Originally Posted by loosie
That's a hotly debated topic - whether or not horses do learn by example. My personal feeling is that they don't really, not specifics, but they do pick up on the feelings that go with it... so will be more or less motivated & in a learning frame of mind depending on the attitude of the horse before them.
Honestly I think they do learn from example. I taught my pony to take his halter off the hook and hand it to me. I've sense been trying to unteach this adorably obnoxious skill -.- As he quickly learned that if he (my 9 hand 450 pound pony) took his halter and swung it at my 1350 pound draft mare - she'd run away. He thought this was just hilarious
until she grabbed her halter and swung it at him. Luckily both of them are dumb enough to drop their halters after the first 'throw'. So now, every day I come home and find two halters in the middle of the barn floor. -.-'
But I never taught my mare anything to do with touching or grabbing her halter, she definitely learned that from him.
While I agree it's not easy for horses to pick up skills just from watching - but I do think - if they're paying attention - they are thinking about it. Just not putting 2+2 together until it's their turn to learn the skill. But when working with my little herd of minis/ponies at the rescue I'll teach one to back up and the next - who was watching - picks it up 10 times faster.