Imagine a conversation between you and your horse, if horses could talk.
You: Good morning Spunky. Ready for a ride?
Spunky: Not really.
You: Oh come on. Don’t you want to go out and work some dressage patterns? How about some trail riding, or maybe some jumping?
Spunky: Nope. Pretty happy right here with my buddies, but thanks for offering!
No, we’re not about to tell you that researchers have found a way to make horses talk. But if they could, this is the kind of thing horses might say. European equitation scientists recently concluded that, when given the choice, horses prefer not to work at all; in fact, it appears they’d rather be back in their resting place with their food and equine pals.
“For a social, prey animal, it’s not surprising that horses will generally choose feeding and social contact over locomotion,” said Uta König von Borstel, PhD, researcher at the University of Göttingen in Germany.
König von Borstel and her fellow researcher Julia Keil, BSc, of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Vienna, Austria, created a study in which horses were given the choice of more or less work. The team trained 18 warmblood horses in an arena set up with a Y-shaped entrance. If they took the left branch of the Y, they would work two circles before the rider dismounted. If they took the right branch of the Y, they would work only one circle before the rider dismounted. Once the horses had been trained sufficiently in that pattern, the riders dismounted and the horses were allowed to make the