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Old 09-10-2018, 02:55 PM
filmore filmore is offline
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Do horses like when people take them on trail rides?

For the people who work with horses a lot, do you think they enjoy when people ride them? I know we can't ask them directly, but based on what you can infer from their behavior, how do you think they feel about being taken on rides?

I've only gone horse riding a few times, and I would guess the horses seemed pretty indifferent about the whole thing. They didn't seem to object to it, but I didn't get the sense that they were really happy about it either. My guess is that they would have preferred to just stay in the barn if given a choice. If I contrast this with my dogs, my dogs love going for walks more than anything. Their excitement is overwhelmingly evident. It may be tough to get their leash attached because they're jumping around with joy. I don't get the sense that horses are enjoying it anywhere near that much, but I'm not around them enough to know what they are like at other times.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:15 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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Horses most prefer being out in the pasture on a warm, sunny day, eating grass with the rest of their herd.

Much like humans, horses would prefer to avoid work. Being ridden is work, though not very hard work.

Being locked in their stalls all day is much like solitary confinement. Horses don't like it at all, and would even prefer work. (Some horses hardly ever know anything else, and get very accustomed to it. But it's not what they would prefer.)

Being taken for a ride means some work for horses, but they get lots of human attention, get to go out with some buddies (usually, people don't ride alone), and generally get a nice, comfortable rubdown and some treats afterwards. All in exchange for a couple hours of carrying a human around? Pretty good deal, actually. Many humans work harder, for longer hours for less reward.

And trail rides, going outdoors along an interesting trail with other horses -- that's much preffered to riding round and round in the same boring ring again. Most horses will definately perk up when going out for a trail ride.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:20 PM
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It depends on the horse. In some ways, they are like people. Some people like to work or like to exercise. Some people don't. Horses are the same. Some horses only carry people on trails because that's what they have been trained to do, and they can be pretty indifferent about it.

Horses that do get excited can be difficult and a bit dangerous. Horse trainers will work with excitable horses to keep them calm so that they don't jump around uncontrollably and accidentally hurt someone (or themselves).

If the horses you have ridden were from a place that rents horses, those types of places intentionally choose horses with very calm temperaments. Of course, that means that these horses are more likely to be bored or indifferent.

Most horses would not prefer to just stay in the barn, just like most people would not prefer to stay locked up in one tiny room all day long either. If left on their own, they would prefer to run around in their fields.

Horses do bond with people. A horse that has a good bond with its owner is much more likely to enjoy going out for a ride with that person. A horse from a rental place isn't going to have any kind of bond with its rider, so hauling you around is just work.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:23 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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It is tough to resist the urge not to anthropomorphize horses but you have to. They are herd animals and not especially bright. They also have very different personalities. Some of them enjoy being ridden and others hate it. Individual horses can also change their preference in the blink of an eye and really hurt or even kill you. That is why teaching one to be ridden is called "breaking it" and it isn't easy especially at first.

My best guess is that horses, once they are broken and trained, enjoy being ridden over being stuck in a barn but they are so different from people and social animals like dogs that it is difficult to generalize. You can also never fully trust an animal that weighs more than some small cars even if they are docile most of the time. Watch a bronco rodeo riding competition sometime even on Youtube. Those are large but unbroken horses and they want anyone off their back as soon as they get the chance.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:34 PM
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I figure if horses enjoyed taking long walks through the wilderness, you'd see wild horses doing it. But as far as I know, wild horses don't do this. And I can't see how carrying a person on their back makes it more fun for the horse.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:39 PM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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There was a theme in my youth of horses being hard to catch for the purposes of rides. We always caught them, but it was always kind of a game. I figure they'd rather hang out in the pasture and graze, but they seemed to enjoy the game, not mind being ridden too much, and they enjoyed the oats afterward. High-calorie snacks to make up for all the grass they didn't get to eat, while they were being ridden.

I will say that the two favorite horses, of the four I owned (not all at once), were horses who very much seemed to enjoy getting and staying ahead of oher horses. They obviously liked that. So did I.

If you got up early enough in the morning you could see the horses enjoying themselves by running, playing, and fighting. But mostly they enjoy eating.
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Old 09-10-2018, 03:49 PM
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To re-iterate some of the things said by SDMB ninjas

Human have domesticated horses, dog and cats for a very long time. By some selective process, deliberate or incidental, we've manipulated their behavior to suit tasks for human benefit.

