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Which Emotions are present in Horses?

This is a discussion on Which Emotions are present in Horses? within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Too much stimulus causing horse to misbehave

 
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    12-10-2009, 09:09 AM
  #11
Showing
A horse learns by Stimulus and Response. It could be positive or negative and there are volumes written on both. We attribute too much human emotion to animals; they do not understand concepts or complex implications. As an example, they do not understand that pointing a gun to their head means the possibility of death or harm.
     
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    12-10-2009, 09:46 AM
  #12
Trained
Without the help of clocks and watches humans have no concept of time. If a human is in a room without a clock or window there is no way to know how long they have been in there. It would therefore stand to reason that animals also lack that ability so rather you have been gone for a day or a year it's all the same for your horse. Horses forget very little and if they like what you gave them when you went to the gate then they will appear happy to see you at the gate.

I think horses can express the same range of emotion as a 2 yo child; Anger, comfort, happiness, discomfort. What I think they are not able to express is complex emotion like jealousy and depression. I think horses don't do things because they want to anger humans or they are being mischievious. There emotions are ultimatly tied to their motivation which is to stay alive and be as comfortable as possible so sadness, jealousy, love and hate are not expressed or felt. What we think of as our horses "loving" us is really just seeking comfort. I love my wife and kids rather they make me comfortable or not but my horse will dump me in a minute if he feels too much discomfort.
     
    12-10-2009, 10:22 AM
  #13
Weanling
I think horses know and understand a lot more than we give them credit for, but I think "KNOWING or UNDERSTANDING" is different than emotionally "FEELING". A horse's ultimate goal is to be comfortable and not be bothered.

For example, when I exercise ride Dash she UNDERSTANDS that if she performs as I want her to, the session will end quicker than if she was to misbehave. So, she performs well and gets turned out quicker where she can get back to eating and being comfortable.

When I groom Dash and she drifts off to sleep for a minute or two I don't think she's feeling pleasure in the same sense that we would if we were getting a massage and fell asleep. She UNDERSTANDS the situation and is comfortable with it, so she shuts her eyes for a bit.

Obviously all animals feel fear and pain - these are instinctual feelings that ALL creatures on this earth feel - but I don't believe that they "feel" pleasure in the sense that humans do.

Think about it, almost EVERY situation where a horse is sick or acting out has to do with some sort of pain, not an emotion, unlike humans.
     
    12-10-2009, 10:26 AM
  #14
Started
READ THIS, READ THIS - DON’T SWITCH OVER - YET
Some of the viewers who read this thread will take one look and think: “What on earth is the silly old Duffer asking for now? Well there is as usual some method in my madness. Many of us have contributed to a thread entitled Anger & The Carrot or the Stick”. The thread drifted a bit but essentially much of the subject radiated around the methods of control and treatment of horses either with a soft touch alternatively with the stick. In this new thread I am pursuing the soft touch.

In simple terms I am asking whether we can play on the emotions of a horse to get our own way with them. We manage it with humans and dogs, can we do it with horses?

I have found there are for many horse owners a number of trusty fallback scenarios which the traditional horse owner relies upon:
When the horse is slow to go forwards, one kicks it in the ribs and digs in the spurs.
If the horse does something incorrectly then one whacks it with a stick
If the horse resists, then it is said to be lazy.
& If it finds its way round an enforced behavioural response, then it is being disrespectful of the master.

The horse can't answer back but for the rider there is always an excuse, invariably followed by a display of force or a threat,
A horse can readily be judged: lazy disobedient, sly, disrespectful, Often there will follow some
Form of chastisement or maybe verbal justification for the rider‘s inability to get the horse to perform as the rider expected. It is nearly always the horse’s fault - or so we are led to believe.

Is there another way?

I never have to chastise my two dogs. OK, they are not exactly held on a tight leash. But I don’t raise my hand, with or without a whip, to them ever. A loud voice is enough chastisement for bad behaviour
- not that they do that much wrong. Usually my problem is that they never want to leave my side. I can’t get out of the house without a dog getting to the door before me. They know what I am thinking of doing before I move to do it. And if I call my dog by name, mostly the called dog comes by. Mostly.
Dogs have four legs, a tail and a mouth full of teeth. So do horses.

