When I saw this story my jaw really dropped! I was like AHHHHMAAZZZING! This study has huge ramifications on how we should be training and working in partnership with our horses.
Horses can and do make decisions for their WELFARE
Horses can look ahead and know the consequences of their DECISIONS
Horses can CHOOSE to participate in a man-made activity
Horses are using COMMUNICATION in a highly structured way to pass information
Here is a link to the original article, but some things disappear off the internet so I’m also referencing it here:
They were then tested in various weather conditions to see whether they could use the board to tell their trainers about their blanket preferences. The scientists report online in Applied Animal Behaviour Science that the horses did not touch the symbols randomly, but made their choices based on the weather.
If it was wet, cold, and windy, they touched the “blanket on” icon; horses that were already wearing a blanket nosed the “no change” image. But when the weather was sunny, the animals touched the “blanket off” symbol; those that weren’t blanketed pressed the “no change” icon.
The study’s strong results show that the horses understood the consequences of their choices, say the scientists, who hope that other researchers will use their method to ask horses more questions.