Do horses copy behaviours?

HaffiesRock

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My Haflinger is a pain in the bottom at times and can escape out of Fort Knox. The last 2 days he has gotten out into the rested field and been a nightmare to catch! I arrived this morning to find him in there and the fence demolished. My mare was stood at the broken fence and never stepped foot into the forbidden field. She has always been a saint in comparison, never escapes, easy to catch etc. Anyway, she watched for 30 minutes as I chased him round, caught him and put him back in a paddock with non broken fencing. As I open the gate to come out, my mare rushed passed me (almost in an apologetic way) into the car park area (safe and grassy) and proceeded to not be caught! You could see she knew it was naughty and struggled to not be caught! Got her after a minute or two, but it really felt like she was doing what my wally gelding was doing? I have had her 2 years and she has never done this before, she is an angel usually.

I hope she doesn't watch any more of his antics!
 

kassieg

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yeh I think they do to a certain extent, why people never want their horses stabled near wind suckers & cribbers etc

p.s re the fencing. I have a 3 year old connie who jumps or breaks the fences. 6 foot wooden poles with 4 lines of electric tape electrified is your best friend. All my fences are like this now & pony stays in the field! she definitely has scope haha
 

fidleyspromise

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Yep.
I've got one that puts her foot in her food bucket and picks it up and throws it about.
My youngster used to eat her food and that was that. She now puts her foot in it, picks it up, throws it about.

My horse wiggles plastic electric posts until they're loose and then pulls them out the ground (grrr). Guess what! My youngster does it too.
 

Spreebok

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On my old yard, they had a weaver. Soon, they had 5 weavers. Maybe it was coincidence, but having all the horses neighbours start after this one came was quite startling!
 

Echo24

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Yes! Mine has never ever kicked the stable door during feeding time as he was on a block of stables where the horses never did this. He moved blocks where the horses do create a racket during feeding time and is now a terrible kicker of his stable door in the morning!
 

Cinnamontoast

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Yes! My old lad learned to scrape the bare floor by his door because the kid's pony behind did it. Drove me nuts.

My current horse has learnt to kick his door and scrape the ground when tied up since being in view and earshot of an old lad that does this and I mean proper full on kick the crap out of his door. The owner of the old lad lets the horse do it and seems to find it vaguely funny, I stop mine, can't stand it. It's such poor manners and very annoying.
 

kassieg

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Yep.
I've got one that puts her foot in her food bucket and picks it up and throws it about.
My youngster used to eat her food and that was that. She now puts her foot in it, picks it up, throws it about.

My horse wiggles plastic electric posts until they're loose and then pulls them out the ground (grrr). Guess what! My youngster does it too.
at the event yard we had 1 who would eat then post his food bowl back over his door ! sadly the rest didn't learn this, would have saved a lot of time opening doors !! :D
 

Spreebok

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Yes! Mine has never ever kicked the stable door during feeding time as he was on a block of stables where the horses never did this. He moved blocks where the horses do create a racket during feeding time and is now a terrible kicker of his stable door in the morning!
Oooh yes, I worry about this one, mine is stabled next to the WORST door kicker I have known, kicks for dinner, kicks to go out, kicks when being tacked, kicks because he's not currently kicking it, you get the idea. She hasn't shown any inclination to start yet, she's very chill and kicking uses precious energy, and I hope it stays that way.
 

Hannahgb

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Yes, my youngster was stabled next to an arab who used to do this weird head swinging thing. Mine has now learnt to do this very annoying head swinging whenever there is feed/ waiting to g out/ being tacked up. Was hoping when I moved yards this would stop.. 9 months later its still happening!!!
 
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Some behaviors eg attention grabbing ones, such as door kicking are copied, but stereotypical behaviours are not.

This seems to have been written before the link between cribbing and stomach ulcers was confirmed, but it's still an interesting read.

http://www.horsesandpeople.com.au/article/stereotypies#.VWQoU09Viko

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11314230

Neither direct nor circumstantial evidence confirms anecdotal reports that horses copy stereotypies from each other.
 

casspow

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Yep I believe they copy to an extent too! An avid door kicker next door soon taught my lad how to kick the door down at tea time!!
 

Dizzle

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yeh I think they do to a certain extent, why people never want their horses stabled near wind suckers & cribbers etc
There's been research done into this and the only stereo typical behavior that other horses copy is tongue lolling, they won't copy crib bitting or windsucking by watching another horse do it. I used to own a crib bitter and nothing ever copied him, even when he was in sight of foals.

But in regards to fencing, my mare learned how to walk under it all of a sudden after being kept at the same yard as a lovely Icelandic that could do it, read into that what you will!
 
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My horse only weaves when there is someone there to see it. Ergo, attention-
seeking behaviour! My YO has crept up and stayed hidden to watch him, and confirms that this is the case. No one there, no weaving. He's a clever chap my horse! I've noticed too that when other people are on the yard, and he starts weaving, they all go 'ahhhh poor thing, doesn't like being indoors,' and go over to give him a bit of fuss. Thereby reinforcing the behaviour.
 

applecart14

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My horse copied me when I rode in the school one day. One of the dressage markers had fallen inwards onto the track and I stooped down to hit it back up straight with my whip. When I was unable to do this Bailey knocked it with his nose in the direction I wanted it to go. He only did that as he had watched me do that.