My dogs howl in distress if I leave them too long. Visibly they become sad. If they are happy, they dribble all over me. The Rottie will guard me at the expense of his life. The terrier will follow me to the underworld. Both sit at my feet in the evening waiting to go to bed. I am their life.

Why can’t I get what I have with my dogs from my horse?

Should I be trying harder.
     
    12-10-2009, 10:38 AM
  #15
Showing
I agree with Kevin in that horses respond at what would be a 2 year old human level. They don't develop the subtle nuances that humans do over a lifetime. Its all black and white to them and revolves around survival. If it feeds me and will keep me alive its good. If it hurts me and may cause my death, its bad.
I do think they feel humor. I could swear, when I fall off or do something stupid, I can hear my horses laughing
     
    12-10-2009, 10:55 AM
  #16
Trained
Barry,

As usual you give us all cause to pause and think for a moment. I also have a dog that is insanely loyal and hates to be left. I think asking why your horse doesn't act more like your dog is like asking why your sailboat doesn't drive like your car. They both have a wheel to steer and are used for transportation. As social as horses are they are nothing like the structure that exists with the pack mentallity. Pack hunting predators are far more structured socially than prey animals or they would be extinct. Artificial selection also has an effect on how the animals react. For the most part horses have not been expected to come when called and be a companion animal. They won't fit through a dog door and they are really hard to house train. Dogs on the other hand have been close companions to humans for thousands of years. Those dogs that would not obey verbal commands soon found thier way to the stew pot and the ones that were highly trainable to verbal commands were bred to other dogs with the same attributes.

Can you train your horse to come when called? Of course you can. You can also teach them to fetch and sit down but it is much easier to teach a Golden Retrievier. If we are going to use the horses emotions to train them to do as we need then we must understand how thier emotions work. Whenever you use the pronciple of pressure and release we are using thier desire for comfort to overcome thier instict. A horses instinct is to push against pressure, not give to it. When you apply pressure to the bit the untrained horse will lean into it instinctively but when that doesn't give them relief they start trying to find it. They move thier head up and down and root thier nose out and finally they break at the poll and the rider releases all pressure on the bit. The horse has found the relief and with repitition will overcome the instinct to push into the bit completely.
     
    12-10-2009, 11:26 AM
  #17
Yearling
I agree with Vidaloco. I think people try to think too much when it comes to horses. They are what they are. We can train them because they have a well developed flight response, herd hierarchy and by nature, are non-aggressive and non-territorial (nomadic). We use and control their flight response - twirl a rope, they move away, we stop, they stop. We don't have to teach them that the rope should be moved away from, that's already built in. We twirl a rope, tell the horse to stand, he does and we've controlled his flight response. That's training. Their herd hierarchy predisposes them naturally toward seeking out and getting along with others. Their safety depends on it - they are not independent animals, so they already understand what it means to get along, cooperate, rely on others and what it means to follow a leader. You don't have to teach them any of that…it's already built in.

As far as emotions are concerned, I think all living things have them but in differing degrees. Although horses prefer the company of others, they don't form long lasting attachments to individuals. Horses will readily accept moving from one herd to another and will allow any human to ride them as long as the cues from the human are understood. They are not like dogs who may only obey one owner and disregard commands from anyone else. If they get separated from their normal herd, they will seek out another herd and won't spend months attempting to get back to their original herd.
     
    12-10-2009, 12:57 PM
  #18
Started
As Kevin says:
Quote
“If we are going to use the horses emotions to train them to do as we need then we must understand how their emotions work“.
unquote
Agreed We have Three Continents worth of horse expertise reading this Forum - one of the questions I first asked was: “which Emotions do we recognize in Horses?”

