Is A Happy Horse Or A Needy Horse More Inventive?

Horses are goal-driven innovators when seeking out food, but they’re also innovators when it comes to playing and developing comfort behaviors.

There is ongoing debate among behaviorists about whether horses invent solutions in response to needs, or if they innovate more when their needs are met. Dr. Konstanz Krueger and a team of scientists contacted horse owners and caretakers directly and through web postings to find horses that exhibited unusual behaviors and also scoured the internet for videos of horses doing unusual things. In total, the team found 746 cases of horses that had developed an innovative behavior, like opening doors or gates.

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The team then investigated the behavior to see if there was a need or an opportunity for the different innovations. They also looked at the frequency of the behavior and the sex, age, and breed of the horse, as well as the influence of management factors like access to pasture, social contact and housing condition.

The study team had so many responses relating to horses, mules or donkeys opening doors and gates that a more specific questionnaire had to be developed. In total, 632 reports described 1,011 innovative behaviors. They were from 427 horses, four donkeys and three mules.

One equine science professor and two people with bachelor’s degrees in equine science rated the behaviors to determine if they were truly “novel.” The actions not deemed “novel” were excluded from the study.

The team found that the innovations were not affected by age, sex, breed, or specie. Though both groups of horses were innovative, horses housed in groups and those that were turned out 24/7 developed a wider variety of innovative behaviors because they had the opportunity – they were not seeking relief from environmental pressures.

The team concluded that equids that experience social conflict, those that are stalled, or those that are hungry produce a restricted amount of goal-driven innovations they repeated often to try to address their needs, such as escaping or foraging.

Read the study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

The post Is A Happy Horse Or A Needy Horse More Inventive? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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