Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Horses Forgive but Rarely Forget

Horses Forgive but Rarely Forget

The DiscoveryNews article, “Horses Never Forget Human Friends” states that horses remember and remain loyal to humans that have treated them well in the past. In addition, horses understanding vocal cues better than we previously assumed. Carols Sankey, an ethologist at the University of Rennes in France, developed an experiment to test if the horse would remember the trainer and training it received as much as eight months later.

The study consisted of 20 Anglo-Arabian and 3 French Saddlebred horses. The horses were trained in 41 different tasks associated with grooming and medical care. The horses that were given treats as rewards for good behavior were more likely to remember and gravitate towards the trainer. In addition, the horses trained with positive reinforcement would be more friendly and social with humans, which could be due to their positive association with humans in general. On the other hand, the horses trained without positive reinforcement were four to six times more likely to engage in negative behavior like biting and kicking. In other words, horses learn better from positive reinforcement.

Another interesting finding was that horses also respond well to command associated with certain behaviors such as “trot” because their hearing it very good at the frequency in which we talk.

This article supports the saying, “you get more with sugar than vinegar”. Horses, like humans, want to be rewarded for completing a task correctly. If they are not rewarded they will make this fact well know by reacting with bad behavior. My question is, how long can a horse remember someone? Does it last more than a year or five years?

Reference Links:

Discovery News Article

Paper by Carol Sankey

Posted by: Caroline Adams (1)