He also copied me when he was loose in a small school and I was running around left and right and he copied my movements. He is a bright boy :)
 

fburton

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There's been research done into this and the only stereo typical behavior that other horses copy is tongue lolling, they won't copy crib bitting or windsucking by watching another horse do it. I used to own a crib bitter and nothing ever copied him, even when he was in sight of foals.
There's a kind of copying that horses definitely do do which comes under the heading of social facilitation - but that generally applies to natural or innate behaviours. So, for example, a horse is more likely to drink or lie down if he/she sees other horses drinking or lying down. Learning completely new behaviours is another matter. I think we also need to ask what a perfectly healthy horse would have to gain by starting to crib-bite or windsuck based on watching another horse do it. The existence of a common environmental factor that predisposed a group of horses to stereotypic behaviour would increase the chance of the habit being acquired - but then it's more than simple copying.

There is some evidence from a survey on flat racehorses done by Paul McGreevy that visual contact between horses actually reduced the likelihood of crib-biting and wind-sucking, but not weaving. That doesn't prove that weaving is copied, of course, but it suggests it is different from the oral stereotypies.
 

Mrs G

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Ok, so theres a dressage clinic going on at my yard today - TB loves watching all the goings on outside his window which looks on to the outdoor arena... heres hoping x!x
 

fburton

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My horse copied me when I rode in the school one day. One of the dressage markers had fallen inwards onto the track and I stooped down to hit it back up straight with my whip. When I was unable to do this Bailey knocked it with his nose in the direction I wanted it to go. He only did that as he had watched me do that.
That's interesting! Do you think he would be able to copy other similar actions and show it wasn't just a coincidence? If so, I am sure the folks that tried but failed to show a demonstrator effect in horses would love to know!

He also copied me when he was loose in a small school and I was running around left and right and he copied my movements. He is a bright boy :)
Copying movement is something horses have an innate ability to do, I believe. They are very good at coordinating movement amongst themselves when they are running as a herd - to do with staying safe from predators no doubt - and if they can do it with each other, why not with us to?!
 

AppyLover

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A grass livery joined my boy for 2 weeks and within this 2 weeks 3 out of the 4 started chewing the fences within days of the new one coming in now he's gone and he's still doing it abit but not nearly as bad, before i moved him back in Jan he never really pawed the ground now he does it when tied up and other times but he never saw anyone do it but it drives me up the wall. I'm hoping he will pick up some things from the youngster currently being schooled when he's ready to be backed next year cause he can see the school from his field haha :)
 

HashRouge

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They definitely do, but it isn't consistent, so you never know what they'll copy and what they won't! I used to work as an SJ groom and we introduced a horse in the middle of the barn who used to throw all his rugs off the rug rail next to his stable. Within the space of 2 days, the gelding next to him had started doing it too! The original culprit was only with us for a few weeks and we moved a 4 year old gelding into the stable he'd vacated. He promptly picked the habit up off the next door neighbour! However, after a phase where we couldn't use the rug rails at all with those two horses, we went back to using them and they seemed to have stopped doing it!

And door kicking is something they copy at the drop of a hat!
 

applecart14

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That's interesting! Do you think he would be able to copy other similar actions and show it wasn't just a coincidence? If so, I am sure the folks that tried but failed to show a demonstrator effect in horses would love to know!
Yes I was able to demonstrate to him that I wanted him to touch me on my breast bone with his nose in a circular motion in order to request a sweet and he picked up my request in about three attemps. He is quite bright when he wants to be but purposefully ignorant when he doesn't want to be bothered (just like his owner lol)
 

Pigeon

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On my old yard, they had a weaver. Soon, they had 5 weavers. Maybe it was coincidence, but having all the horses neighbours start after this one came was quite startling!
I'm pretty sure it's been disproven now that cribbing and weaving are copied behaviours. Horses next to each other exhibit these traits because they are experiencing the same stimuli.

So yards end up with multiple stereotypic behaviours only if the turnout and care regime is inadequate...

I think things like escaping, or even banging doors or shouting for dinner can be copied, because they often result in getting fed! But why would a horse copy cribbing or weaving, they're just outwards signs of distress, they don't provide any gain.
 

Exploding Chestnuts

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Yes, used to have a rather timid racehorse who had had a bit of a difficult life [went from Derby hopeful to our very own maiden flapper in her career], she saw her companion roll in sandpit, looked at me , and had a go, next week she saw him win his first race [mine too as a trainer], and broke her maiden tag the same afternoon, [144 to 1 double].
 

Toby_Zaphod

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yeh I think they do to a certain extent, why people never want their horses stabled near wind suckers & cribbers etc
Cribbing & Wind Sucking are not learned traits, horses do not copy this.

"Many horse guardians worry that their horses who don’t crib will learn cribbing from those who do. Some stable managers even refuse to accept cribbers for this reason. However, research and observation indicate that it probably isn’t a behavior learned from other horses. For instance, in one research stable where scientists were attempting to evaluate medicine to reduce cribbing and other stereotypies in horses, many horses who did not crib were exposed to others who did. Despite daily exposure to horses who were cribbing, not one of the horses who weren’t cribbing picked up the behavior. In fact, it’s rare to find a barn full of horses who crib. In stables with more than a couple of cribbers, the cause is often related to management practices that are the same for all horses."

From the ASPCA website
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/horse-behavior/cribbing
 

Dry Rot

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Would refusing a jump be copied? My stallion refused a jump while his daughter was watching. She'd never refused a jump before but then started refusing. Coincidence?

I've always called this social learning but knew there was a proper name for it. So it is social facilitation. Had to be longer and more complicated, didn't it!:D

A French game farmer had poor success rearing and releasing partridges. He noticed wild male partridges would come around the breeding pens in the spring. So he'd trap them up and release one wild bird with every groups of reared birds. The survival rates increased exponentially because the wild birds taught the artificially reared birds the ways of the wicked world!
 
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