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Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Tue Aug 31st, 2010 03:39 pm
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Hi Folks,

I am going to share a couple of experiences to see if anyone has made similar observations..

 We have pair of six year old Lusitano horses "Uno & Dos" that were raised from birth in an enhanced environment. . They have been part of our troupe of trick/Liberty horses and so they have been exposed to a lot of circumstances where they have been talked into doing things that might seem to be a bit outside the box and they have been participants in many, many situations when other horses in their close proximity have been talked to in ways that require genuine understanding of vocal language to get the desired result.

 Well now that they are also my #1 & #2 riding horses at every opportunity I allow guests to accompany me on their daily excursions around the ranch next door. Typically I switch off and ride one or the other horse every other day.

 During these rides the guest and I often talk about the ranch terrain, the wildlife, the weather, the horses, their reactions and what to expect as far as performance, or how to improve their performance.

 What seems to be happening is that the horses are entirely cognizant of the conversations and participate by punctuating our sentences with vocalizations , usually snorts of varying duration and intensity. The most curious aspect of these vocalizations is that they are perfectly timed with correct sentence structure and polite etiquette. These vocalizations most often seem to be an affirmation or a confirmation of the subject being discussed.

 The horses do not make these sounds at inappropriate times. They interject vocalizations like we use commas, periods and exclaimation points. And it has been happening with such regularity that mere coincidence seems to be ruled out.

 For example, a week ago we were riding on a pipeline road and my guest remarked, "Isn't this the place where we saw the pigs?  ( six month ago) . Dos replied with a vigorous double snort.  He had not previously  made the sound and did not make it again during an hour-long ride.

  A few days ago the same guest and I came riding up out of the canyons onto a rolling prairie, he asked, "Would it be ok if we moved the cattle around?"

 The Dos immediately began snorting, which was echoed by Uno, and then they began snorting back and forth repeatedly. One would snort, the other would answer and as they exchanged the sounds became more and more dramatic.. We were left with the idea that the horses were really looking forward to the opportunity to herd the cows around..and were discussing it. 

 In all honesty there have been times when these vocalizations also might seem to imply that the horse thought that what the humans were discussing was a total crock. These conversational nuances are of course highly subjective.

My guest on both of these rides is one of the world's leading experts on "artificial intelligence" and so he extremely aware of the how these horses are responding to the situation, and he is absolutely convinced that they actually are participating in the moment in an contexturally correct manner. 

 This message should be considered as both an open question and an observation..

Allen Pogue

Dripping Springs, Texas

Attachment: Uno sit Dos up.JPG (Downloaded 897 times)

rifruffian
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 Posted: Tue Aug 31st, 2010 09:13 pm
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Extraordinary posting, amazing tale. I have not noticed this sort of horse conversations exactly as you describe but in my mind I cannot possibly rule out that your idea could be right. My own horse does converse with me I believe in a way similar to the way horse vocalise with each other but I have not (yet) observed this participation in human conversation that you describe.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 1st, 2010 03:26 pm
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Perhaps they are not reacting to the words but, the pause that comes after a sentence and so they fill in with a little something of theirs just to "blend in" to the human herd. I have seen horses do extraorinary things in my life, even to the point of working as a team in a way only thought of coming from predators. There have been a lot of "Well I`ll be darns" in my 52 years of being around them. I`m always going back to try to understand "what just happened there."

I just got done reading an interesting article in Time Magazine called, "What Animals Think".  Quite amazing and new studies show that many animals are smarter than we gave them credit for. We are always having to re-define our idea of what it means to be " human smart" as opposed to other creatures that we share this planet with. And of course, then there are certain individuals that are just heads above average.

Scientists should really start asking their owners how smart their horses/dogs/cats are and what incidences have happen (because some of us are so close to our animals) that show us that we have "thinking" creatures. I`m sure there would be a lot of embellishment of what we "think" we see but then there are the happenings that just can`t be explained away.

