Science studies are catching up with what we as horse owners have known about our horses. Yes they are intelligent, smart and clever. They are able to learn and cognitively process information. Horses can problem solve too. All this along with a great memory: Especially in relation to events in life, people, other horses and places. However we cannot measure equine intelligence against other species. Horses think differently to us or to any other species. And so they should. Their intelligence is shaped by their evolution as equines and their long history at man’s side.
The horse is a social animal the relationship with its’ human friends really matters to the horse. A great relationship with another soul is a wonderful thing to experience. And unlike friendships with other humans a friendship with a horse could be one of your most loyal, dependable and enduring if you treat your horse right.
Now consider this; horses have a great understanding of our emotional state, thoughts and feelings that shape our intent, they read our energy state, body tension or relaxation, body language and breathing patterns too. Recent research has also discovered that horses understand a good number of different words too. Your authentic self really matters to the horse any incongruence from you will rattle the horse.
What is being noted with scientific studies is the importance of positive reinforcement in interactions with equines. It has been proven that horses learn and memorize better when positive reinforcement or positive association is connected to the learning. Here is something I have discovered with my own horses, they are brilliant at learning words and or noises to indicate a request or meaning in our conversations. So I include with intent, energy, breathing, body language use of vocal cues in my horsemanship.
So how about thinking about things from your horse’s view point? Do they know if we are knowledgeable or ignorant? Personally I think they know. Personally I think they try really hard to guide us, teach us and show us the lessons we need to learn. Today there is a movement away from the thinking of training a horse based on monologue with the human telling the horse and the horse expected to comply. To one of communication being dialogue, a two way street. To me a horse will be telegraphing out to us, the skill is to learn how to listen to understand and to learn their language. My belief is horses have great minds, they are thinkers and really do try their best to engage with us. Their patience and forgiving nature is humbling.
So next time you are considering what activities you want to enjoy with your horse, stop and reflect on the intelligence of your equine partner. What will be the ignition for joy, fun and mental stimulation for your horse? What is a meaningful accomplishment in your horse’s eyes? What is your horse thinking? Or feeling? How do you want to engage his mind? What memories do you want to create together?