New research: horses smarter than we thought

15 04 2007

Come on Nemo bring the ball…., originally uploaded by syl_armony.

Groundbreaking studies into advanced learning abilities show that horses are capable of much more than many people believe, according to a leading expert on equine intelligence.

Dr Evelyn Hanggi, president and co-founder of the US-based Equine Research Foundation, says cognition and perception in horses has often been misunderstood.

She says that while public and scientific interest in the field has been growing, it is astounding how little research into advanced equine learning has been completed, considering the importance of horses to humans.

The foundation has been working to change that for the last 15 years.

Dr Hanggi says a comprehensive understanding of the learning abilities of horses is necessary to ensure that this species receives proper training, handling, management, and care.

“Traditionally,” she says, “horses have rarely been classified as intelligent, and even today, gaps in knowledge, myths and misconceptions, and limited research affect how horses are understood or misunderstood by the public, the horse industry, and even the scientific community.

“If the cognitive abilities of horses are misunderstood, underrated, or overrated, their treatment may also be inappropriate. Equine welfare is dependent on not only physical comfort but mental comfort as well.

“Confining a thinking animal in a dark, dusty stable with little or no social interaction and no mental stimulation is as harmful as providing inadequate nutrition or using abusive training methods.

“Therefore, it is in the interest of both horses and humans to understand more fully the scope of equine thinking.” Link

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10 responses

15 04 2007
bradylord

YES! It’s about time! It’s not that horses aren’t smart, it’s that they are so subtle, most of us miss it! If you spend time playing with your horse (Safely, of course.) and create as stimulating an environment as possible. (An apple lick, a horse next door that they can at least get some proximity to, the ability to walk in and out and look around, being put out to pasture to munch 2-3 times per week) these things can really help!

When I first got my horse in December, he was kind-hearted but every so slightly dullish. 4 months of loving interaction with lots of treats, on top of his being handled by a first rate staff has made him attentive and communicative. (I’ve started calling him bug cuz when I show up, his eyes pop out of his head.)

If you can, I also seriously recommend singing to your horse and body massages. When you make being awake pleasant for your horse, he/she will be more pleased with life.

15 04 2007
cara

Not surprised at all! People always ask me if horses are smarter than dogs. I tell them that horses are much smarter than dogs when it comes to being a horse, and not very smart at being a dog.
People don’t realize the importance of smell as cognitive input. When I get to the stable, the first thing my horse does is smell my hands. He can tell a lot about what will happen by smelling my hands.
He is also more compasionate than anyone would guess.

16 04 2007
MiKael

No suprise to me, I’ve always known how smart horses are. It would be nice to see them finally get some credit for being the smart sensitive animals that they are.

16 04 2007
barngoddess

Great post! this is so true.

Iam happy to see research done in this area. I hope it continues. Horses are complex animals….not just ‘beasts of burden’ I hate that saying!

Scooter and I can read each other’s minds….(most of the time)

except yesterday on our afternoon ride he jumped sideways at a neighbor’s trash can. I still do not know what he was thinking, attack of the trash bags?

I was thinking..too much sweet feed!

Anyone who has looked into a horse’s eyes knows, they have a soul and feelings like any other companion animal. Such as a dog or cat.

16 04 2007
Sarah

Just echoing what everyone else said. I don’t think any of us are suprised and it’s about time this came out.

16 04 2007
Pony Tail Club

We agree. Anyone who spends some amount of time with a horse has to be aware of how smart they are. (Not to mention sometimes funny, sensitive, curious, brave….the list goes on and on!)

26 03 2009
Theresa

I can’t speak for all horses, but if you’re around enough of them . . . they have great memories and longer attention spans than dogs, easier to focus. Most horses I know walk more politely on their leads than most dogs . . . I’ve seen my own Arabian do some funny and tricky things . . like fake a spook, so a higher ranking mare ran from her hay pile-while she was panting at the other end of the arena looking for the “wolves”, he casually strolled over and helped himself to her abandoned hay, which she would have nailed him for if he’d tried the direct approach . . . Another time he untied himself and went and hid from me in his stall. Besides everyone’s heard of “horse sense”–I’ve never heard anyone talk about “dog sense”.

22 03 2012
zozopaw

WHAT!?! you saying horses are smarter than dogs }:\
Because if thats the case i dissagree 100%!!!!!!

24 07 2013
sherry

Love, love, love my horse. He is 26 (I have owned him for 14 years). He is so smart. He will just look at me and we both know what the other is thinking. Any day now, he may talk! I wouldn’t sell him for anything.

27 03 2014
elise

i grew up around race horses and i used to play hide n go seek with one of them when i was younger 🙂 they aren’t really good at hiding because they are so big but she totally got the concept.

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