On another possbility Allen, could the riders have tightened their cores just a little or brought their seat into "go" position just the slightest when talking about the anticipation of working the cattle? Could you or your friends muscles have tightened just the miniscule amount when remembering the pigs and subconsciously or consciously at the time worrying about the possibility of a shy? perhaps the horses were reacting to either your body at the time of the conversation or remembering what your body felt like when it happened in the past, at just that place? Horses are so waaay more feeling of us than we could ever be of them, it`s just their wiring and of course they never forget.  

Jeannie
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 Posted: Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 10:27 pm
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Hi Allen and all,
     
             I know horses have an amazing ability to understand our intentions, and it's hard to know just what it is they are picking up from us at any moment. Maybe words, tone of voice, energy or body language. I think they can be taught alot more than most people think they can, the things your horses do are quite amazing. The more they learn, the more they seem to understand how to learn.

   I have been wondering this summer about whether horses have the ability to understand they are not to do something they want to do even if you are not around to correct them. A few years ago I saw someone correct their dog with the term "leave it", and I thought a horse could be taught the same thing. It works fine when I'm around, but since I don't live at the barn, I've tried using it to explain to him things he needs to leave alone all the time. There was an area in the paddock fence which he was pushing over to get to the grass last spring when he was locked up most of the time. I told him to leave that, and he did for a long time. I found him there once more and reminded him, then he left it alone. I also did this with their fly masks, because they were pulling them off each other. He has pulled it off once, but it has worked pretty well. The problem is there is no way to know if he is doing this as a result of understanding what I want him to do, or if he has just lost interest in the activity.

    I've been trying to think of a controlled experiment which would indicate what is actually happening, and was wondering if anyone else has tried something like this.
  Perhaps you could lead them to an open gate in an area they don't usually get to go in, and they would be curious about it,  tell them to leave it, then go hide where they can't see you, but they think you have gone, and then see what they do. Would their desire trump their discipline once you are gone?

                                                               Jeannie

Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Thu Sep 9th, 2010 03:45 pm
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Hello Jeanie, et.al.

 A while back I had an email discussion with a leading equine behaviorist from the Australian Equine Behavior Centre on the subject of reasoning powers of horses..

This fellow has the usual number of letters after his name to lend credibility to his 'scientific' bona fides. It was his assertion that horses had very little ability (if any) to 'reason' in a discernable manner,and he gave examples of tests they had conjured up to prove that horses cannot reason..

What happened is that they made up tests which proved that horses can be set up to fail the test.

I believe that horses can reason, but they do so only for their own reasons.

One of the 'tests' had to do with putting grain in a bucket in view of the horse and then setting the bucket down beside an empty bucket and then observing the horse choose between buckets. The number of 'right' and 'wrong' choices were tabulated and they 'proved' that horses cannot reason which bucket has the grain. (judged by the action of whether or not the horse went to the bucket of grain first)

Instead what was actually achieved is that a test could be contrived that would prove the original hypothesis that horses cannot reason.  

This test might have been a suitable challenge for a primate or a child but it has  nothing to do with horse nature.

The circumstances I described in the original posting about how my horses seem to be cognizant of conversations between riders revolved around the realities of the moment and only if these realities have something to do with the horse's themselves. (i.e. something the horses are interested in)  

 There have been so many of these situations occur and with different guests that I  now take it for granted when the horses join in.. The guests have always maintained a degree of skeptical disbelief, that is until it begins to happen with a consistancy  that can only be described as 'spooky'.

If we go back and reread Kinship with All Life ( one of Dr. Deb's favorite 'suggested reading' titles) I am sure that this same ability will be ascribed to  Strongheart the German Shepard dog that got the author on the path towards understanding and accepting that a universal language can exist.

The photo attached illustrates three horses executing three different behaviors simultaneously at the urging of one vocal cue and of course the association with a familiar object and situation. 

 Does it prove anything?? 

 Only that horses can create or utilize powerful associations with words, actions and their immediate environment.