I bring up cats because people sometimes claim that they're "not domesticated" or "barely domesticated" or "they domesticated us, har har." *Sigh* Cat's are domesticated, in that unlike tamed wild animals, they are very unlikely to attack us at random. Cats seem to not be domesticated, because the behaviors they exhibit are the ones we want -- a certain aloofness, skulking about searching for vermin, etc. Another thing -- genetically, there's not much "raw material" for a wide variety of behaviors in cats. The proto-domestciated cat may simply not have had much to work with -- its a small, vermin eating carnivore, that's it. That's all it has to do, and it can't really do much else. Likewise, horses have been bred for working tasks. There may not be much "room" in the gene pool for other behaviors. Or we just may not want any sort of behavior from a 1200 lb animal besides stability.

Humans spent a great deal of time domesticating dogs. And we've gotten a certain "surrogate pack" concept bred into dogs. Dogs almost have to project enthusiasm at every mundane aspect of their lives -- reaffirming that they're part of the pack. There are humans who do that too -- we call then attention seekers. Its wrong to apply that to a dog, because its just doing what it can with the behaviors we've left encoded. But its equally wrong to say cats are "aloof" and horses are "disinterested." It makes about as much sense to apply those to animals as it would be to ask one for help with your taxes.

Horses are herbivores. Their job, in a sense, is to eat and eat and eat as much plant material as possible, to maintain life processes and maybe lay down some fat for leaner times. This takes lots of time (not as much as cattle, horses aren't ruminants) and yeah, they'd probably like to stay in the stall, and eat. Dogs, and more so, cats, are carnivores. A little bit of meat and maybe some vegetable matter for dogs, and they're good to go, up for an adventure or whatever.

Horses are also herd animals. We've manipulated their herding instinct to see humans as part of the herd. Horses don't do well in isolation, locked in a stall, they can develop all sorts of bad behaviors: chewing the stall boards, kicking the walls, biting the stall boards and sucking in air -- that's a bad one, really causes stomach problems. So yeah, a chance to be out, in a herd of humans, is probably relished.

Also, you may be misinterpreting behaviors. Lots of dogs like to play. The dogs guarding the airport or guiding the blind don't seem to want to play with me much, seems like they have their pack work to do, and don't care much for me. The horse may well be worried about you, a stranger, on their back -- that's where predators go. Or it could be focusing on the trail ahead, keeping you safe, given that its obvious to the horse that you have no idea where you are or what you're doing -- you probably wouldn't be able to outrun a mountain lion, and your kicks won't likely kill one.

Or the horse could just be focusing the scent trail of the filly up ahead.

Last edited by Arkcon; 09-10-2018 at 03:52 PM. Reason: Dang straight dope ninjas
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Old 09-10-2018, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
It is tough to resist the urge not to anthropomorphize horses but you have to. They are herd animals and not especially bright. They also have very different personalities. Some of them enjoy being ridden and others hate it. Individual horses can also change their preference in the blink of an eye and really hurt or even kill you.
In my much younger days (wow, over forty years ago now!) I worked at a horse farm for a bit. We've bred horses to be docile because you don't want to deal with a non-docile 800-1200 pound (or more!) animal. Horses can, potentially, kill you accidentally.

As noted, they have different personalities. Some are meaner/less docile than others. Some are alert and some aren't. Some are lazy and others are compliant to what humans ask them to do. But there is no horse so docile that a good fright won't cause it to panic and become uncontrollable (police horses are selected to be less likely than average to do this, then given special training to condition them to scary situations to minimize chances of panic). Having a frightened horse run into you is very much like getting hit by a moving car.

I've been bucked off, had "calm" horses rear up under me, had frightened horses take off with me on them.... I know what to do, but there's always a chance you can fall off and break your neck or something. It's up to the human to stay alert and try to anticipate problems. Some the most expert riders and experienced stablehands have been badly hurt or killed by horses. It's not common, but it's a real risk.

That said - while most horses really, really enjoy nibbling in a green field on a nice day (probably their favorite activity after making more horses, and one they can enjoy more often), most would rather be outside than stuck all the time in their stall. If the price of getting outside is having to haul a human around on their back, so be it. If the human knows how to ride there's the bonus of getting clear directions and the human properly seated and probably more comfortable to carry. If the human hasn't a clue about riding then there's the possibility of snatching tasty little snacks from the trailside, or even wandering off into the weeds after something interesting until the guide comes to drag the horse back to business.

That said - there are some horses that either don't really enjoy working, or don't suffer fools. You will not, however, encounter those at a place that rents horses for trail rides. It's just not safe to put tourists on a horse like that. If they have them at all the trail guides, who presumably know what they're doing, will be the ones riding them.

