Can horses see colors and can they see us in the dark?

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Can horses see colors and can they see us in the dark?

Pet owners often wonder if their animals can see or hear, even horse owners. When you spend time with horses, it’s nice to think they can understand what we are saying and that they see all the beauty of nature.

Can horses see colors? What does the horse see when It walks around the farm or gallops in the countryside?

It’s important to know the answer to better understand horses.

Can horses see us?

From my research, I found that the question was also asked by a team of experienced doctors who determined that horses are able to see some colors. They are not capable, however, of doing everything that the human eye can do.

The reason is that humans have a trichromatic vision and their eyes have three types of cones, while most animals have dichromatic color vision with two-cone eyes.

Humans can see the four basic colors: green, red, yellow, and blue. They can see intermediate shadows that lie between the primary colors. Horses have the ability to see yellow and blue, being practically similar to color blind people who cannot see green and red.

Most likely, horses cannot even see the intermediate shades. For this reason, probably, an object that we see as bright red will be seen as grey by the horse.

Can horses see us in the dark?

Horses can’t see all the colors we see, but they are better at seeing in the dark. However, it takes longer for horses to adjust to rapidly changing light levels.

How to be a better trainer for the horse?

While this limitation in identifying colors might seem like a handicap, it really isn’t, as it’s the natural way the horse is used to seeing. Knowing this helps the owner a lot in guiding and training the animal. Due to the differences in what the animal sees, compared to what we see, there may be different reactions to what we might expect.

When studying an obstacle course for the horse, one must consider its limited ability to identify color in perspective. If the obstacle and the ground are of similar colors, the horse may have difficulty distinguishing them. For this reason, many trainers paint the jump rails with very different colors from the environment, especially the ground under the obstacle. This helps the horse recognize the obstacle as it approaches.

This is supported by studies that have shown that horses often easily jump over obstacles that are colored in two or more highly contrasting shades. It must always be remembered that yellow and green are two colors that horses cannot easily distinguish.

Why do horses get scared?

Horses often get scared, so it’s legitimate to wonder if this depends on their ability to see colors in a limited way. The answer, in reality, concerns their nature as prey on a natural level: they have excellent eyesight compared to other animals, their sight is not, therefore, the cause of their fear.

Horses very often seem frightened when faced with an unfamiliar object placed at a distance. This happens not because they cannot see from a distance, at most the eye focus does not allow them to see the details at the maximum, but not to the point of seeing in a blurry way.

The horse has a vision of 20/30, while humans have a 20/20, which means that a horse can see an object from six meters away, while a man can see it up to 30 meters away.

The horse’s eyes have been designed in such a way that it continuously scans the horizon for potential predators at quite considerable distances. Usually, the state of awareness causes the horse to consider all undefined objects as probable threats until It has proof to the contrary. Fright is usually nothing more than a sign of that survival instinct, unrelated to the animal’s ability to see colors clearly.

Final Thoughts

To return to the original question of whether horses are able to see colors or not, the answer is yes, but not all colors. They can, in fact, clearly identify blue and yellow, but not red, orange, or green.

Horses can see objects of these colors, but they will see them as gray and white. Despite the inability to see colors like humans, horses have sufficient color identification skills to meet their needs and requirements.

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About Amanda

Passionate about animals, Amanda draws her expertise from her training as an educator, pet behaviorist as well as her extensive experience with animal owners. A specialist in dog and cat behavior, Amanda continues to learn about our four-legged companions by studying veterinary reference books but also university research sites (UCD, Utrecht, Cambridge, Cornell, etc..)

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