A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex has unearthed new details about what types of facial cues horses use to communicate with each other. Though it's not news that horses use flying feet and teeth to express disapproval in the field, scientists were surprised to learn how strongly ears and gazes influenced equine behavior.
Horses in the study were presented with life-size model horses with their heads turned toward buckets of food with the models' ears covered, the models' eyes covered, or nothing covered. The live horses opted to approach the bucket near the model with no facial coverings 75 percent of the time.
It seemed to the scientists that the horses wanted clear indicators from the model's ears and eyes as to where its “attention” was and whether it was ok to approach. Paying attention to the focus of others can play a critical role in survival out in the wild.
For domestic horses, the researchers told The Horse that the study could indicate owners and managers are influencing horses' communication when they apply equipment that partially obstructs a horse's face (like fly masks or theoretically, blinkers).
Read more at The Horse
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