how the horse may react, so it’s best to make sure not to add any colors that can have frightened them.

The chances are that you’ve never considered how colors might affect your horses’ mood. And it’s not just the interior of your stall or barn where color affects them: when they’re outside, horses can be easily agitated by bright fluorescent colors.

One day a neighbor visited us after hunting; the moment he got out of his pick-up truck wearing his bright orange hunting vest, you could tell that the horses were on high alert. You felt their tension as they watched him with suspicion and worry in their eyes.

What colors do horses hate?

Many will argue that it all depends on the horse and how accustomed they are to specific colors; others say that the reaction to certain colors depends on whether the horse connects it to a tragic event that triggers the horse to react a certain way.

Some owners believe that horses can see orange and don’t like it, jumping and bolting them to a tree at the sight of it. Many individuals feel that horses don’t like it when the colors black and white are put together due to their contrast.

Horse owners believe that horses don’t react well to bright colors, such as neon oranges and yellows, showing signs of fear when close to them. Some owners have experienced adverse effects when having white paint on particular objects, being thrown off their horse or the horse simply stopping at the sight of the color.

What color are horses attracted to?

Researchers studied six different colored buckets filled with water to determine if horses are more attracted to specific colors. Colors ranged from light blue, turquoise, light green, green, yellow, and red-toned buckets.

The horses were studied over an eighteen-day span. During this time period, three Thoroughbreds and three Haflingers had access to the bucket during a seven-hour turnout in a paddock.

The researchers shifted the buckets daily so that they wouldn’t always be in the same spot. They realized that the horses preferred the turquoise bucket the most, followed by the rest of the lighter-toned buckets.

From this study, it’s reasonable to believe that horses are attracted to shades of blue and lighter color tones. This information is good to know if you’re having difficulty getting your horse to drink from a specific colored bucket. Switching to lighter tones can encourage your horse to drink water.

Picture of a horse jumping yellow and green obstacle.

Colors horses can see the best and those it can’t see.

What is often surprising to many horse owners is just how different a horse’s vision is from ours. While horses have difficulty seeing some colors, there are specific colors that they can see easily.

Horses can see colors such as yellow and blue the best. A study of their vision proved they have a hard time distinguishing red colors but easily distinguish blue, green, and yellow from gray.

It doesn’t mean that horses can’t see the color red; they see it as an intermediate tone or gray. When it comes to red, horses see this color as earthy, having faint yellow tones and blue hues.

Their limited ability to see specific colors is vital when designing obstacles for horse training and jumping. They will have a more challenging time telling the difference between the obstacle and the ground if both share similar shades.

Typically, most individuals paint their jump rails differently from the color of the footing and landscape surrounding the objects so that horses can better judge and visualize the obstacle when approaching.

Researchers found that the horses are less likely to knock rails down when painted with two or more contrasting colored tones instead of one solid color. Painting the obstacles white, neon yellow, or bright blue tones provides a good contrast that horses can easily see.

Fluorescent yellow tones have the most significant distinction and are more accessible for horses to see in different light and weather conditions. Studies show that horses react and jump differently when the marked fences are white, blue, and fluorescent yellows compared to the typical orange-colored obstacles.

Conclusion

Learning and understanding the colors they can see and the ones they have problems seeing is essential in how horses react to their surrounding environment and perform overall.

Not only do specific colors affect their performance, but you can end up hurt in the process due to their unpredictable reactions. While our beloved four-legged animals don’t intentionally hurt us, it can get pretty hectic if they are frightened or startled with colors that they’re not used to seeing in their environment.

So if you’re considering redecorating the walls, or obstacles for your horse, be sure to choose the right colors that will be easy on your horse’s eyes!

FAQ

Can horses see in the dark?

Horses can see in the dark thanks to their tapetum lucidum. This helps them gather light particles and make images clearer in conditions with little light. The ability to see in the dark is a form of evolutionary adaptation for survival purposes.

What is a horse’s field of vision?

Horses have one of the widest fields of vision of any mammal; they’re able to see about 350° around them at any given time.

Can horses see in front of themselves?

The horse’s eyes function in a way that is very different from ours. Unlike humans, their wide-set eyes prevent them from focusing on anything up close and directly in front of them; however, they can see objects that are at a distance away.