Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Horsey Headlines for March 17, 2010

It's been a while since my last post on horse-related news, but this article was just too good to pass up.

Have you ever wondered how well your horse remembers things, or how well he understands what you say? Turns out horses are better at both than the conventional thinking allows:

Horses never forget human friends:
Research also shows horses understand words better than expected

For some of you, this will come as no surprise. For instance, back when we had first rescued Panama, he was staying on my in-laws' pasture in another state. I saw him a few times a year when we came for visits, but I got the feeling he remembered me because of the way his trust carried over from one visit to the next. (Keep in mind he was practically wild back then, with little or no handling by humans in his short life.)

I also am pretty sure he understands quite a bit. For instance, a new trick of his is to start trotting when he hears my trainer tell me to pick up a trot. The amazing thing is not that he has learned that a specific action follows her words, but that he has learned to tell those words apart from all the other things she tells me during a lesson. (Keep in mind that she's talking to me, not him, so she is speaking in a normal voice, with no special inflection such as with the sing-song trrr-OT we use as a lunging command. He's picking the words out of normal speech patterns, which is thought to be harder for animals to differentiate.)

In what ways does your horse's memory or understanding surprise or impress you?



At March 17, 2010 at 4:46 PM, Blogger Sydney said...

They ways you described do not surprise me. As a horse being driven, ol clip clop is expected to remember and respect certain voice cues since your legs and seat are non existent as cues when your in a cart behind the horse.

At March 17, 2010 at 5:02 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

What an excellent point, Sydney! I've often thought that the folks who advocate never or rarely talking to your horse are doing horses a disservice. I talk quietly to Panama all the time when I ride, and I am certain it does nothing but strengthen my cues and our relationship.

At March 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

P.S. Stay tuned for another post this evening. We had a fun day today! ;o)

At March 18, 2010 at 7:28 AM, Anonymous Jackie said...

Horses definitely remember people! Two specific cases in point ...

Smoke was a QH gelding I learned to ride on, and was my first show pony. He really taught me how to ride. He was also used in lessons at the barn where I rode. Years later, I was an instructor. he would misbehave so badly, refusing to go, being obstinate, that every once in a while I'd have to get on him. The instant I was in the saddle, he was a different horse. And that's before I even asked him to do anything - so it's not just that I rode differently than the kids. He knew it was me. He remembered our relationship. And he knew that I knew what I was doing. :)

The other is my mom's TB mare Penny, who I rode and showed through high school. I taught her to bow for peppermints. She learned pretty quickly to use the bowing to beg for treats. But she only does it to me, and sometimes to my mom. I moved away for college 8 years ago, and only see her maybe 3-4 times a year. But every time I walk into her stall, that leg goes out and her head goes down immediately.

Horse's are crazy smart!


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