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  1. #1
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    Default Why red obstacles can cause problems for horses

    From Horse & Hound, Understanding how horses see colour:

    The red pillar box that featured in the showjumping and eventing competitions at this summer’s London Olympics caused no end of trouble.

    It was responsible for medals won and lost and was the subject of much discussion among those in the know.

    The fence went on to feature at Burghley and then Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), where it also proved influential.

    There is some science to explain why this might be.
    Because horses have dichromatic vision and don't see red, they might have difficulty identifying a red object.

    This is likely to be particularly marked in poor lighting conditions, where the backdrop is “busy” or where the object is static and its appearance or design does not create sufficient contrast for recognition.

    In these circumstances, it would be easy for the horse to make visual misjudgements.
    There's more about that here, along with some photo simulations of what a horse sees v. what a human sees.

    A few thoughts:

    1. I hope course designers take this into consideration when they get out the paint pots.

    2. The horse CAN'T tell the difference between a US team rider in a red coat or some no-name weekend rider wearing a grey coat. They are physiologically unable to be impressed by your coat. Ha.

    3. Horses can't easily identify Canadians from visual information alone.
    Last edited by JER; Dec. 1, 2012 at 11:16 PM.


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  2. #2
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    Whoohooo! Breakthrough science once again revealed on the COTH Event Board. Hallelujah. Soooooooooooooo................is pink O.K.? Orange? How about like a really beautiful deep shade of maroon?

    Seriously, I have known since 4-H days that horses saw red as grey...we were always told that red and white poles were less visible than yellow and white to a horse.

    Actually the really interesting thing at H & H is the admission by Clayton Fredericks that he was stalking the Canadian post and moved to Florida to cement his deal....
    "Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring." -- Emerson
    www.eventhorse.wordpress.com


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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by retreadeventer View Post
    Whoohooo! Breakthrough science once again revealed on the COTH Event Board. Hallelujah. Soooooooooooooo................is pink O.K.? Orange? How about like a really beautiful deep shade of maroon?

    Seriously, I have known since 4-H days that horses saw red as grey...we were always told that red and white poles were less visible than yellow and white to a horse.

    Actually the really interesting thing at H & H is the admission by Clayton Fredericks that he was stalking the Canadian post and moved to Florida to cement his deal....
    Who peed in your cornflakes?
    Some of us haven't been eventing since the beginning of time, didn't do 4-H or pony club and find articles like this interesting.

    I suppose you know which side of your handlebar and which pedal to put pressure on when cornering at speed in soft ground on a mountain bike or whether to head up or down when hit by a gust of wind on a monohull vs. a catamaran too. Undoubtedly if you took those sports up late in life YOU wouldn't need any pesky articles to read from people trying to be helpful.

    Thanks JER, I found the article interesting.


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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eventguy View Post
    Who peed in your cornflakes?
    Some of us haven't been eventing since the beginning of time, didn't do 4-H or pony club and find articles like this interesting.

    I suppose you know which side of your handlebar and which pedal to put pressure on when cornering at speed in soft ground on a mountain bike or whether to head up or down when hit by a gust of wind on a monohull vs. a catamaran too. Undoubtedly if you took those sports up late in life YOU wouldn't need any pesky articles to read from people trying to be helpful.

    Thanks JER, I found the article interesting.

    There are always a few who seem to think only their comments are worthy of posting. I have always been of mind that forums are more for those looking to further their understanding of things and post questions and or comments without fear of being ridiculed on the play ground.
    I didn’t grow in Pony Cub/4-H either. I grew up in my mother and step father’s show horse barn and on the other side of the my family racehorses. I have probably forgotten more things horse then most will ever know. But I still and will always read as much as I can about the nature of horses. And make a point of taking the time each and everyday observing the numerous horse we have, in the field, stall, walking or under saddle.
    Especially how they look at things and their reactions. I don’t have the pleasure of working with push button horses. Breaking and training and re-schooling. It always amazes me how different horses react to the same visual so I read as much as possible about their eye sight and all things associated. I always seem to find a tidbit of useful information that hadn’t been discussed or offered up for discussing and thought.
    Being that white is a color that horses don’t see very well until up close I have always found it interesting that people still use white tape, panel, etc for fencing.
    Thanks for the post.


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  5. #5
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    Very interesting, JER. From my experience (limited as it is) I've found that the bogey fences always seemed to be blue or yellow. Never had trouble with a red one but the design had an impact probably. I can't remember seeing a solid red fence, but I've seen solid yellow rails (on a skinny, no less) and there is a blue panel with blue rails above it that I've seen come down with great frequency.
    They don't call me frugal for nothing.
    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


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  6. #6
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    I think it is GREAT! that an important mainstream Equine publication like H&H did this story. For years I've thought (and posted here on the subject) that no one should be allowed to design jumping and XC courses unless they had demonstrated knowledge of equine vision. The course design courses that lead to licenses should always include segments on how horses see.

