Orange to White: Racing Looks Through The Eyes Of The Horse

News | 22nd February 2022

Racing at Stratford Upon Avon on 14th March will mark the start of a new era over jumps in Britain as obstacles begin turning white as part of a welfare-driven initiative.

The transformation, to be gradually phased in over 10-months, will see an estimated 368 fences and 2,132 hurdle panels across 40 racecourses change markings from the traditional orange to white.

The project, which is being delivered by the Horse Welfare Board as part of the ‘Life Well Lived’ strategy, follows intensive research carried out by Exeter University during 2017-2018 into equine vision. The original research was commissioned by the BHA and backed by the Racing Foundation, with the costs of implementation across all 40 racecourses being heavily supported by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Exeter University’s research focused on trialling different colour options in a variety of racing environments and weather conditions, including the traditional orange markings. As horses have reduced ‘dichromatic’ colour vision compared to humans, they see mainly hues we would perceive as blue and yellow, and are unable to tell apart shades of red, green, and orange.  The study found that changing the wood and vinyl padding of take-off boards, guard rails and top boards to white provided increased contrast and visibility for horses, leading to improved jumping performance. 

A phased roll-out of new white markings will begin from March 2022 with courses carrying out the work after the close of their season. Nine courses will make the change during the first six months (March – August) with all jumps tracks to have made the switch by December 2022. An estimated 368 fences and 2,312 hurdle panels are due to be changed across 40 courses. Point to point courses will follow for the 2022/23 season.