Are Horses Very Smart

Daniel Brown
• Sunday, 18 October, 2020
• 18 min read

Horse lovers have long believed that their trusty steeds are the smartest animals in the world, but skeptics would be doubtful. While we most often compare them to dogs when asking ‘are horses intelligent?’ This is, in fact, not a fair comparison.

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(Source: www.littlethings.com)


So those stories of horses being over cuddly when their owners are upset or refusing to come over to you when you’re grumpy aren’t just coincidence, after all. All of these show that horses learn via conditioning, and that through trial and error they can figure out the correct response to a question or situation.

Also, most horses can recognize themselves in the mirror, understands human emotion, and learn complex tricks or commands. The reality is that direct comparison of intelligence across species cannot work, because the standards to measure what is considered smart are not the same from one animal to another.

Thoroughbreds and Arabian horses are two breeds that seem to come on top of the list in terms of intelligence. A retired racehorse Lukas became one of the top liberty performers in the United States and attracted international acclaim for his intelligence.

He understood complicated concepts such as object permanence, spatial relationships, proportion, absentees and so on. It was also claimed that Beautiful Jim Key was able to cite Bible passages in which horses were mentioned.

What we must keep in mind is that horses are fast learners, especially with correct and consistent training. The study was interested in seeing if the 30 domestic horses they worked with were more likely to approach a person with a dominant body posture or a submissive one.

smart she horses animals very horse
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The people displaying a dominant body posture were standing straight with extended arms, legs, and chest. In 2018, the Universities of Sussex and Portsmouth conducted a study demonstrating that horses can read human facial expressions and remember a person’s previous emotional state, adapting their behavior accordingly.

In fact, during the study, photographs of people with different emotions (anger and happiness) were presented to 24 horses. The results show that horses were responding differently according to the emotion observed; their heart rates increased when presented with a photograph of an angry person, therefore showing a negative reaction to the more aggressive emotions.

It is surprising that horses remembered the people and their emotional expression after being presented the pictures shortly. In 2016, Kobe University has published a study stating that when horses are facing unsolvable problems, they will use visual and tactile signals to catch human attention and ask for help.

The experiment was conducted with 8 horses and their student caretakers at the equestrian club of the Kobe University. In the first experiment, an assistant experimenter hid carrots in a bucket that couldn’t be reached by the horse.

The goal was to observe how the horse sent signals to his caretaker when he arrived, unaware of the situation. In the second experiment, the experimenter tested if the horses behavior changed when the caretaker was aware of the hidden food.

horses smart amazing
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Horses, as for other animals, have learned to communicate with other individuals to receive information about predators, for instance, which is a useful survival skill. Keeping in mind that the contribution of horses to society has evolved from transport to companionship.

Horses are smart ; they learn to perform amazing feats that require an advanced level of intelligence and memory. Their cognitive ability was recently tested, and it indicated that horses are much smarter than earlier believed.

One famous horseman expressed the opinion that they “can’t have much in the upper story, or they would never allow humans to sit on their backs for more than a split second.” Indeed, their legendary cooperativeness toward their two-legged companions makes them appear unwise since it has caused them nothing but trouble over the centuries.

They are such social animals and so responsive to the dictates of the tyrants of their species that there is nothing astounding about their readiness to subordinate themselves to powerful human beings. It requires good sense organs to provide information about the environment: good memory to store the data in a retrievable form: and a complex brain to cross-refer the separate memories when searching for an answer to some new challenge.

The problem with all questions of animal intelligence is finding some objective method of measuring it. In the wild, prey and predator species differ slightly in their “styles” of intelligence.

smart very delight horses gelding 3yr ridden quiet coming been
(Source: www.compassperformancehorses.com)

But if prey animals such as horses make a mistake, it can mean sudden death, and for this reason, they are particularly sensitive to experiences in which they suffer pain or fear. One nasty moment in a particular place or with a specific individual and a horse may react violently the next time the situation is encountered.

A mature horse suddenly rears up and bolts when confronted with a piece of apparatus or a particular location. Many errors are made in attempting to interpret such behavior, when in fact, the hidden explanation is usually that, as a tiny foal perhaps, the horse suffered one bad experience and has been harboring it ever since.