    Just because someone has been an ULR, doesn't make them competent to design safe courses. They may know how people see things, but they also need to know how the horse processes through its vision.
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire


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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eventguy View Post
    ... or whether to head up or down when hit by a gust of wind on a monohull vs. a catamaran too. Undoubtedly if you took those sports up late in life YOU wouldn't need any pesky articles to read from people trying to be helpful.

    Thanks JER, I found the article interesting.
    Wait, I'll bite on that one. With a monohull you'd head up, a Cat you head down. However you did not really provide enough detail to be very accurate. If the gust is a lift, then I'd be turning up to keep optimum lift on the sail and point closer to the mark. On header I'd steer down or tack; this with either boat. Catamarans do not like sailing close to the wind, because it is not optimum speed vs lift and getting quickly headed is bad. Monohulls suck at acceleration, but turn much better so can react to wind shifts with more ability.

    But, we're not here to discuss boats

    I think any type of research is fascinating, especially if about horses and how it may impact in life jumping. So much of what we hear is anecdotal that when science is applied it begins to clarify the environment. To add to the stories, I was told that horses don't like white jumps...Why? Don't know for it was just one of those "things" told to me.

    If science tells me horses don't see Red, which defines a fuzzy section of the color spectrum from orange to maroon, then is seems plausible that jumps or obstacles painted in that spectrum range could cause problems. Now, if a course designer does that on purpose, perhaps to draw out how trusting a horse is to its rider, to challenge a horse without putting horse and rider in jeopardy, so be it. If they paint a Wellington Wall red and teams keep crashing into it ...shame.

    I'll give Retread the benefit of the doubt of waking up on the wrong side of the bed with a hangover, reading this article and not following the read twice, press once rule. Normally a sanguine poster, this one needed a little more hubris, little less ego to get the point across.

    To JER, keep em coming for I too am of the "new to the sport, want to learn and soak up what I can from wiser people then I" crowd.


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  8. #8
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    Great articles......many thanks JER!!!


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  9. #9
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    Here is something to consider. We spatially define what we see more by value than color. Value is how light or dark something is in the absences of color.

    I paint plein air/landscapes with a friend who is color blind (red/green.) He uses a limited palette meaning he puts the primaries and white out and mixes his color. He doesn't make big color mistakes, but often his painting aren't quite the same colors the rest of us see. What he get's absolutely right are the values, so his painting read correctly and are lovely. What we learned from him is that if you understand value what color you use doesn't particularly matter. I could paint a pink sky, purple grass and orange trees but if my values are correct it would still read as grass, trees and sky!

    I suspect some of the difficulties in having dichromatic vision is what happens to the values of certain colors--red being more difficult because it is generally a darker value than we think we see it. Darker values are also more difficult to see the detail within--things like texture and shadowing.

    Anyway, just food for thought.


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  10. #10
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    subk's post reminded me of an interesting BBC program about the Himba tribe of Namibia. The Himba call water and milk 'white'. The sky is 'black'. They don't have separate words for what we call 'green' and 'blue'.

    This blog post shows the colour experiment that was done with the Himba. They had a very easy time picking out which green square wasn't the same (in RGB value) as the other green squares but, when the outlier square was changed to blue, they couldn't pick it out as the different one.

    Not sure how that translates to horses, except that the Himba are semi-nomadic herders, and they probably see more similar to grazing animals that those of us who work in offices and live in permanent structures.



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  11. #11
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    Lordy, I love this forum. I learn wonderful things every day!
    They don't call me frugal for nothing.
    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.



  12. #12
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    Quick incidental story about horses & colors. My yearling filly has had the same red water bucket in her stall ever since the day she was born. About a month ago, someone new at the barn was refilling water buckets and switched my filly's bucket with her neighbor's blue bucket. Absolutely identical buckets in every way, except color. That night, when the filly was led into her stall, she slammed on the brakes, snorted, and bugged her eyes out at it. She gradually tip-toed her way up to blue bucket and touched it with a quivering nose, clearly ready to eject backwards at any moment if necessary. And all that happened was to swap red with blue. I would not have guessed until then that colors would make such an impact!



  13. #13
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    My horse thinks blue trot poles are shady and that yellow trot poles are jumps. It gets interesting to lay them with each other on the ground.

    Curious. If horses can't see red, they still see the object so I assume its grey to them. Why would a grey jump make horses freak?



  14. #14
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    Since only retread is objecting, I'll give you one more. This study, The Absolute Threshold of Colour Vision in Horses, test horses on colour vision in dim light and then compares it to human vision under the same conditions.

    It's a very small sample but an interesting read, especially as the horses seem to lose motivation to make the correct rewarded colour choice as the light gets dimmer.



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