According to research conducted by the Equine Research Foundation in California, nearly ten years ago, horses find it difficult to distinguish between items which are red, yellow, orange or green in colour.
So, if you were to take your horse to the Holker Chilli Fest on Saturday or Sunday this weekend, it is unlikely that he (or she) would be able to distinguish between any of the chilli peppers on display without tasting them – which isn’t necessarily recommended.
If you’re a certain type of person, it’s possible to generate quite a lot of pleasure from watching people writhing in pain whilst eating the fiercest chilli peppers on the planet – if you’re one of them, don’t miss the chilli eating contest each afternoon from 4.oopm onwards. For the less sadistic, there’ll also be trade-stands featuring cuisine from around the world, local food suppliers, music, street entertainers and belly dancers.
Fortunately for horses, it appears that they can distinguish blue colours – which, among other things, explains why they can read the blue signage which prohibits them from using the motorway. They can also see different tones of colour – which is probably how they recognise their jockeys in the Parade Ring, although some colour combinations are clearly better than others.
Take, for example, Harrison – who is due to run in Saturday’s Doncaster St Leger, sporting the green silks with pinky-red stars of racehorse owner Tim Radford. While familiar to many jumping fans as the same exciting colours seen aboard Somersby and Sgt Reckless, to Harrison they will simply look rather dull and greeny-grey. Meanwhile, Maths Prize (running later on the card) will have no problem picking out his owner’s colours: Her Majesty the Queen’s silks are among the easiest to identify - being purple and scarlet with gold embroidery, a black cap and a golden tassel.
In a bid to help racehorses further, the BHA has announced plans to release six sets of never-before-seen racing colours – to be sold through an online auction ending on Friday 23rd September. The new designs stand out as distinct from the 14,000 sets of colours which have already been registered by owners – with symbols like anchors and horse-shoes which aren’t usually permitted. There are also vibrant combinations of colours in rainbow designs and large multi-coloured spots.
Each specially-designed set of colours will have a minimum reserve of £5,000 in the auction, with 5% of the proceeds being split between the Racing Welfare and Retraining of Racehorses charities. The remainder of the income will be targeted by the BHA at initiatives to promote racehorse ownership.
We can’t say how this week’s selection perceives his name – but I expect Red Pike to brighten up a grey weekend in the Portland Handicap at 2.35pm on Saturday.