This is actually not that uncommon but often overlooked.
How often have we all been guilty of buying something for our horses because "it's his colour"?
I know I am guilty of it. I have every colour of the rainbow in polo wraps, brown saddle pads, black, blue, white, red, green and even tye dye.
Really when it comes down to it tack does not matter to a horse but what he sticks his head into to get nourishment might.
Thus comes the great bucket experiment.
I had Naigen for a little over a year. She always had fresh water and tons of food at this point and was in great physical condition compared to when I fist seen her sack of bones in that swampy excuse for a paddock in the middle of a dry June.
She ate lots, gobbled her grain down and never refused an extra treat or two but she barely drank anything.
We tried it all, adding apple juice to her water, increasing her salt intake each day by adding it to her beet pulp, soaking her hay to give her more water and even giving her a heated bucket.
-You can lead a horse to water, or disguise it in my case, but you cannot make it drink-
I was just about blue in the face trying to get her to drink what she should have been. The vet noted she was a tad bit on the dehydrated side but it wasn't. He also noted she had a touch of uveitis (moon blindness). This is where it all clued in.
Humans are Trichomats. We see a few million colours believe it or not. It's an amazing thing the human eye. Heres a representation of the colours we can see.This is your typical red, yellow, blue colour wheel. The variations of each are almost endless.
Horses have relatively little need for colour vision. They evolved looking at horses of neutral earthy hues and eating greenery, not looking at our vision of the world, brightly coloured with neon paints and crazy coloured flowers in jump boxes. Thus they are known as trichromats.
They do still see in colour, just not he same hues as we do. Here is an example.See the difference?
I studied this for a long time. I was trying to figure out what to do about Naigen. She drank pretty good outside. Little did I know the yellow tub she had outside played a bigger role in her water consumption than I thought.
Looking at a stack of buckets us humans may not think much of what colour other than what matches what else we got or maybe whatever colour happens to be on the top, whats the cheapest etc.
I thought long and hard. I had a whole arsenal of coloured buckets at my disposal. I started marking down the temperature and how much water was being consumed to make sure hot weather was not an influence.
I found she drank the least out of a black bucket. She hardly touched the water at all only seconded by red and dark purple. The best she drank out of was a white and yellow bucket.
I couldn't believe it. I had solved this year long mystery with the change of a bucket. I immediately gave her all white buckets. She drank deep, gobbled her feed and never looked back, drinking down a white bucket of water by the time it needed to be re-filled later in the day.
Here is what the same stack of buckets might look like to your horse. Notice how in both white sticks out in our version of the buckets and the horses? That is because white is the first colour to be recognized by both the human and equine eye. Keep this in mind when a horse spooks at an object. It might just be because white is extremely unusual, startling in a horses natural environment amongst the bluey green and yellowish hues.
I suggested it to a friend who had a mare that didn't drink anything in her stalls for almost two days after she got to her new barn. Having two brand spanking new black flat back buckets in her stall she was used to light blue before. Finally the mare broke down and drank a little but never enough wile inside to anyones liking. Like me, my friend tried everything and asked to borrow some buckets. Maybe hers had a weird taste to it? We washed them all out just to be sure they all tasted the same. Some yellow buckets later and this mare began bellying up. The friend bought two new yellow ones and the mare started drinking the same again.
Of course not all horses are the same. Some do not seen to care about sticking their nose into a black cavern to drink water. Others like Naigen, my friends mare and even Indigo (when stalled briefly) do care and benefit from a bucket they can see all the way to the bottom of.
Just like a young horse that sees the inside of a two horse trailer for the first time. Some bug their eyes out of their sockets and look at you as if you are a lunatic for wanting them to walk into the black hole cave of horse eating doom. Others just give it a once over and step right in for the first time, unflapped by the darkness.
So next time you are looking to buy things for your horse to use and now you know I am not talking the latest craze in tacky coloured padded bridles, keep what he can see in mind.