Horse Culture: Learn by watching others
In this article titled Horse Culture, we don’t talk about equestrian culture: classical riding, saddle, bit, spur, western riding, ricreative riding, history of equitation, horsemanship, natural horsemanship or other disciplines.
In this article we talk about the horse and hìs culture.
In the wild, horses live in a social context. Or better, they live their every day life in a social experience and learning context. As has been observed in other species, also in a horse bands there is a cultural transmission, in which every horse learns from the other. Knowing eachother, especially in a family group, makes it possible for a horse to read the details in what another horse is doing, being able to pick up on it’s intentions and learn and create a shared culture, by watching and by doing.
It is interesting when a young horse learns from observing an adult experienced horse, but it is even more interesting when horses share an experience and learn together from and with each other.
Most horses in our society do not have family connections. Their social experience and learning context can be stimulated by helping them share experiences. Two young horses for example: A one year old Welsh Cob and a two year old Haflinger/Quarter living together since several months. Facilitating them in the exploration of a novel object, they initially show different timing and different ways in approaching. The Haflinger/Quarter uses more his hoofs and the Welsh Cob more his mouth, but after some moments they begin to explore together in the same way. The Haflinger/Quarter also with his mouth and the Welsh Cob also with the hoofs. In that moment together, they share their own exploring intents and enrich eachother by experimenting alternatives, creating their own exploring culture.
It is not that one is better than the other in exploring, but simply different. The more important aspect is that they both learn by watching the other.
Konstanze Krueger, one of the world’s most respected scientific experts in equine behaviour, writes: “Since horses constitute a highly social species much of their cognitive abilities might be connected to social experiences. By incorporating social aspects into learning trials it will be possible to gain insight into horses` social learning abilities.”
And more: Horses that live in an anthropic dimension, that live near human, can learn watching human. Horses watch us, probably more than we watch horses. They learn through human and they create their own idea about human.
Social learning is cognitive learning and cognitive learning improves welfare and wellness.
Writer: Francesco De Giorgio, equine cognitive ethologist