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Can Your Horse Tell You That They're Cold?

If you are in tune with your horse then you are probably quite skilled at interpreting its behaviour. But you have probably had occasion to wish that they could be more specific! It is distressing when you can’t figure out what is distressing your animal. Horses can’t talk but scientists have now discovered that they can communicate their needs using symbols.

It sounds incredible by your horse is capable of telling you that they are cold and would like their blanket!
 

Norwegian Research

Fascinating research has been carried out by the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. 23 horses took part in a study in which they were invited to indicate their needs by pointing at symbols with their heads.
They were presented with three choices. Pointing at a horizontal black line indicated that they were cold and wanted a blanket. If they pointed at a vertical line it meant that they wanted their blanket removed and they could indicate that they were happy with the status quo by pointing at a blank symbol. The boards featuring the symbols were hung on fences and the horses’ trainers stepped away from the when they were making their choices so that they could not influence the animals.

How Were the Horses Trained?

The horses were able to learn the procedure after training for just 10 to 15 minutes each day over the course of two weeks. They were rewarded with carrot every time they made a selection from the board. A clicker was also used. There were no right and wrong answers, so the horses always received positive reinforcement. Interestingly a variety of breeds were trained during the research and the horses ages ranged from 3 to 16. All 23 horses involved were able to master the task within 14 days.

How Reliable Were the Results?

The scientists were confident that the horses were genuinely communicating their feelings as they would focus on the symbols in front of them and make their choices without hesitation.

The researchers were able to demonstrate that the choices made were not random by comparing them to the weather. The horses were left out in their paddocks for two hours before being tested so that they were fully aware of the weather conditions. They consistently chose to ask for a blanket when the weather was cold and wet.

What questions would you really like to be able to ask your horse?

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