A leap in the color! How understanding horses’ color perception improves their performance and welfare in show jumping


  • Francesca Valan Valan Studio, Milano, Italy
  • Pietro Paglierani Valan Studio, Milano, Italy
  • Chiara Scopa Department of Medicine & Surgery - Unit of Neuroscience University of Parma, Italy




horse vision, horse-rider synergy, contrast measure


In horse showjumping, the probability of falls at jumps can depend on the horse capacity to see obstacles. Experimental works have confirmed the correlation between obstacle colors and jumping performance. Horses are dichromats: they can see blue and yellow, but they are not able to clearly distinguish red, orange, and green. The available results in this field, however, can be hardly compared, because the different authors have not characterized colors in terms of any standard system. Furthermore, even when the obstacle colors considered in the different research works look similar, the corresponding computer-simulated colors (i.e., how colors would be seen by the horse's eye) appear significantly different. Color design can contribute to fill some of these gaps. To this end, this paper first summarizes the horse visual system. A state-of-the-art survey on color impact on the jumping performance is reported, highlighting inconsistencies and problems that can be ascribed to a lack of familiarity with color science. A color analysis of a real jumping competition is finally presented, showing some key aspects that could be advantageously considered when the obstacle sequence is designed. The results reported in this paper represent a starting point to define a systematic approach in the color design of jumping obstacles in horse competitions.

Author Biographies

  • Francesca Valan, Valan Studio, Milano, Italy

    Francesca is an Industrial designer specialized in Colors, Materials, and Finishes design. She graduated in Industrial Design at IED, Milan, in 1989, and received her Master in Surface Quality in 1990. She collaborated with Società di Ergonomia Applicata, investigating the aspects of visual ergonomics. She founded her studio in 1998 and she teaches Color Design Technology at Milan University.

  • Pietro Paglierani, Valan Studio, Milano, Italy

    Pietro Paglierani received the Master degree and Ph.D. degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Padua. He is a scientist at the NATO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in La Spezia, Italy. His main research interests are in underwater acoustic/optical communications, underwater quantum communications and image and color processing.

  • Chiara Scopa, Department of Medicine & Surgery - Unit of Neuroscience University of Parma, Italy

    Chiara is a Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience, Behavioral Biology at the University of Parma. She has conducted behavioral analysis on different aspects of horses’ behavior, from self-awareness to emotional interactions with humans. She is now working on a multidisciplinary project, aiming at determining the relation between the level of maternal milk exposure to environmental chemicals and infants’ neurobehavioral development.


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How to Cite

“A leap in the color! How understanding horses’ color perception improves their performance and welfare in show jumping” (2024) Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 16(01), pp. 49–56. doi:10.23738/CCSJ.160105.