Is Your Horse Easily Distracted? There’s a Test for That

Horses have varying degrees of “distractibility,” and this can significantly affect their attention capacities and, hence, their efficiency in learning, researchers confirmed.
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distractibility
Horses have varying degrees of distractibility, which can significantly affect their attention capacities and, hence, their efficiency in learning. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Your barnmate’s horse is a straight-A student, paying full attention to his rider as he moves around the ring or down a trail. Yours? Well, he pays attention … until he doesn’t. A tree blowing in the breeze, a phone buzzing, or a faint whinny a half a mile away are all much more interesting than you are.

Don’t worry, yours isn’t the only one: Researchers has revealed that horses can, in fact, have varying degrees of “distractibility.” In other words, some horses get more easily distracted than others. This can significantly affect their attention capacities and, hence, their efficiency in learning.

“Some horses will remain concentrated on the task that they’re supposed to be doing, while others get distracted by some noise in their environment,” said Céline Rochais, MSc, PhD, of the animal and human ethology department of the University of Rennes 1, in France

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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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