A new study published last month in the journal of Animal Cognition suggests that horses can and do ask their human caretakers for help when they need – or want – it.
The research study, conducted at Kobe University with the assistance of the school's equestrian club, sought to discover if a horse will communicate the need for assistance to a human if they cannot perform a desired task on their own.
The experiment consisted of carrots being placed in a bucket in front of, but out of reach of a horse. When their human caretaker arrived, the horses were observed as encouraging their caretaker to notice the bucket through gestures, looking at them and at the bucket, touching them and even pushing them with their muzzle. For some scenarios, the caretakers were present when the carrots were placed in the bucket and for others they were not. The horses seemed to send more signals to encourage their caretaker to notice the bucket if the caretaker was not present when the carrots were placed in the bucket.
While the sample size of this experiment was small, findings suggest that horses do indeed attempt to communicate with humans when they need assistance with a task or situation they cannot complete/resolve on their own, and that they alter their behavior according to how much they perceive the human knows/understands the situation.
Read more at Horse Channel.
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