In my post, Do You Demand Your Horse’s Complete Attention?, I wrote a little about the problems associated with differences in perceptual styles between horses and people.
I was delighted to trip over the following abstract by Murphy J. Arkins of the Department of Life Sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland, at PubMed He has tossed me a line. Go raibh maith agat, Professor Arkins! See the bold portion of the quoted abstract below.
Scientists and equestrians continually seek to achieve a clearer understanding of equine learning behaviour and its implications for training. Behavioural and learning processes in the horse are likely to influence not only equine athletic success but also the usefulness of the horse as a domesticated species. However given the status and commercial importance of the animal, equine learning behaviour has received only limited investigation. Indeed most experimental studies on equine cognitive function to date have addressed behaviour, learning and conceptualization processes at a moderately basic cognitive level compared to studies in other species. It is however, likely that the horses with the greatest ability to learn and form/understand concepts are those, which are better equipped to succeed in terms of the human-horse relationship and the contemporary training environment. Within equitation generally, interpretation of the behavioural processes and training of the desired responses in the horse are normally attempted using negative reinforcement strategies. On the other hand, experimental designs to actually induce and/or measure equine learning rely almost exclusively on primary positive reinforcement regimes. Employing two such different approaches may complicate interpretation and lead to difficulties in identifying problematic or undesirable behaviours in the horse. The visual system provides the horse with direct access to immediate environmental stimuli that affect behaviour but vision in the horse is of yet not fully investigated or understood. Further investigations of the equine visual system will benefit our understanding of equine perception, cognitive function and the subsequent link with learning and training. More detailed comparative investigations of feral or free-ranging and domestic horses may provide useful evidence of attention, stress and motivational issues affecting behavioural and learning processes in the horse. The challenge for scientists is, as always, to design and commission experiments that will investigate and provide insight into these processes in a manner that withstands scientific scrutiny.
I’m really interested now to learn more about the horse’s visual system. Let’s start looking into it. If you find anything good, let me know.
PMID: 17400403 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal
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