One of the incredible things about horses is their ability to learn. Dressage is, of course, a great testament to a horse’s ability to understand, remember and perform with a trainer.
But what most people (especially non-horse people) often don’t realise is just how intelligent horses are. Not only can they learn by interacting with a trainer, but they can also learn by watching another horse interact with a trainer.
That means that horses can teach themselves how to do something just by watching another horse do it. Pretty incredible, right?
A lot of you reading this might already know about this, and it’s certainly common knowledge amongst some horse people that allowing a horse to observe training is a great way of easing them into the arena themselves.
But here is where it gets more interesting:
A horse will only learn through observation if they are observing a horse that they respect. If the horse that is in the arena (the demonstrator) is of a higher social status than the horse that is watching (the observer), then the behaviour will be learnt. But if the demonstrator is of lower social status, or it is from a different social group, the observer will not learn the behaviour it watches.
The social lives and minds of horses are much more complex than people often give them credit for.
- Horses can learn from watching other horses, but only under some situations.
WILL LEARN: The horse they are watching has a high social status than them.
WON’T LEARN: The horse they are watching has a lower social status.
The horse they are watching is from a different social group.
To see out horse arenas, download our brochure.