Most horses, though, seem to get that hauling people and crap around is the price they pay for having free oats provided and protection from Scary Stuff (which, for some horses, includes their own shadow) on some level. But while the average horse does have some ability to learn rote tasks they aren't, in general, very smart. Once in a while you'll get a horse genius that will figure out, on his own, things like how to take off the bridle, or trip a crude latch on a stall or gate, or otherwise show some problem-solving skills but they aren't typical. We didn't really breed them for that sort of thing. We bred them to be passive and obedient. That's largely what they are and they probably don't think too much about things like "do I enjoy trailriding as much as the humans do?"
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Old 09-10-2018, 04:43 PM
filmore filmore is offline
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How do horses in the barn react when they see riding gear getting pulled out? Do they show interest? Again comparing with dogs, most dogs eagerly run to the door as soon as they see the leash being pulled out. Do horses do anything similar?
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Old 09-10-2018, 05:39 PM
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First note: please don't listen too much to people who refer to training horses as breaking them. Horses are not broken, in this country, except in places that animal cruelty laws are designed to shut down.

Horses are fairly intelligent. Relatively equivalent to dogs, with some smarter than others. They are descended from a prey animal, not a predating animal, so their responses will be somewhat different.

My experience in terms of the most recent question about riding gear is that yes, horses recognize when the riding gear comes out. They usually recognize their people and are somewhere between happy to go out and hyper as a 2 year old. If they don't want to go out, then they're on the other end of the pasture, or the back end of the stall pretending they can't hear you.

filmore yes, I have had horses that were always that excited about being ridden, but only one wasn't trained out of actually darting around like that. Think of it this way. When a chihuahua jumps on you, it's barely noticeable. When a cocker spaniel pulls the leash, it's annoying, but not bad. When a great dane jumps and pulls the leash, it starts getting dangerous. Now, imagine your really excited "pup" is 800 pounds or more, 5 feet or taller at the shoulder, and has steel clad hooves. He's really, really excited. He won't jump on you (different behavior type), but he will dart back and forth, and hop around, and frankly, it's dangerous.

Last edited by Sunny Daze; 09-10-2018 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 09-10-2018, 05:46 PM
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Most of the time when I was working with them horses either showed indifference (they put up with the gear without resistance) or active dislike (they'd pull their head away, make it difficult to get it one or adjusted, etc. One particuarly ill-tempered gelding I knew would try to bite, shove the human up against the wall of the stall, and otherwise get abusive - not enough to actually hurt the human, but certainly enough to scare or intimidate a newbie.).

I don't recall any horse ever being enthused about a bridle.

I've known of some horses that would come up to a favorite human and willingly submit to a halter being put on if that was usually followed by a treat or going out of the barn into a field or something similarly favored by the horse, but then, a halter is a lot less involved and probably much, much more comfortable for a horse to wear.

Likewise, I've never known a horse to look forward to being saddled. Most put up with it. Some resist. Given that improper fitting, or just wearing too long, can result in sores and other problems, that's not too surprising (although they should be fitted to the horse so normal daily riding doesn't cause such problems).

The horses where I worked would eagerly trot up to the barn door if it was opened - but that's because they were hoping for food like oats or apples, or just food of any sort. Having to deal with other stuff like bridles and saddles was just something they put up with to get the food.
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Old 09-10-2018, 05:46 PM
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I have ridden (rental horses) occasionally over the years. Here is my observation: Horse walks out along the trail and follows the leader just fine, in no hurry. On the way back horse seems to be in a hurry, eager to get back. Ergo: horse prefers hanging-out at the barn rather than doing a trail ride with a stranger. I now understand the meaning of "smell the barn."

I would suspect if the horse and rider are familiar with one another it may be a different story.
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Old 09-10-2018, 06:05 PM
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Nope. No matter how well you know/bond with your horse the horse is always going to be eager to go back to the barn. Going back to the barn means the human gets off, all the annoying gear gets taken off, all the itches get taken care of by the humans grooming them, and there's FOOD! FOOD! There's FOOD there!

On the upside - lost horses often find their way back to the barn, because they know that's where food is. Lost people have used this trait to help out - they let the animal decide on the direction and if the horse can possibly find the home barn it will.

Even a smart horse is not that complicated as far as mental life goes.