Allen Pogue

 Dripping Springs, Texas

 

Attachment: 3tricks.JPG (Downloaded 731 times)

Jeannie
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 Posted: Fri Sep 10th, 2010 12:11 am
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Hi Allen,

  I think you are correct in saying that horses can reason, but they do so only for there own reasons. I think the learning process must enhance that innate ability. I'm sure one of the reasons horses like to do tricks is that they get a certain gratification from accomplishing it, as well as pleasing the person teaching them. Their reason for not doing something they want to do, but which they understand from a person that they should refrain from , would probably be similar, although I don't know how you could know for sure.

       Strongheart lived with his human trainer for months, apparently, while his police training was replaced by more positive human interaction appropriate for his new role as movie actor. All of your interaction with your two horses may have set up a similar situation, where they understand and contribute to the conversation. I wonder if you could figure out from their vocalizations if they had a preference for an activity, and follow up on that to the point where the horse understood you were acting on his input, then see if the horse would repeat his input the next time? I would be interested in any insights you gather.

                                                   Jeannie

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 Posted: Fri Sep 10th, 2010 12:40 am
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I love horses.  I don't care if they reason or are dumb.  I'm hardwired to like horses.  I'm also fortunate to have had horses on my own acreage and half the time in my yard and on my porch.  I can site examples of their ability to deduce and figure things out that demonstrate  their ability to think and reason. (Like we've cornered the market on that.) 

The "test" that Allen Pogue sited about the buckets with the grain is laughable.  If there isn't another horse around for competition, making time a factor....the horse is going to naturally check out the empty bucket....he already knows what's in the bucket with the grain!

I admit I don't know the exact mechanism of communication of Uno and Dos as described by Allen Pogue....but, something fantastic happened, I believe.  I say fantastic....it's probably something very "ordinary" (at least to the horses), but we adults seem to streak by in life blurring over the "fantastic" that happens all around us.

Thank you for your posts, Allen, I enjoy the pictures and the conversation.  Mauri

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 Posted: Fri Sep 10th, 2010 02:11 am
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" I say fantastic....it's probably something very "ordinary" (at least to the horses), but we adults seem to streak by in life blurring over the "fantastic" that happens all around us".

I would call that "awareness" and I totally agree with you if that is what you mean. So many times (I am speaking for myself) we miss the details........ but the horses don`t.  I sometimes feel, with my own horses, it is their good natures letting me get by even though I missed the oppotunity to "get" what they were trying to say.

We must not judge horses by our own human intelligence because they have their own form of intellect, mixed with a lot more instinct for staying alive than we have. It is US who must, with our bigger brains, figure out where THEY are coming from and be grateful when they come from their side to try and figure US out. 

Having said all that, I am still astounded at some of the things my horses have done when no one was looking (with eachother) and some things that have saved my neck a time or two with me.

 

HorseSpeak
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 Posted: Wed Sep 15th, 2010 12:23 am
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I think there could be something to your observations. I haven't noticed anything like that before, perhaps I've missed something.

They certainly do respond to our voice in terms of learning voice cues in training. Even my dog would pick up on my words and tone when correcting one of the horses which was doing something in the barn yard he shouldn't. The dog would begin to bark at the horse. I learned to refer to my dog as the barnyard policeman. Somehow the dog made an interpretation of the situation and took it upon himself to act upon it.

Historically, I have interacted with my horses in ways to indicate that they are not allowed to just waltz into the barn when the door is open. They must wait politely at the door and be invited in. I have said that to share this grin-experience with you. I had returned to the barn from the pasture having left the barn door open. I was about 150 feet away when I heard a noise coming from inside the barn. I playfully voiced a loud "Uh,Oh!" And to my surprise my inquisitive-natured Arabian gelding came trotting out of the barn door! Maybe it was his body language that gave me the impression that he had been doing something he shouldn't. He's the same horse that calls to me when he sees me or hears my voice outside the house. He's done this since he was a foal.

Maybe those "Thelwell" cartoons are closer to the truth than we think!

Jeannie
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 Posted: Wed Sep 15th, 2010 11:46 pm
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Hi folks,
  I was talking with a friend about this topic the other day, when she reminded me of something her smart pony had done. If someone forgot to latch his stall door ,he would open it and get into the hay, etc that was in the barn. The first time, she found him still out there when she opened the barn door, but the next time he had gone back in his stall before she caught him in the act, and the time after that, he not only went back in his stall, but closed it behind him, leaving a gap of a couple of inches. He was in his twenties at the time.
                        
