Spooking Responses to Objects That Are Familiar to Humans but May Not Be to Domestic Horses (Equus Caballus)

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  • Topic: Horse, Domestication of the horse, Draft horse
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Spooking Responses to Objects That Are Familiar to Humans But May Not be to Domestic Horses (Equus caballus) NAME, Biology 103B, “……” Community College, March 11th, 2011

Abstract
In my findings I concluded that the stallion had the grumpier old man personality when introduced to new things, where as the mare was more intrigued/ apt to be more open minded to them. It could be assumed that all horses would be afraid/ cautious of larger or more complex objects (like the bicycle) and they associate some objects that have similarities to everyday objects in their lives as something positive (like the pail being similar to a feed bag.) After my study I now have a better understanding as to the behavior of horses and how they react to foreign objects. It seems to me the more trusting a horse is of the person/people around it and the more objects they are introduced to the more desensitized they will become to these things, whereas a more sheltered horse will be more apt to spooking when exposed to things that are unfamiliar to them.

Introduction
The purpose of this study was to determine how the domestic horse also known as (Equus caballus) reacts to different stimuli. This was done by exposing two different horses of different age and sex to what we humans may consider everyday objects in both indoor and outdoor environments for a specific amount of time. Horses are large, powerful and extremely intelligent animals; however, like any living being they can occasionally become startled. When a horse gets spooked it can be particularly dangerous for you as the rider, as your horse may jump sideways, and begin to gallop without warning or even kick or buck. Learning to prevent your horse from spooking will help to calm not only your nerves but also the horses and keep you both safe.

Many who have ever been around horses for a period of time I am sure have witnessed when out riding on a trail, the horse suddenly started bucking or darts off course when the horse had been behaving normally. Loud noises, sudden movement of something, or an unfamiliar object to the horse may have been reason for the spooking. The sense of sight is important to horses and it is equally important to know how a horse will react to something it doesn’t see every day or is not used to. Humans and horses see things much differently. So the objective here is to find out so we know in case a specific color or object gets a negative response. We can learn what the horse will associate these objects with such as feeding time, grooming, play, maternal instincts; danger etc.

One theory about spooking is that objects appear different to horses when viewed from a variety of angles.(Hangii,2010) To test her theory, she established an experiment in which horses were trained through positive reinforcement to select one of two different objects such as a toy lizard versus choosing the toy dinosaur. Initially these objects were always placed in the same position. But once the horses were well-trained, Hanggi started rotating the objects to see if they could still identify the "correct" choice. Positions included backward, sideways, and upside-down. This suggests that horses that are allowed to look around and discover, will be more prone to recognize objects from different angles later and might be less likely to react adversely to them. With any new behavior, repetition is important in order for the horse to develop a reliable behavior pattern. We don't wear the horse out doing the same thing over and over and over, but instead, reintroduce this same object at different times to get the horse adjusted to it. (Nunan,2007) To examine spooking further, I tested the horses with objects that are familiar to humans but may not be to horses.

Methods
Two subjects were used for this research, one stallion and one mare. The age of the stallion was...
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