The ‘thinking’ horse.

I notice Lately my youngster Onix his curiosity for the electric fencing tape. He knows so well that it bites him when he touches it and he cannot figure out why I can hold it without a problem. I can almost see steam coming out of his ears produced by his brains trying to understand what is happening. So he is determined to figure out why or how I can touch this mean horse biting fencing. He certainly does not want to take for granted that there is some kind of magic in play here. I always used to joke to my horses that I have magic powers so I can go in and out under or over the fenceline without being hurt. Always warned them : “do not try this at home kids.” Untill now they all believed me and thought of me as some kind of wonder woman…. Onix really wants to find out how I fix this. His strategy for figuring out is to come as close as possible, as soon as I hold the fence to open or close the paddock he is right there. Because he still does not understand he comes closer and closer every time. Making contact with me to feel? I swear today he wanted to touch the plastic handle with his nose, after days of observing me opening and closing the gate. He is a smart horse like his mom I think he almost figured it out. For me this is a good reason to believe horses can use their cognitive brain to think, because his curiousity is too obvious to be a coincidence. I have a part of the shed closed with electric tape as well (without electricity on it) With that fence he has the same obsession,  he saw me touching the tape and was real close to do the same despite of his fear of getting shocked.

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Onix gives me demonstrations on his ‘thinking’ ability and Dáma gave me another example of the cognitive abbilitys of the horse. About a year ago I did this “bucket project” with my herd bound horse Dáma. For ten days I had buckets of oats hidden on the trail and I managed to help her overcome her herdboundness. Last week due to snow and just horrible winter blues, I took Dáma for a walk. For her self esteem and because it is so much more fun to let your horse have its say about where to go and what to do, I let her lead me. I followed her from behind on a long rope she was leading me on the walk. When we came at the turn home she surprised me because she did not go home. I knew she was searching for buckets right away. She took the forest road and had a pretty fast walk she was sure where she was going. Stopped at a particular place where I one year ago! I had hidden a bucket of oats. She was sniffed like a dog for leftovers in the dry grass and brown leaves under the tree. When she realized there was nothing left she took me off-road and we had a walk in the forest. Before we went home. Amazing isn’t it? A year later and she led me straight to the right tree.

Another example about their memories: A horse of a friend of me, is still checking out the horsebox. Because I went over to them for a hack with my horse Csík in December. The two horses really liked each other, that was strange because they are both horses who are in general not kind to strangers even to familiar horses they are bossy and dominant. When I wanted to go home Csík did was so difficult to load and Luna kept calling for her. They had bonded deeply on our meeting. When I brought the horsebox back ( because I borrowed it) Luna was completely happy and excited, she expected Csík coming back and she was so disappointed that the horsebox was empty. Untill today my friend reports that Luna keeps checking out the horsebox. This little story is another example of good memory and of course a thinking horse!

If you pair their intelligence with their super memory and super awareness , you can count on your fingers that you will have to stay aware if you want to keep up with your horse. Parreli says something about horses that can ‘outsmart’ humans. I know what he is talking about. I am not a really big fan of so called natural horsemanship because in wrong hands the tools they use leave no choice for the horse and I have seen lots of wrong examples people pressing their will upon a horse thinking they are  ‘natural’ so it must be good….. I will write about that as well.  When people say something about their horse being stupid, it is probably the other way around. Being with horses and especially training them is keeping me in mental shape. Handling super smart horses can be a joy thing if you are skilled enough, but most horses only suffer from their potential. A slower learner is way much easier to deal with and still smart enough for the human. Chris Irwin noted on one of his dvds when he was talking about different levels of intelligence in horses he would not really want to choose for himself an extra intelligent horse because of all implications. And he is a world-famous horse trainer.

Enjoy your horse and remember communication is a two-way street. Never underestimate your horses capabilities. Listen to them, and you will be a pleasure to be with as much as your horse will be a plessure for you

Let the horse be with you!
Do you have a thinking horses? I would love to hear about them. As well as feedback, comments or questions on my blog.
Esther.

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