Training a Zorse: A Learning Theory Exercise

A trainer shares how he used learning theory principles to train a half-zebra with “complicated instinctive behavior.”

Planning to paint stripes on your horse this Halloween? While it might be fun to pretend that we’re riding a zebra, the reality is that this horse cousin just isn’t meant for riding.

While there are a few scattered instances throughout history of people successfully training zebras to ride and pull carriages, they represent the exception, rather than the rule.

“Zebras are truly wild animals, and most of them would rather kill themselves or you than let you try to domesticate them,” said John Tolley, DVM, senior large animal practitioner at Bakersfield Veterinary Hospital, in Bakersfield, California. “Even the movie zebras we work with out here in California are pretty tough to manage. They have a fierce self-protection instinct that’s nearly impossible to overcome.”

But their stripes have attracted the attention of many horse lovers. So in an effort to get the horse domestication and the zebra’s colorful coat, some individuals bred a “zorse”—half horse, half

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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