Why Your Horse Knows You Much Better Than You Think

Do you also experience that your horse knows the dressage program almost by hart? It knows when to turn, when to stand still or at which letter on the arena it is time to start cantering. Horses are actually quite good at predicting your actions, and in this article, you can learn more about, why this is. 

The first competition on a horse 

You might remember your time on the sweet and well-behaved little pony at your riding school when you were a child. You also went to your first competition on this adorable pony. He knew exactly what to do, when to do a parade and when to start trotting. Sometimes, you did actually suspect the pony to be able to read your mind or know it all by hart. Whether horses know things by hart is difficult to say, not much science indicates that they do. However, research do show that horses have a very advanced ability to read your intentions. 

Tricks are rewarded with treats – and your horse knows it 

Horses are a bit like dogs when it comes to learning new tricks. Most horses react really quickly when the trick involves treats. So good that some of them begin the exercise before they are told to. This should of course not be rewarded since we are the one to decide when a trick is about to start. But what if the tiny signals we do, and not being aware that we do it, are the reason for the horse starting the exercise beforehand. Something seems like this is the case. Horses are so good at interpret a situation that they often know what is next before we do. French scientists have been very surprised by this ability when they, through a study, realised just how developed horses are at this.  

When carrots are shared or not  

The scientists Léa Lansade, PhD, from the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research’s behaviour science department, explains to The Horse (LINK) about their investigation on how horses actually learn to read humans so well. They studied 21 privately owned horses all fed with carrots in three different scenarios by a person none of the horse knew beforehand. In all three cases the horses were separated from the human by a plastic window.  

The three scenarios were:  

  1. The person only brought the carrots with him but removed them every time the horses tried to reach them. 
  1. The person wanted to give the carrots to the horses but had problems delivering them because he had difficulties accessing them.  
  1. The person kept dropping the carrots every time the horse was supposed to have one.  

Huge difference in behaviour depending on the situation 

Léa Lansade explains that there was a massive change in the horses’ behaviour depending on which situation they were taking part in. Especially the horses showed an interesting feature in scenario number 3 were the person kept dropping the carrots. In this situation the horse continued communicating with the person by pressing the muzzle on the window. The opposite happened when the person intentionally moved the carrots away from the horse. In this situation the horses were remarkably fast to remove their head and look away from the person.  

Your horse knows what you are planning  

Even most of us do have the suspicion that horses are sometimes reading our minds, then it is not quite like this. No, horses are just much more intuitive than previous expected. Scientists are very surprised how fast the horses learned the three different systems with the carrots. Perhaps this explains some of the questions all us horse owners have, when we suddenly have a horse performing exercises, we did not actually ask for. 

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