Last edited by Broomstick; 09-10-2018 at 06:06 PM.
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Old 09-10-2018, 06:29 PM
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Most experienced riders feel very sorry for rental string horses, who have a life of boring toil, ridden by total idiots. They become inured to the pain inflicted by these ignorant people (and are chosen for stolidity and pain-insensitivity) but it is no kind of a good life.

People who ride their own horses often form quite a bond with them, both similar and not-similar to dogs. My horse does seem to enjoy trail riding, which we do alone together most of the time. She likes getting out there and seeing new country, apparently. She does have an unerring homing instinct -- it is not "because that's where the food is", but I think because that is where safety and comfort and friends are, just like people. She can find her way back over a trail she's only been on once, to the trailhead where the trailer is parked, just as readily, and I have no clue how she does this. Scent maybe.

In their wild natural state, horses walk slowly in groups, grazing, for something like 20 hours out of the day. They don't sleep much. Unlike ruminants, horses are designed to ingest quantities of low-quality forage pretty much constantly. Moving along a trail with other horses is a lot like that, and horses get really into it. I can't say the same for most of the other things people do with horses, like jumping over obstacles in a sand box, or running reining patterns, or drawing carriages. But trail riding is pretty natural as things go.

By the way, we probably didn't alter horses' personalities nearly as much as say, dogs. In Mongolia, where they were domesticated, horses and humans still live in an interesting symbiotic relationship which very ancient if not original. The horses live in natural ie free-breeding herds along with the nomadic tribespeople, who catch horses out of the herd and return them as needed. There's no artificial selection.

Last edited by Ulfreida; 09-10-2018 at 06:30 PM.
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:42 AM
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IANAE, but I've always thought that cutter horses seem to enjoy doing their thing. Near as I can tell, they're on autopilot after the rider has picked the calf out of the herd; I can't see any inputs from the rider, but the horse seems to know that his job is to keep the calf out in the open, and gets pretty intense about it.
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:52 AM
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IANAE, but I've always thought that cutter horses seem to enjoy doing their thing. Near as I can tell, they're on autopilot after the rider has picked the calf out of the herd; I can't see any inputs from the rider, but the horse seems to know that his job is to keep the calf out in the open, and gets pretty intense about it.
Yes, most horses love bossing cows around. The job of the rider is to show the horse the calf wanted, and then to stay on. A rider can't react and then direct a horse fast enough to control cows to that extent. It's like working sheep with a sheepdog. Even my own Morgan with no cowhorse breeding loved calf work.
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Old 09-11-2018, 07:51 AM
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Once in a while you'll get a horse genius that will figure out, on his own, things like how to take off the bridle, or trip a crude latch on a stall or gate, or otherwise show some problem-solving skills but they aren't typical.
Not really problem-solving, but I had a horse when I was having lessons, who would automatically do it all properly, despite me. The teacher wanted me to approach the jump on an angle to demonstrate something to me, but the horse straightened up, every time, and came at it straight on. She knew how to do it, and she was going to do it how it was meant to be done. She was great, I loved her, she made me feel like I could actually ride.
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Old 09-11-2018, 07:53 AM
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Horses are social animals. Our horses love trail rides! A ride begins with grooming. They love being brushed. Each step of the way involves rewards; a quarter apple after being saddled, a peppermint after bit&bridle are in place. Lots of verbal reassurance.

Going out into the woods we vary our route and there are always things to see. They are content walking but also eager to open things up and vary gait. A herd of deer kicked up from a cut cornfield, a flock of geese by a lake, a fox running from us, even just our dogs playing around in the woods around us.

Sometimes we stop at a friend's house and they come out to pet the horses and chat. Sometimes we dismount and switch rides. We try to always do something new/different to vary our routine and keep the horses on their toes.

But, not all horses enjoy being ridden. There are horses that become "barn sour". They drag their feet and are reluctant to go out. They take a big, deep breath and hold it when you tighten their girth strap. Given the chance they'll race back to the barn. I think those situations are created by the owners. A horse in poor condition, improperly shod, in poor health, must feel miserable carrying around 200 pounds on a hot day.
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Old 09-11-2018, 08:48 AM
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How do horses in the barn react when they see riding gear getting pulled out? Do they show interest? Again comparing with dogs, most dogs eagerly run to the door as soon as they see the leash being pulled out. Do horses do anything similar?
Now that's an important question, on the topic of animal "intelligence" as we try to understand it, without anthropomorphizing, and without contrasting prey animal "intelligence" to predator animal "intelligence."

