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If you’ve spent any time around horses, you know that they are intelligent animals who can definitely find ways to make their feelings known to their human companions. But what if you could actually teach them to communicate specific wants and needs through the use of a visual message board? Researchers in Norway did just that, and the horses eventually became very willing participants in the study!
A group of 23 horses were taught to touch a board with their noses to tell their handlers whether or not they were cold and wanted a blanket. Three visual symbols were used: no change, blanket on, and blanket off. The horses had short training sessions over a two week period. The results? All 23 horses successfully learned the task in the allotted time frame, some quicker than others.
The researchers report that the horses obviously understood the lessons, because they chose to have their blankets off in nice weather and have their blankets put on when the weather was cold, wet, or windy. A report on the study on treehugger.com notes that the horses learned to love this new communication method. The researchers said that the horses became eager to communicate, trying to attract the attention of the trainers when they knew a session was coming!
You can read a summary of the study, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, HERE.
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