Equine Vision and Horse Sports
Equine Vision, Welfare, and Safety
Horses are used in a range of sports, from horse racing to cross country eventing and show jumping. In most sports, there exists a range of visual information seen by the horses and rider, either to enhance the visibility of fences or to challenge the horse when jumping.
A major consideration in all these sports is the welfare of the horses and the safety of the riders / jockeys. Horses see the world very differently to humans. They lack an ability to distinguish colours we see as reds, yellows, and greens, seeing only blue and yellow categories of colour, and differ greatly from humans in how far around their body they see, their visual acuity, and sensitivity to light levels.
Our equine vision project uses knowledge of horse vision and our image analysis tools to investigate the best ways to use visual information in horse sports for improved welfare, safety, and training.
One of the main areas of our research is to understand how effective the visibility markers (e.g. toe / take-off boards) are on fences and hurdles in improving visibility to horses (and jockeys). Currently, markers are orange, but it is unlikely that these can be seen well by horses against the fence/hurdle or surrounding vegetation.
Our research investigates how visible current, and potential alternative colours are to horses against the surrounding vegetation under different light and weather conditions. We are also testing how new, more visible colours are responded to by race horses during training.
This project is funded principally by the Racing Foundation and the British Horseracing Authority, plus Exeter University.
The second area we are investigating concerns eventing, both cross country and show jumping. Working with British Eventing, we are currently investigating the visibility of cross country fences and show jumps, regarding how visible they are under different light conditions and the role of different colours and materials in this.