This episode may make horses look stupid, but in equine terms, the opposite is the case. They are simply judiciously cautious, and we should never refer to horses timidity as suggesting a lack of intelligence.

In November 2016, two scientists, Mamie Ringer and Associate Professor Shiny Nakamoto published an article entitled Domestic horses send signals to humans when they face an unsolvable task http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10071-016-1056-4. The scientist set up two problematic situations for the horses to solve to retrieve a treat.

In the second scenario, a caretaker entered the paddock and placed a carrot in a bucket while the horse watched. During the first test, the horse remained close to the caretaker, looked at, touched, and pushed him.

horses very smart spook
(Source: www.pinterest.com)

This action showed that when a horse needs help, it will ask for it as they did by looking and physically touching and pushing. In the second test, the horses increased the signals to the caretaker, both in intensity and duration.

These actions demonstrated that horses change their behavior in response to the knowledge levels of humans. These tests prove the flexible cognitive ability of a horse is a relatively high-level one.

Tests analyzing the ability of horses to discriminate have produced some remarkable results. When twenty pairs of patterns were offered, horses learned to tell them apart in every case (compared with thirteen in donkeys and ten in zebras).

Even more impressive was the fact that twelve months after the training session, there was virtually no memory loss with nineteen out of the twenty pairs of patterns. It is also essential that the learning is retained for a very long period–long enough for the appropriate reaction still to be there when the annual cycle of plant growth repeats itself.

A group of us were leaning on a fence when a neighbor rode towards us on an Arabian and quickly expounded the horses breed’s virtues, which included being the smartest. I have owners mention Arabians, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and the list goes on.

miniature smart horse mare
(Source: www.equinenow.com)

The horse would be asked this question by his owner and would then tap his foot six times. At first, investigators believed that the animal’s owner must be giving clues to the horse, so they asked him to withdraw.

The horse sensing them, as it were, holding their breath in case he made a mistake, stopped tapping and appeared to have calculated the solution to the mathematical problem. But after looking at the research in standard memory testing, horses seem to be smarter.

Just as we explained when we tried to compare dogs to horses, it is too difficult to decide on the relative level of intelligence between these two species. Chimpanzees are believed to be the smartest animal, and they were tested against humans for numerical memory.

Australian scientists tested goats to determine their reasoning, power, and memory. The successful goats were tested again ten months later and performed much quicker, displaying their ability to learn and retain information.

I did some research on this topic and found lots of information to share with you. Their ability to be trained and to learn new skills has made them a much loved companion to their owners and trainers.

smart very play horses horse performance
(Source: www.meadorperformancehorses.com)

Horses have fantastic memories and a great sense of smell. These characteristics of the horse has helped them become a much loved and appreciated member of our modern world.

The horse is King and here are so many ways he benefits us as humans. Their training programs many times was pure brute force.

They devised ways that they could have the upper hand to force the horse to do what they wanted, like throwing them to the ground and showing the horse that man was the Boss. The first saddling and riding lessons were harsh and expected to be accomplished by the cowboy outlasting the horse.

Nowadays the way of breaking and training a horse is a lot gentler method. One that brings joy and pleasure to millions of horse owners throughout the world.

Some people say that a horse could be compared to the smartness of about a 10 or 12-year-old human. There was an American horse I have heard of by the name of “Jim Key” who could actually perform some type of math & spelling.

smart horse rae callie king courtesy
(Source: www.horsenation.com)

There have been lots of studies done by scientists to discover how horses learn and how their brains work. Dogs and cats, for example, are predators and the size of their brain is smaller.

A horse being a prey animal, which means they often had to flee for their life; behaves differently. In fact a horse has been so well-developed that within an hour of birth a foal has the ability to run in case there is a need.

Owners who become frustrated because of the horses freaking out would call them dumb animals. But they are wrong, because a horse is a very intelligent and magnificent animal.

Horses are easy to train because they have great memories. A great memory is one of the measures of your horses intelligence.