As Kevin says:
Quote
“Whenever you use the principle of pressure and release we are using their desire for comfort to overcome their instinct. A horses instinct is to push against pressure, not give to it. When you apply pressure to the bit the untrained horse will lean into it instinctively but when that doesn't give them relief they start trying to find it. They move their head up and down and root their nose out and finally they break at the poll and the rider releases all pressure on the bit. The horse has found the relief and with repetition will overcome the instinct to push into the bit completely“.
Unquote
Agreed. This happened with DIDI yesterday. We have bought her a new Myler bit and she is confused by it - she can’t escape the slight tongue pressure. She had been resisting and throwing her nose up in the air, we fitted a flash band so she could not open her mouth. She could no longer resist. She bent at the poll and for the rest of the lesson her head was in perfect ramener position at walk, trot and surprisingly canter. She was “on the bit” with a rounded outline.
So Kevin, do you put this down to instinct?? Ingrained, innate, inherited, instinct?



Vidalco says:
“If it hurts me and may cause my death, its bad“.
The horse can‘t think this way can it? Such a statement by a horse calls for reasoning and it is judgemental
The horse could think this about all humans
& it doesn‘t know what in this wide world might kill it .

Somehow in this expression there has to be: “trust” - perhaps yet another Emotion?
     
    12-10-2009, 01:03 PM
  #19
Started
Rachel,
The message with Rachel replies with is similar to the message which I recognise
From the British Horse Society manuals. But for the purpose of this discussion only
I query the assumptions made about the mental capacity of the horse.
Rachel says Quote:
“A horse's ultimate goal is to be comfortable AGREED
And not be bothered - DOES A HORSE SUFFER FROM BOREDOM?.

For example, when I exercise ride Dash she understands that if she performs as I want her to, the session will end quicker than if she was to misbehave.
CAN THE HORSE REASON TO THIS EXTENT AND MAKE DEDUCTIONS?
So, she performs well -DOES SHE RECOGNISE WHEN SHE HAS DONE WELL? And gets turned out quicker where she can get back to eating and being comfortable.

When I groom Dash and she drifts off to sleep for a minute or two I don't think she's feeling pleasure in the same sense that we would if we were getting a massage and fell asleep. WHY NOT - CAN SHE NOT FEEL PLEASURE?
She understands the situation and is comfortable with it, so she shuts her eyes for a bit - MAYBE. BUT WHEN I RUB MY MARE‘S SACRUM AREA - SHE ROCKS WITH THE MASSAGE - I AM CERTAIN SHE IS FEELING “PLEASURE“..

Obviously all animals feel fear and pain - these are instinctual feelings that ALL creatures on this earth feel - but I don't believe that they "feel" pleasure in the sense that humans do. IS NOT PAIN THE OPPOSITE OF PLEASURE?

Think about it, almost EVERY situation where a horse is sick or acting out has to do with some sort of pain, not an emotion, unlike humans. WHY CANNOT A HORSE FEEL SAD OR DEPRESSED OR WORRIED OR FEARFUL?
Unquote”
Rachel - this is another hypothetical question:
Undoubtedly horses have been schooled by experts who have recognised and relied upon certain perceived behavioural characteristics in the horse - especially fear. This system produced for them in the main an acceptable result in a reasonable timescale.
The system has been proved to work. No question.
We in modern times have read about and absorbed the principles the traditional trainers used - especially the military who wanted some quick results in horses who were to be used by cavalrymen who themselves had to be trained to ride in a proscribed manner.

However if today we had been presented with the horse, without any prior knowledge from the old manuals, would we now use the same techniques if we started from afresh?
Would we make the same assumptions about the horse's mental capacity?

BG
     
    12-10-2009, 01:09 PM
  #20
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry Godden    
So Kevin, do you put this down to instinct?? Ingrained, innate, inherited, instinct?


Partially it is instinct but some is artificial selection. Those horses that could not figure out how to give to pressure and tolloerate human contact found the stew pot pretty soon. Horses don't give very good milk and cows aren't much fun to ride because they have been selected for different things. With the invention of cloning I think alot of questions about animal behavior will be answered. What is instinct and what is emotion and is there much difference? Is it a horses instinct to fall into the herd hierarchy or is it an expression of emotion? I believe that everything a horse does is aimed at getting through the day alive. Horses reason at the same level as my 2 year old. He knows that if he touches the stove it will burn him but he can't reason that if he looks at the knob and it is turned a certain way there is no heat to the burner.
     

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