Monday, February 1, 2010

Horse Sense: Does Learning ability correlate with certain Personality Traits?

So it's time. Tiime to put this series to bed. I'll finish with one last hurrah on the subject of horse behavior. While the series didn't necessarily answer the original question posted here that prompted me to write this review, I do hope it sparked some ideas or encouraged you to ask more questions, and then go looking for answers. Knowledge is power afterall..Or maybe, it answered some questions that you have had for a long time about your own observations of your own horses.

In Budiansky's book, it seems there is no proof in any studies to show that dominance in a herd indicates a higher level on intelligence. The same is true of age, body condiition or size. "There is some evidence that indicates that some horses that are less emotional and calmer are faster learners". "This suggests that learning has more to do with temperment than with intelligence." ...hmmm, interesting....a highly emotional horse is harder to deal with??? Nah.....couldn't possibly be...Maggie doesn't fit that description at all (mumbling to self under breath)

Ofcourse there are those horses that are very difficult to train that also show high levels of intelligence. These are where the horse has figured out how to train the trainer… discovering the behavior that gets the lesson or work to stop short…

Rebel happens to fit in this category. While he is the one horse on our place that has an uncanny ability get out of most gates, untie even a bowline, lock other horses out when there is food to be had (they say a horse can't rationalize but I wonder about this one) so he can have the lion's share, pull fly masks off, you name it, he has never been the easy horse on the place to train. Not even close.

What about Breed to Breed Intelligence?

(because here at Acer farm, we certainly have uh, well, diversity you could say with Barbs, Morgans, Morgan/Barb crosses, and Rebel, Mr Heinz 57...)

Apparently there hasn’t been much done to compare the intelligence between different breeds. I was surprised by this. The little bit of research that Budiansky makes note of showed that Quarter Horses chose a correct door for a food reward 80% of the time more quickly than a TB, indicating the QH was a better learner. So are Quarter horses more driven by food or positive reinforcements ??? Or are they just quicker studies? Well, I will say, an awful lot of trainers do prefer to train a Quarter Horse over, let's say a mustang for example. There's a good reason for this but I'll leave my opinions out of this discussion on the reasons why that might be...

Intelligence is funny thing with horses I think. I don't think it can be clearly defined to be honest. I am told JB, my Barb, is supposed to be more intelligent than other breeds. I would say that might be true, in the area of self preservation but some of the things he does??? Well, most times it has me scratching my head wondering if maybe something got lost in the genetics.

Reviewing Budiansky's book, The Nature of Horses, has been a good gap filler for the pause between the holiday season and when I can begin focusing on spring conditioning. It won't be long now when the neverending cold, dark dreary winter days of the Flathead begin to lose their grip to smells of green things breaking through the cold, the sound of dripping water as trees begin to thaw and the days begin to lengthen more and more. Yes, I am ready to shift focus once again. I am ready to climb back in that saddle.

No comments: