Horses’ ability to adapt to new environments and to acquire new information plays an important role in handling and training. Social learning in particular would be very adaptive for horses as it enables them to flexibly adjust to new environments. In the context of horse handling, social learning from humans has been rarely investigated but could help to facilitate management practices. We assessed the impact of human demonstration on the spatial problem-solving abilities of horses during a detour task. In this task, a bucket with a food reward was placed behind a double-detour barrier and 16 horses were allocated to two test groups of 8 horses each. One group received a human demonstration of how to solve the spatial task while the other group received no demonstration. We found that horses did not solve the detour task more often or faster with human demonstration. However, both test groups improved rapidly over trials. Our results suggest that horses prefer to use individual rather than social information when solving a spatial problem-solving task.
Burla, J. B., Siegwart, J., & Nawroth, C. (2018). Human demonstration does not facilitate the performance of horses (Equus caballus) in a spatial problem-solving task 2. Animals: an open access journal from MDPI, 8(6).