Inside the Horse’s Mind: Horses Can Communicate With Symbols

Not only can horses read human emotion, but a scientific study has revealed that horses can also communicate their preferences to humans using symbols. Horses are now added to the short list of animals that can communicate this way including some primates, dolphins and pigeons.

Scientists at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute conducted a study with 23 riding horses in which the horses learned to “tell” their handler whether or not they wanted to wear a blanket or not, by touching neutral symbols. In the study, published by Applied Animal Behaviour Science, horses were trained for 10-15 minutes a day, and by (on average) day 11, “the horse could choose between a ‘no change’ symbol and the symbol for either ‘blanket on’ or ‘blanket off’…”

Within 14 days, all 23 horses learned how to communicate whether or not they wanted a blanket added or removed, and scientists found that their choices did, in fact, correlate with the weather. So, the scientists were able to conclude that it wasn’t a fluke, or by chance. Pretty amazing, right?

Now, if we could only get them to point to which body part is hurting when they’re lame…

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