Study: Horses Ask Humans for Help With Unsolvable Tasks

Horses faced with a problem they couldn’t solve used visual and tactile signs to get human attention and ask for help.

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The horse lightly touches the caretaker standing outside the paddock to get help with an unsolvable task. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Monamie Ringhofer

Last summer, European scientists confirmed what we’ve all suspected—horses try to communicate with us. Now, a group of scientists in Japan has gone a step further. Their new study shows that they even try to tell us things they think we don’t know ourselves.

In other words, it’s no longer just, “Hey, Favorite Human. Can I have that carrot in your hand?” It’s more like, “Hey Favorite Human. You don’t know it, but there’s a carrot in that bucket. And if you ask me, it has my name on it….”

Horses will use eye contact and touching to try to “tell” humans that food has been hidden, if they think the human didn’t see it being hidden, said Monamie Ringhofer, PhD, of the Graduate School of Intercultural Studies at Kobe University, in Japan

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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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