A new study from Germany suggests that horses are able to learn how to perform tasks by watching humans. Researchers Konstanze Krueger, Kira Bernauer, Hanna Kollross, Auriela Schuetz and Kate Farmer created a study that involved pressing a button to open a box, which contained pieces of carrot and an apple. The study horses were shown a variety of techniques for pressing the button by their owners; methods included using their foot, hand, head or head and hand together.
Previous studies have shown that horses can learn by watching, but the scientists were interested in learning if the horses would use the same technique their owners demonstrated or if they would come up with a method of pressing the button on their own. A control group was used that did not receive any demonstration on how to open the box; some of the horses in this group learned to open the box on their own.
The results showed that some of the horses followed their owner's techniques to open the box while others opened the box using trial-and-error until they discovered a means that worked. The researchers concluded that owners and horse handlers should be careful about what they allow their horses to see as they learn through watching humans. There is no guarantee, they note, that if the horses don't watch humans that they won't figure out how to open things like gates and stall latches on their own.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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