We've all heard the story about horses that pulled fire wagons, when at the sound of the fire alarm, they exited their stalls, and stood where they could be hitched to the fire truck. I used to (i mean until this thread, actually) anthropomorphize that the horses really cared about the fire alarm, and fighting their instinct to avoid fire, wanted to follow the human herd, towards the fire, to address the threat fire posed, as if fire was some sort of uber-predator to be defeated by the human-horse herd. Fire horses would even lead the fire wagon to the fire, by their sense of smell and memory of the side-streets.

Come to think about it, its probably not like that, for two reasons: First, the horses are simply trained to allow themselves to be hitched, and driven. They don't like fire, but with breeding, training, and rejecting the ones with bad behavior, they stay calm enough -- probably needed to be tended by somebody. Maybe the horses were herded by the Datamation -- traditionally a dog used to lead the owners horses and scare away other humans and horses. Maybe the fire house dog helped herd the horses into position.

Furthermore, why are the horses in stalls that they can exit on their own? Wouldn't they just leave -- at least to steal extra food or just annoy people? I'm now wondering about the layout of a horse-driven firehouse, maybe stalls far offset so they can't get out into the street? With no greenery around to attract them? Maybe they were locked in, and the tending human just ran down the stalls unlocking them, and the horses pushed their way free? Maybe once in a while, one lagged back, and had to be led? Or maybe just once, almost by coincidence, they arranged themselves kinda in the correct position, and someone noticed, and the story stuck.

Given the anecdotes from real horse people in this thread, its seeming more and more like "horse intelligence" is a string of coincidences that grew into a myth. See, I tried to enter this with the knowledge that human civilization has selected for behavioral traits inherent in the animal for tasks we need, and then I went off the rails anthropomorphizing.

Insidious, it is.
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Old 09-11-2018, 08:54 AM
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How can this be a GQ? There is no factual answer, it is limited to people's opinions and guesses.
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Old 09-11-2018, 09:07 AM
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How can this be a GQ? There is no factual answer, it is limited to people's opinions and guesses.
True, we don't really know what's going on in a horse's mind, but experts can make educated guesses based on their behavior. Dog researchers and owners might say that dogs "like" going on walks and "dislike" getting their nails cut. We can't truly know what the dog feels about those activities, but there are many external signs that allow us to infer how they feel. I was assuming that people who work extensively with horses would have similar experiences and would have a sense of what they like and dislike doing.

I opened this in GQ rather than IMHO because I wanted replies from people with extensive horse experience. In IMHO, it would be more from anyone who had an opinion about horses (or animals), even if they've never been around them.
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Old 09-11-2018, 09:28 AM
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How can this be a GQ? There is no factual answer, it is limited to people's opinions and guesses.
If they removed every "animal intelligence" and "how did this evolve" thread, they'd lose at least a third, if not half, of all threads.

I believe every one such thread gets us a little closer to understanding a difficult topic that no one else really seems to try to give a through treatment of. Well, at least not since E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology, which seems roundly hated, if not actually discredited.
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Old 09-11-2018, 10:23 AM
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Yes, most horses love bossing cows around.
That seems apparent from watching them. But why is this so?
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Old 09-11-2018, 10:41 AM
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That seems apparent from watching them. But why is this so?
I do not know. My guess: they are playing. My horse will boss around a giant rubber ball in much the same way.

Side note -- I grew up riding with a lady who just won the AQHA Amateur Select Cutting Championship. I mean, she was riding a Shetland Pony at the time we rode together, it was a looong time ago. Select is I believe an age category (over 50 I think). It is still an amazing accomplishment. She is a Nevada cattle rancher now.

Here is the clip for those who are curious about what cutting horses do.

Last edited by Ulfreida; 09-11-2018 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 09-11-2018, 11:01 AM
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We've all heard the story about horses that pulled fire wagons, when at the sound of the fire alarm, they exited their stalls, and stood where they could be hitched to the fire truck. I used to (i mean until this thread, actually) anthropomorphize that the horses really cared about the fire alarm, and fighting their instinct to avoid fire, wanted to follow the human herd, towards the fire, to address the threat fire posed, as if fire was some sort of uber-predator to be defeated by the human-horse herd. Fire horses would even lead the fire wagon to the fire, by their sense of smell and memory of the side-streets.

Come to think about it, its probably not like that, for two reasons: First, the horses are simply trained to allow themselves to be hitched, and driven. They don't like fire, but with breeding, training, and rejecting the ones with bad behavior, they stay calm enough -- probably needed to be tended by somebody. Maybe the horses were herded by the Datamation -- traditionally a dog used to lead the owners horses and scare away other humans and horses. Maybe the fire house dog helped herd the horses into position.

