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