Bright Yellows and Blues: The Safest Colors on the Track

According to British researchers, fence color could make a significant difference in racehorses’ ability to visualize obstacles as they approach them.
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Bright Yellows and Blues: The Safest Colors on the Track
According to British researchers, fence color could make a significant difference in racehorses’ ability to visualize obstacles as they approach them. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Paul

The Thoroughbreds thunder down the track, neck-and-neck, on a grisly gray day. They’re about to reach the toughest of the hurdles on their steeplechase course, a water jump with a high brush fence with orange markings. Some people say the jump’s challenging because it’s so high, others because it’s so wide. But what if the real problem is much simpler? What if the horse just can’t see it well?

According to British researchers, fence color could make a significant difference in racehorses’ ability to visualize obstacles as they approach them. Coordinating jump colors with the equine range of color vision could lead to not only better performance but also better welfare and safer racing, said Martin Stevens, PhD, professor of sensory and evolutionary ecology and chair in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, in Penryn, the U.K.

“Orange-type colors are not very visible against the rest of the fence background and environment,” Stevens said. “In contrast, other colors such as white and certain blues and fluorescent yellows are much more visible (to horses)

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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