                                     Jeannie

rifruffian
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 Posted: Thu Sep 16th, 2010 02:38 pm
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LOL !

Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Tue Sep 21st, 2010 04:08 pm
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An insistent repetitive snort.

 Hi Folks,

  As a follow-up to my original message about Uno and Dos 'talking' I am going to relate a situation that happened last night with Sombra a six-year-old Hispano-Arab mare, who raised just like Uno and Dos perhaps has a similar ability or at least desire to communicate.

 Sombra has a six week old foal at her side and last night I was riding her in our big round pen  where we have a large agility platform . The platform is 9ft square at the base with three levels of smaller places where thehorse can climb and stand.

 I rode sombra to the top level and her foal climbed right up alongside. I allowed her to stand still, but within 30 seconds or so she began to offer a determined, repetitive snort while raising her left front leg as if to paw but she did not strike the rubber mats, instead just stood there tensely ..

 This seemed a bit out of character and it took me a few seconds to remember that Sue had told me a few days previous that there was a nest of red wasps under the platform. I looked back and sure enough two wasps were circling around behind Sombra.

 I am quite certain that Sombra was indicating her awareness of the danger and was telling me that she really did not want to remain there any longer .

So this is a case where the horse was doing its level best to talk to me. The was horse was absolutely using its reasoning power because the subject was of interest to its well-being. She had not been stung, and to my knowledge never has been but she was aware of the danger.

 This is exactly what I meant when I said that horse can and do reason but only for their own reasons and only if they choose to do so.. I do not believe that a pseudo-scientict can contrive a 'test' that is of much interest to a horse.

Allen

FYI Picture attached shows Sombra and her foal on the platform so you can get an idea of the challenge presented.

  

Attachment: Taba.JPG (Downloaded 534 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Nov 3rd, 2010 08:33 am
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What a nice shoulder that foal has, Allen. Can't wait to see him when he's all grown up.

I have paused on replying in this thread, because of wanting to permit as much free speech as possible between as many people as possible. But having waited, the first thing I want to do is 100% agree with all that you have been trying to say here.

Allen, I know that you are aware of Henry Blake's books; anyone else who may not be, then I do suggest that you go get anything by Henry Blake that you can get your hands on. For Blake, more than any other author, talks about how horses talk -- to us, and to each other.

My own belief is that horses have two main modes of communication. One is the 'ordinary' mode, i.e. one that obeys the laws we normally associate with this physical universe. So of course horses snort -- they have muscles both inside of and outside of their noses which permit them a wide range of sound modulation, i.e. a sound 'vocabulary', everything from the softest of chuckles or whickers which just flutter the nostrils and which are barely audible to us humans, to loud reverberating snorts, sneezes, and whistles. It is acknowledged by researchers (not behavioralists, whose work I universally distrust, but field biologists and zoologists studying how animals change when they are taken from the wild into domestication) that wolves do not bark. And yet wolves are certainly the ancestors of the domestic dog. These same reliable researchers think that dogs learned to bark in imitation of human speech -- not only as a way to communicate with humans, but also as a way to get our attention when the dog thinks it needs to!

Besides nasal sounds, horses also of course use their larynx to produce voiced neighs, whickers, grunts, chuckles, roars, and laugh-like sounds. And, likewise on the 'ordinary' physical plane, all of you who have read the 'Birdie Book' know they have an extensive vocabulary composed of physical posturings, of which 'ears laid back' is only the first and most obvious 'phrase'. One major point made in the BB is that to be a competent horseman or horsewoman, you really need to learn how to 'read' equine body language.

Now, the second, and I think even more significant level where horses communicate is by mental pictures. It took me many years, and several thumps over the head by my old friend and mentor Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith, to realize that not every person has this ability or is very strong in this area. I am an artist as well as a scientist, so it never occurred to me that people who might read something I wrote would simply not be able to picture it in their mind's eye. Dr. Matthew had to thump me to get me to believe that my own ability to do this is not a common talent, when I would have figured that everybody was created equal in this area. When I came to realize that Dr. Matthew was correct, I began adding much more in the way of visual imagery to everything I publish, in order to help people to 'see' who cannot easily construct 3D images or scenes, or rotate and move them in their head.

