Horses Associate Places With Positive, Negative Experiences

Researchers determined that, even in a short time span, a horse can associate a place with positive or negative experiences and consequently present different emotions when he returns to that place.
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Researchers determined that, even in a short time span, a horse can associate a place with positive or negative experiences and consequently present different emotions when he returns to that place. | Photo: iStock

Your horse doesn’t want to go in that set of crossties. He gets all stressed, kind of flips out. But it’s just somewhere to stand, like any other set of crossties. Right?

Then you remember: That was the bay you always held him in when it was time for the veterinarian to debride a slow-healing wound. Is it possible your horse has associated that one particular place with a bad event and negative emotions? Absolutely, French scientists said.

It’s also likely your horse associates certain places with good events and good emotions. And what’s more, those associations can directly affect horses’ learning

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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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