Furthermore, why are the horses in stalls that they can exit on their own? Wouldn't they just leave -- at least to steal extra food or just annoy people? I'm now wondering about the layout of a horse-driven firehouse, maybe stalls far offset so they can't get out into the street? With no greenery around to attract them? Maybe they were locked in, and the tending human just ran down the stalls unlocking them, and the horses pushed their way free? Maybe once in a while, one lagged back, and had to be led? Or maybe just once, almost by coincidence, they arranged themselves kinda in the correct position, and someone noticed, and the story stuck.

Given the anecdotes from real horse people in this thread, its seeming more and more like "horse intelligence" is a string of coincidences that grew into a myth. See, I tried to enter this with the knowledge that human civilization has selected for behavioral traits inherent in the animal for tasks we need, and then I went off the rails anthropomorphizing.
It's not a myth that horses have working brains, can solve simple problems, and have preferences.

But you raise a good point about anthropomorphizing.

One notable thing about domestic horses is that they are very trainable. They can be taught to do things by rote, after which they can faithfully duplicate required motions. The story upthread about the horse insisting on doing a lesson correctly is not a rare thing - at the horse farm I worked at we had to take more than one horse out of the line-up for those wanting testing to move from the beginner rank to the next level of training because many of them learned how to do the test perfectly, regardless of the skill of the rider. One horse had to be removed from all testing because he had memorized every single test - you could stand him out in the ring by himself, no rider, and say "begin advanced test" or whatever and he'd do the whole thing, on his own, without needing human directions.

But the thing to remember is that, despite a couple thousand years of domestication, horses spent millions of years being wild horses. They are smart in areas that are relevant to being horses, not so smart in many areas important to people. Things like remembering where food sources and water holes are in a large landscape, and being able to navigate, are very important to herd animals that constantly move/migrate over large areas, so it's not really surprising that horses are good at that.

Back to the firehouse and its horses - no, I don't think the horses give a damn about firefighting. They have been taught to take certain positions when a certain noise occurs and, being good rote learners, they do that. Whether or not they learn to go to where they smell fire (sort of an iffy suggestion, given that horses fear fire) or just follow the directions of the humans is a different question, and I tend to lean towards "follow directions". They'll stay in open stalls of their own accord because that's where they often find food and water, and they feel safe there (in fact, one of the problems with getting horses out of a burning barn is that the terrified horses will go into the stalls and want to stay there, because they associate them with safety). They've also been taught to stay there. And all the rest of the horses in the herd are doing that. Horses respond well to peer pressure.

All that said, horses really are individuals and vary in both temperament and intelligence. Police horses, for example, are selected to remain calm under circumstances that would leave most horses in a screaming, shaking panic. Some horses more readily follow the directions of a human than other horses, some even actively refuse to obey. Some are better at learning things than others. Some horses probably do enjoy doing tricks for attention and/or treats. Others just want to be largely left alone and will put forth the minimum effort they can get away with.

So there is a selection bias. Horses used by cowboys are going to be the ones capable of cutting a cow from a herd with minimal direction. Horses that either can't or won't do that will be used for something else. Huge draft horses are, of course, selected to be docile and obedient because you really would not want an ill-tempered, aggressive, untrainable creature the size of a Clydesdale. Just too damned dangerous, and if they seem to enjoy hauling stuff even better. Horses used for eventing sports are going to be more alert but require more direction than the docile trail-ride horses used by tourists that have to be able to tolerate clueless humans - horses that are lazy are best for that, because they are less likely to put the effort into being jerks. Horses used for stunts on TV and movies are going to be horses that are really good at learning tricks and routines and performing them when signalled to do so.

The draft horse that is adept at dragging huge loads, obedient to voice commands, knowing how to get going, turn, stop, and cooperate with other horses hitched to the same load is not any more or less intelligent than a horse taught to do tricks on cue for a camera.

For darn sure, if a horse doesn't like something he'll let you know - if he doesn't lay his ears back, bite, kick or otherwise engage in actions showing his displeasure he might just set his four feet down and refuse to move, at which point you realize once again this animal a lot bigger and stronger than you are.

One of the more amusing horse-training videos I've seen was that showing the training of a young Clydesdale - the young horse is hitched to an older, more experienced, and clearly stronger stallion aiding in training. They come to a river and the young horse decides nuh-uh, he's not doing this, and plants all four feet and stops. The stallion just sort of momemtarally twitches his head towards the other horse.... then keeps going, physically dragging the younger horse into and through the river to the other side, four furrows on the bank leading to the water showing where the stubbornly planted hooves plowed through the dirt. Another horse being trained that day was more cooperative, simply continuing alongside the stallion and going through the water without pause.

