Research shows horses can talk to us!

Stuck for something to teach your horse this weekend? Well check this out because now scientific research has shown that horses can talk to us using symbols!

horses can talk to us forageplus

Horses can talk to us

We all know as horse owners that our horses can talk to us in many different ways from pushing and nudging us, to neighing and looking at us, or even seeming to use telepathy to get inside our minds.  If you know your horse well sometimes you just get a gut feeling about what they are thinking but wouldn’t it be useful if they could actually talk to us using symbols!

Scientists have discovered that horses can learn to use a human tool for communicating: pointing to symbols. They join a short list of other species, including some primates, dolphins, and pigeons, with this talent.

Scientists taught 23 riding horses of various breeds to look at a display board with three icons, representing wearing or not wearing a blanket. Horses could choose between a “no change” symbol or symbols for “blanket on” or “blanket off.” Previously, their owners made this decision for them.

Scientists find that horses can communicate using symbols to say if they want a rug on or not!Click To Tweet

Horses are adept at learning and following signals people give them, and it took these equines an average of just 10 days to learn to approach and touch the board and to understand the meaning of the symbols.

All 23 horses learned the entire task within 14 days. They were then tested in various weather conditions to see whether they could use the board to tell their trainers about their blanket preferences. The scientists report online in Applied Animal Behaviour Science that the horses did not touch the symbols randomly, but made their choices based on the weather. If it was wet, cold, and windy, they touched the “blanket on” icon; horses that were already wearing a blanket nosed the “no change” image. But when the weather was sunny, the animals touched the “blanket off” symbol; those that weren’t blanketed pressed the “no change” icon. The study’s strong results show that the horses understood the consequences of their choices, say the scientists, who hope that other researchers will use their method to ask horses more questions.

So wow! Get ready for winter now! Start teaching your horse to talk to you and tell you whether they really want or need that blanket.

Download a PDF of the research teaching horses to communicate using symbols

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