Horses Have Floor Color Preferences

Getting ready to paint a concrete aisle floor or put colored mats in your wash stall? What's the most inviting color? Fear not--there's guidance in science. Researchers have found that horses react more to yellow, white, black, and blue floors, as compared to floors that are green, red, brown, or gray. Horses don't seem to mind these "less favorite" colors on walls rather than floors.

The scientists, from the School of Animal, Rural, and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, and in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, wrote in their study, "Adverse reactions of the domestic horse to environmental stimuli can be problematic in training and management. Hesitation and alarm reactions to visual features of the ground can occur in both ridden work and when handling horses."

They investigated the effect of eight colored floor mats on the behavior of 16 riding horses. They measured the effect of stimulus positing by presenting the mats either on the ground, where the horse had to walk over them, or against a wall, where the horses had to walk past them. "Each color/position combination was presented twice in order to assess the effect of previous experience," the scientists said.

The horses walked unrestrained through an alleyway that contained the stimulus, and the scientists timed how long it took each horse to traverse the alleyway and noted the horses' observed reactions. "Significant differences in both measures were found in relation to the position of the color and whether the subject had previous experience of that color/position combination," wrote the researchers. "The initial presentation of the colors on the ground produced the highest percentage of adverse reactions."

When horses encountered yellow, white, black, and blue for the first time on the ground, they exhibited more adverse reactions than when they saw green, red, brown, or gray, and it took them longer to walk through the alleyway. The second time the horses saw the "problem" colors, they still showed a significant reaction compared to the other colors, but there wasn't a significant difference in relation to time taken to travel the alleyway between the color groups.

If you put any of the colors on the wall, the effects were insignificant, noted the researchers, who think the colored floor findings could be useful for trainers. "These findings have important implications for situations where the color of flooring could be controlled in order to minimize adverse behavioral reactions, in particular during initial training," they said.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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