Italian animal experts have found in a recent study that although horses can understand human cues to do things like find food, they may or may not choose to respond to those indicators depending on their decision-making strategies at the time. Horses have demonstrated a greater ability to attach human movement with meaning than previously thought.
This research, led by animal experts in Italy, has determined that horses can interpret human actions and change their decision-making using these cues or not. In the first phase of the experiment, 24 adult horses were tasked with finding a carrot hidden under a bucket. They were then split into two groups--one watched a human hide the carrot under one of three overturned buckets and had to find it after the person left; the other had to find the carrot completely on their own. Researchers observed that the first group found the carrot with higher accuracy but took longer to find it. As the horses underwent more iterations of the test, the two groups began to have similar results and times, indicating that speed became more important than human cues in their search strategy.
Another component of the study also found that horses can remember a previous location of food, even after a delay, by using nearby humans as an indicator.
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