So... yeah, some horses will be more willing to go on a trail ride than others because horses have different personalities. Kayaker's horses show signs of enjoying going riding with humans they know. Other horses not so much, especially if the humans involved are clueless tourists that give unclear or contradictory "orders" because they haven't a clue how to properly ride, may kick their sides, pull on the reins harshly which is very uncomfortable for a horse's mouth (or even injurious), or otherwise make things unpleasant for the horses that are expected to put up with this crap without complaint ("complaint" in this case being things like bucking off the human, or scraping them off when passing a tree, or side-stepping in a manner that results in an unbalanced rider falling off). Frankly, some of those horses are saints.
  #26  
Old 09-11-2018, 11:09 AM
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I don't know anything about horses, but horses are social animals, and they form a hierarchy just like most social animals. When horses get together they pretty quickly figure which horses are boss over which horses.

So horses like being boss horse, and when you've got a cow you can boss around it makes you feel like a boss.
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Old 09-11-2018, 11:10 AM
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That seems apparent from watching them. But why is this so?
Horses live in groups with a social hierarchy. When we use horses for "cutting" cattle in herds we're probably exploiting behaviours that horses use to show dominance in their own herds, just as when we use dogs for herding we're exploiting behaviours their ancestors used for hunting. Being dominant is usually preferable to being submissive, so being able to dominate/boss around cattle probably does feel good to the horse on some level.

Play also tends to incorporate behaviours animals use for adult living, and even adult mammals seem to continue to engage in play behaviours even after they're grown up, both when training their young and also just sometimes "because" (meaning, we can't point to a reason).

So, my guess (since I can't actually get inside a horse's head) is that this sort of things feels satisfying to the horse for multiple reasons, and the horse has been taught that this is something you do. Champions, of course, would be horses to whom this sort of "play" has particular appeal.
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Old 09-11-2018, 11:13 AM
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I have spent my whole life training animals. In the real world of animal trainers, you might listen to them and think they are anthropomorphizing, but here is the difference -- they are going by observation of what animals actually do, and they need to accurately attribute motivations and be extremely acute observers, if they are going to be effective trainers. In my experience, animal trainers are far more likely to get it right about what animals are really like inside than casual pet owners OR researchers in a lab. They are with animals asking them to do complicated things in complicated settings, all day long.

Animals are a lot MORE like human beings than people who think of them as bundles of mechanical reflexes imagine, but they are a lot LESS like human beings than people who think of them as furry children imagine.

Animals -- at least dogs and horses, the two most intelligent common domestic animals -- play, love, hate, get angry, think things are funny, form deep attachments, mourn, worry, learn quite complex things, get neurotic, and they also sense the world in ways we can't really grasp because they see, hear, and especially, smell, quite differently than we do. They don't do abstract thought. They don't imagine the future or dwell on the past.

Many, probably most, actions of animals are given the wrong attribution by the ignorant. I see it all the time. For example, dogs get excited when it looks like they are going for a walk, but horses not so much. That's because dogs are going out 'hunting' with their pack, a time of great joy. Horses don't hunt in packs. So you won't see that behavior. Also, we aren't their pack anyway. The other horses are. If a group of ten horses and riders rode out and left a horse behind in a pen, that horse would be in agony. They hate to be left behind just like dogs do. It's just a different context because they are different creatures with different lives.
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Old 09-11-2018, 01:16 PM
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I just want to say that watching a cutting competition is amazing. The riders don't really do anything--they're not supposed to. The horses do it all. They are almost catlike in their ability to get that calf and keep it where they want, and all the while the reins are hanging loose.

One of my horses was politely ejected from the place I was keeping her because she liked to herd the cattle there on her own. "Running the cows" was how they put it. She had to go to a place where there were just horses.

There used to be a lady, we called her the "dog and pony show," who would walk her dog and her pony (she said it was actually a miniature horse, not a pony) through the neighborhood, because she said the horse liked to take walks as much as the dog did. It is hard to picture the horse bringing her its halter the way a dog will bring you its leash, but maybe that happened. The horse did seem to enjoy it, and got impatient when she stopped to talk to people. (As did the dog.)

ETA:I should say the reins are slack, not loose.