Also, that works out well if the rider finds himself lost and does not know which direction to go. That has come in very handy in my life because I have gotten turned around and did not know which way to go more than once when I was out on the trail.

smart horses pretty horse very indulgence petite he adventures cooking zeppelin blankets cookie stuff
(Source: www.petite-indulgence.com)

Horse owners have always wanted to give their animals human characteristics. It’s true horses can learn the meaning of a lot of words.

For the horses pulling wagons gee and haw told them whether to turn right or left. Not much more than those few other often repeated words is about as much as we can expect horses to comprehend.

There are many great stories told around the campfire of horses almost being able to read people’s minds. I have heard friends brag that their horse is the smartest because it can unlock the stable door or untie a knot or get into the hay barn.

It’s not like the horse really knew what he was doing, but being the mischievous and curious animal he is, his efforts to play around and fiddle with the lock rewarded him with the ability to get freedom. How easy he is to learn commands and how to perform them, through a process of positive and negative reinforcement with lots of repetition.

When a new rider buys or leases a horse that has more training and experience than he has, it could prove to be somewhat of a problem. Dogs detect illness and lead the blind, and horses memorize difficult dressage patterns and can sense incoming weather.

smart horses humans stallion keeps mighty careful simpson laura his
(Source: goodmenproject.com)

By assessing these capabilities, we can start to compare our equine friends to our tail-wagging canine family members. While most domestic dogs aren't responsible for finding their own meals, they're still considered predators in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom.

It's a lot easier to munch on grass than it is to take down a rabbit, and behaviorists generally agree that predators have a kind of intelligence that prey animals lack. As herd animals, horses are able to protect themselves from harm, and living within that tight-knit community also gives them a strong sense of emotional and social intelligence.

They form relationships with other horses within the herd, and studies show those connections also extend to humans. A horse named Clever Hans, for example, is revered as one of the smartest domestic animals of his time.

It was once believed that Hans, an Orlon Trotter horse, could do complex math and word problems. Hans responded by tapping his hoof eleven times and delivering the correct answer.

Hans responded to a person's involuntary body language to give the correct answer every time. When Hans was blindfolded or otherwise unable to see the person who asked, he would simply keep tapping his foot with no clues to give him the right answer.

smart horse really
(Source: www.youtube.com)

While Hans couldn't actually do math, he did show that horses have a kind of emotional intelligence that is seen in few other animal species. Another facet of measuring animal intelligence is how quickly they can learn a new skill and remember that newfound knowledge.

From the basic “sit” to more complex behaviors, we all know dogs are capable of learning countless skills. How quickly a dog or horse learns is related more to the trainer's skill and not the individual animal's intelligence.

While horses possess strong emotional intelligence and an intuition that's hard to beat, dogs learn new skills quickly and adapt well to life with humans. Both animals are capable of impressive cognitive abilities, and evidence shows both horses and dogs have their strengths and weaknesses.

But at the same time, a dog's abilities as a predator give them natural instincts that relate to overall intelligence. In the fall of 2016, I was gobsmacked by research out of Norway indicating horses could be trained to use symbols to communicate to their handlers, “put blanket on” and “take blanket off.” This seemed to indicate horses may have cognitive processes considerably beyond what we normally ascribe to them.

Intrigued, I began keeping track of other recent research into equine intelligence, and what I learned about how smart horses may be been astonishing. Whereas just 15 years ago scientists were still questioning whether horses (and other mammals) even experience emotions, research now seems to indicate equines may in fact have some same cognitive abilities as we do, only at a different level.

smart very roan aqha dancer horse badger
(Source: www.northernhorse.com)

Here, I’m going to share the latest research into equine cognition, including details of that compelling blanket-on/-off study. René Descartes, the 17th-century French philosopher, believed animals were mindless machines that could neither reason nor feel pain.

The work of the Russian Ivan Pavlov in the 19th century and American B. F. Skinner in the early 20th portrayed animals as merely reacting reflexively to their environment, or behaving only in response to positive or negative reinforcement. In fact, until only fairly recently, “anyone who ascribed an underlying emotion to an animal’s behavior was simply being anthropomorphic, projecting human feelings onto what were merely ‘dumb animals,’” observes Dr. Nicholas H. Rodman, a veterinary behaviorist writing in Veterinary Practice News online.

