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Behaviour

Can Horses Learn Behaviours by Watching Other Horses?

Most equine scientists would agree that horses don’t learn new behaviours by watching other horses perform them. Do you agree with that theory?

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By: Antonia J.Z. Henderson |

Most equine scientists would concur that social learning – where an individual learns a new behaviour by watching another individual perform it – does not occur in horses (or most other animals). Social learning is a sophisticated cognitive process; it requires the individual to see, attend to and understand the results of the demonstrator’s behaviour, gain insight about its relevance to their own motivations, transfer it to their own repertoire and finally to perform it.   Yet, how many of us have observed one clever pony seemingly showing another how to undo the latch from the barren sand paddock out to the laminitis-inducing spring pasture? Researchers suggest that what we are seeing in these apparent pony teaching seminars is social facilitation, where a behaviour (such as muzzle messing with the gate latch) is stimulated in another by the performance of that behaviour in one or more individuals. The emphasis is…

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