Last edited by Hilarity N. Suze; 09-11-2018 at 01:17 PM. Reason: Reining it in.
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Old 09-11-2018, 01:55 PM
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Iíve read (a long time ago, so no cite) that warhorses were large, vicious and could each only be handled by a few individuals they were comfortable with. Iím talking about the horses rode by men wearing heavy armor and lances, not cavalry horses carrying archers or firearms. They were trained to kick and trample whenever possible. To have no fear of any man, except for obedience to the trusted individual on his back.

At least thatís what I read. Exaggeration, wrong, true? Tell me more.
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Old 09-11-2018, 03:39 PM
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There's more than one way to train a warhorse.

In all seriousness though, some people undoubtedly did select warhorses just for sheer nastiness. However because warhorses were generally more high trained animals - some of the maneuvers that you see the Lipizzaner stallions perform are directly derived from movements trained in warhorses - I don't think it would have been a general practice. An ill tempered horse is an unreliable partner in a chaotic situation, like a battle.

Warhorses were also not the same as a knight's every day riding horse. They were built heavier, and considered uncomfortable for an entire's day ride (or days, or weeks). Horses like the Spanish-Norman are modern attempts to breed back to older war horse lines. You can imagine that riding something built like a Percheron for days would be hard on the body.

It is true that knights were likely to spend a lot of time, money, and energy on their warhorse.

If anyone is interested in specifics on warhorses, please let me know. I've got some research material from graduate school.
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:42 PM
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Thanks, Sunny Daze.

I was thinking, but likely explaining poorly, that warhorses were ill-tempered but not uncontrollable, if that makes sense. So the rider could expect the horse to obey commands. But the horse would be eager to push, stomp, or kick anyone near it. And certainly be willing to run through human obstacles rather go over or around them. Please go into specifics if that's wrong or right.
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Old 09-11-2018, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
I don't know anything about horses, but horses are social animals, and they form a hierarchy just like most social animals. When horses get together they pretty quickly figure which horses are boss over which horses.

So horses like being boss horse, and when you've got a cow you can boss around it makes you feel like a boss.
I just re-read this replacing the word women for horse throughout and it still made perfect sense.
  #34  
Old 09-11-2018, 09:10 PM
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I have spent my whole life training animals. In the real world of animal trainers, you might listen to them and think they are anthropomorphizing, but here is the difference -- they are going by observation of what animals actually do, and they need to accurately attribute motivations and be extremely acute observers, if they are going to be effective trainers. In my experience, animal trainers are far more likely to get it right about what animals are really like inside than casual pet owners OR researchers in a lab. They are with animals asking them to do complicated things in complicated settings, all day long.

Animals are a lot MORE like human beings than people who think of them as bundles of mechanical reflexes imagine, but they are a lot LESS like human beings than people who think of them as furry children imagine.
Thank you. It drives me crazy when people say ascribing any emotions and motivations to animals is "anthropomorphizing" them.

Last edited by CarnalK; 09-11-2018 at 09:11 PM.
  #35  
Old 09-11-2018, 10:48 PM
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I just re-read this replacing the word women for horse throughout and it still made perfect sense.
Moderator Warning

Given the recent controversy over misogynistic comments, it's hard to see this as anything else than trolling. If not, it's a pretty jerkish joke. This is an official warning for trolling.

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  #36  
Old 09-11-2018, 10:50 PM
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In any case, this thread demands speculation about the feelings of animals, so let's move it to IMHO.

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  #37  
Old 09-12-2018, 08:47 AM
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Moderator Warning

Given the recent controversy over misogynistic comments, it's hard to see this as anything else than trolling. If not, it's a pretty jerkish joke. This is an official warning for trolling.

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Its a bad joke that was based upon people giving animals human traits, that's all. Sorry to have given the appearance of trolling, which I dispise as much as anyone.
  #38  
Old 09-12-2018, 01:02 PM
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I figure if horses enjoyed taking long walks through the wilderness, you'd see wild horses doing it. But as far as I know, wild horses don't do this. And I can't see how carrying a person on their back makes it more fun for the horse.
Actually, many "wild" horses (in most cases "feral" is a better word) do travel great distances, as this government study of horses in the Australian outback shows:
Quote:
Average distance travelled was 15.9 Ī 1.9 km/day (range 8.1-28.3 km/day). Horses were recorded up to 55 km from their watering points and some horses walked for 12 h to water from feeding grounds.
There are so many different breeds of wild and feral horses, though, that extrapolating is almost impossible.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 09-12-2018 at 01:04 PM.
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