“The extreme behaviorist’s view that animals’ behavior is to be observed and measured but not interpreted prevailed through much of the last century.” In September 2003, Horsehide published a feature titled, “Do Horses Have Emotions?” Experts quoted in the piece argued the proposition both ways, with one even suggesting a mare’s distress at having her foal taken away could be just a stimulus response rather than proof of an emotional bond.

Current research seems to point in that direction, and toward a surprising range of cognitive abilities in general. • Touch-screen use: “A horse’s-eye view: size and shape discrimination compared with other mammals,” November 2015, Biology Letters.

In this 2016 study, Norwegian researchers trained 22 horses representing various breeds to understand symbols painted on white wooden boards. Then, under varying weather conditions, the horses were asked to select which action they wanted…and here’s where it got fascinating.

smart horses humans horse simpson mare lucy laura lead
(Source: goodmenproject.com)

Use of the computer-monitor system will enable further looks into the mind of the horse that are free from potential human “interference,” offering results with the greatest possible validity. A 2016 study at the University of Sussex in England showed that horses can distinguish between smiling and frowning human faces.

Twenty-eight horses were shown large photographs of a man’s face expressing either a positive or negative emotion. The researchers also noted that horses themselves have many facial expressions that are similar to those of humans, which may’ve aided them in deciphering the emotions.

• “Can Horses Read Our Minds?,” with science writer Stephen Budiansky at The Thinking Rider blog. Evelyn Hang, MS, PhD, of the Equine Research Foundation in Autos, California (equine research.org), sums it up well.

Research to date has just grazed this subject and it will take many more studies to figure out what occurs within the thought processes of our equine partners,” she says. Before Helen Keller’s teacher found the key to unlocking two-way communication, the deaf and blind girl seemed barely more than a wild animal.

Written by Katherine Blockader There's no doubt about the mystique of horses. They seem to capture our imagination and are a symbol of strength and freedom.

horse tricks smart array displays
(Source: www.youtube.com)

There are a lot of traditions and lore around horses, and some information we hold onto may no longer be true. It's fun to think that your horse or pony likes doing the same thing you do.

When have you ever seen a horse run barrels, jump a course of jumps, or execute a perfect 20-meter circle spontaneously with no human prompting? A horse may have qualities that make them more suitable for a certain sport but that doesn't mean it likes it more.

You both like a warm bed, the same kinds of food (to an extent), humans and dogs can survive by hunting, and both humans and dogs live in 'packs'. Horses are prey that hunters might like to eat, but they are herbivores and their social structure is quite different from dogs (and humans).

Although many people believe their horses are companion animals, they are not the same as dogs. Horses quickly sense which riders are clear communicators and make their cues irresistible.

But they don't carry on a conversation the way you sometimes see in the movies, with the constant stream of screams, squeals, and nickers. But it is really a complex structure of different materials including keratin, blood-rich tissue, and bone.

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(Source: www.nationalstockhorse.com)

Wonderful riders make riding look easy. Watch racers or dressage riders and it seems the horse is going through the patterns on its own accord.

It may look like sitting but riders use their legs, arms, weight, hands, balance, and brains to ride. They get scared by things that seem silly to some people, like a shadow or a weird sound the wind makes.

You may not know that horses can feel angry, sad, left out, and jealous just like people. For example, if I haven't seen my horse Cody for a couple of weeks, when I do come he won't walk up to me or even face me.

Instead, he will give me a brief, sour looking glance over his shoulder and then face his rear to me and run away when I walk up. When one of the horses is separate from their herd, they get anxious, and if they are left too long by themselves they get depressed, not wanting to eat, and they get a sad look in their eyes that goes to my heart.

When Cody's sister had to be kept by herself for weeks because of a problem with her foot, she got very thin and depressed. There are times when I felt very heavy with sadness or when I had been sick and was still not that strong, and they responded with much more than their usual gentleness and would look at me with beautifully, calm sweet eyes that appeared to be full of empathy.

lena horse smart stallion pastern standing own front quarter son stud stallions hind
(Source: www.stallionsnow.com)

You just have to spend a lot of time with them and be sensitive to what they are telling you about themselves and you will find out what amazing creatures they are. Report this Content This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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