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Patricia Cornwell with Trip, one of the horses she donated to the guide Horse Foundation

Patricia Cornwell with Trip

Don and Janet Burleson - Copyright 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Dan with Cuddles - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald
Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Cuddles in Harness - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Don and Janet with Trip and Ras

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Cuddles on the first flight of a horse on a commercial flight

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser
The worlds first horse to fly in the passenger cabin

Cuddles guiding Dan Shaw

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser

Cuddles at Lunch

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser


Horse Learning research

from Professor Emeritus Frank A. Logan

Doctor Logan is co-author of the landmark book Reward and Punishment, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of New Mexico, and the former chairman of the Yale University Department of Psychology. Professor Logan is currently building a database of the Laws of Learning.

Here are Dr. Logan's thoughts on advanced horse training:

In general, it appears that horses learn and perform much like most other animals.  It does appear that some breeds are better than others, that young is better than old, and that distributed training is better than highly massed.  I'm sure that, as with all animals, there is some "lore" including animal-human interaction effects but these things don't usually appear in publications.

The current topic in animal learning is to take into consideration the species-specific responses in the animals' niche in nature.  That is to say, one needs to pay some attention to what that particular breed/species does "naturally."  For example, rats are good at running mazes and pigeons are good at pecking.  Rats are good at auditory tasks, pigeons at visual tasks.

 As for improvement in learning, the most relevant data are called "learning to learn" or "learning set."  But those data typically are restricted to a particular type of task.  For example, when a monkey first learns a simple discrimination, it may take many trials.  But as it is given more and more discrimination learning tasks with different objects, it eventually learns to solve such problems in a single trial.

In the human learning literature, there is lots of evidence for positive transfer, which includes a general factor associated simply with the learning context in addition to a specific factor concerning the task at hand.  In your case, for example, the horse has to learn that there is something it can do to control your behavior, and that emitting responses of some kind is appropriate.

Research key:

 BNs = Behavioral and Neural Sciences

EAB = Experimental Analysis of Behavior

AnS = Journal of American Science

OpR = Operant Response

S/Genz = Stimulus Generalization

Lmg = Achievement motive grid

Research Results

OGOVP.Dougherty,D.M.PLewis - - '91. Peak shift in horses - - - - - - - EAB56: 97
          W/horses, diffcond lip-press OpR re cue size w/VI sched
          After above, S/Genz gradient re size w/peak shift

OGOTP.Dougherty,D.M.PLewis - - '93. S/Genz of tactile S in horses  - - EAB59:521
          Acq lip-press OpR re tactile S, w/S/Genz decr-f(distance)

DSOAP.Heffner,R.S.HEHeffner  - '86  Localization of tones by horses  - BNs00: 93
          Horses acq tone localization w/lo (<1kHz), not hi-Hz

SVOTL.Heird,J.C. et al - - - - '81  Early experience on lrng w/horses  AnS53:204
          Acq w/30 tr/day w/reversal after lo <med> hi early handling

SAOML.Houpt,K.A. et al - - - - '82  Lrng w/orphan/normal foals - - - - AnS55:027
          Lrng w/orphan=normal foals, w/acq by young > older horses

FAOGC.Houpt,K.A. et al - - - - '90  Taste aversion lrng in horses  - - AnS68:234
          Horses acq CTA w/immed, not 30-min delayed apomorphine US
          Horses have difficulty lrng CTA w/hi-palatable food

DVOVL.Mader,D.R.BOPrice  - - - '80  Lrng as-f(breed/age) w/horses  - - AnS50:962
          Lrng decr-f(age) w/Quarterhorse > Thoroughbred

AAOAJ.Rubin,L. et al - - - - - '80  Temporal distrib of trials - - - - AnS50:184
          W/10-tr/session, ARi acq w/1 > 2 > 6 session/week (horses)

DAOVG.Sappington,B.F.Goldman - '94  Lrng/concept formation in horses - AnS72:080
          W/Arabian horses, perf discrim re shape concept (triangle)

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