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Horses can communicate with humans: Study

Horses can learn to communicate with humans and express their feelings and opinions, a new study has claimed.

Published: 25th September 2016 02:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2016 12:21 PM   |  A+A-

By PTI

LONDON: Horses can learn to communicate with humans and express their feelings and opinions, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from Norwegian Veterinary Institute trained horses by offering slices of carrot as an incentive to touch a board with their muzzle to indicate if they wanted to wear a blanket.

The horses' requests matched the weather, suggesting it was not a random choice.

Researchers hope that the method could be used to ask horses more questions. They believe that ordinary horse owners will be able to train their horses in this way.

Researchers led by Cecilie Mejdell from the institute said they wanted to find a way to ask the horse whether or not it liked wearing a blanket.

In Nordic countries, it is common for horses to wear a blanket in all weathers.

"Horses are often considered to be not very intelligent but this shows that using the right methods they can actually communicate and express their opinions and they can take choices that seem sensible to us even," said Mejdell.

Researchers worked with a horse trainer to teach 23 horses of various breeds how to communicate with humans.

First the horse was trained to approach a board hung on a fence and touch it with its muzzle, 'BBC News' reported.

It was taught to tell the difference between different symbols on the board - blanket on (horizontal bar), blanket off (vertical bar) and no change (blank). Finally, the horse was taught to associate a particular action with the symbols on the board.

By the end of the training, a horse was able to signal if it was too cold or too hot by going up to the appropriate board and asking for its rug to be put on or taken off.

Horses requested a blanket in wet, windy and cold weather, but went without when the weather was sunny, the researchers found. This shows the horse was making a choice based on its own motivation, not that of its trainer, they said.

The whole process took place over two weeks with 10 to 15 minutes of training a day.

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