One of the points made again and again by Baucher, as well as by some later riding instructors, is that in order to be fair to your horse, you have to tell him what you want him to do some time before you expect him to do it. Baucher says, 'your job on horseback is to make what you want your horse to do as easy and as obvious to him as possible.' Ray Hunt says, 'you fix it up, and let him find it' and also 'set the horse up, and let him do it.'

What all of this comes down to is that the rider must pre-visualize. In simple terms, if you are riding along the rail in the arena, approaching a corner, you need to visualize the horse bending his body before he arrives in the corner. You can do more than visualize also, i.e. twirl the head, cause him to untrack with the inside hind leg, put your outside eye over his outside ear, and so forth. But the MAIN aid is that you picture your horse executing a perfect corner before you get into the corner.

Furthermore, when students ask 'how am I supposed to get my horse to untrack', I start talking to them about their 'plasma leg' or else talk to them about 'the energy that is coming out of the calf of your leg'. I ask them if they used to read comic books as a kid, and did they read the 'Fantastic Four' and do they remember Stretch. All of this is to get them to picture this plasma arm coming out of the calf of their leg, reaching in an arc around to touch the horse on the thigh to help him step a little more under his body-shadow. But in reality, none of this type of teaching will work if the student refuses to 'believe' -- in other words, if she thinks it's too silly or too dumb and so what she really refuses to do is to get into it, she refuses to visualize.

And this is understandable, because visualization -- particularly for people who don't practice it every day, every hour of every day -- is very hard work. And a lot of people don't want to bother to going to any kind of hard work in order to help their horse to do his work better; they just want the horse to take them for a ride.

Now my point in all of this is that, for those who ARE willing to work on clarifying their inner pictures, 'plasma' aids really work wonderfully, because they are, you might say, broadcasting on the horse's main channel, which is a picture channel that has no words at all. So when Allen talks about his horses snorting in reply, I believe him for the same reason that I believe that dogs bark in imitation of human speech. But if you read J. Allen Boone's "Kinship with All Life", it will become breathtakingly obvious that Strongheart only resorted to barking when he could not get Boone to 'tune in' to the preferred channel of inner visualization, mutual visualization.

Now I am going to tell a story, and the first thing I want to say is that this story taught me many things that I am not likely to forget while I live. It was in New Zealand when I was down there a number of years ago, and we were scheduled to teach the carcass dissection class. Of course, for this we accept donations of animals that are going to be euthanatized or that have recently been euthanatized because they died of colic or some other cause in a veterinary clinic. We then take the carcasses and use them for one final purpose, to help better educate all kinds of people whose business or whose calling it is to be in the horse world.

Well, the specimen in this case was a tiny white pony. It was old and blind and the owner had notified the veterinarian that she had decided that the pony's quality of life was not good. I met the vet at the owner's place. There was the pony standing in a paddock with its best friend, a full-sized TB mare. We put the halter on the pony and led it up into a horse trailer. The TB mare watched us calmly. Then the vet put the drugs in and the pony died, and its spirit went out of its body.

As soon as I knew the spirit was gone, the TB mare also knew it. She could plainly see the pony's body lying in the open back of the trailer, but that was not what she was looking for. The body was just an object. So she whirled and peered and ran all over the paddock, looking and calling out loud for her little friend, but her little friend was not there.

This convinced me, as nothing else has ever done, that horses don't really care too much about the physical body. They see -- or perhaps we had better say, they 'perceive' -- the inner essence, the spirit -- whatever you want to call that energy or that glow that emanates from the inside of the body. This is what my horse 'sees' when I walk up to him, and this is what he 'feels' when I am aiding him.

'The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man' said Winston Churchill. True; but I think even more true is that the inside of a man had better be very good stuff before it is at all good for any part of a horse. For this reason, it does really matter to me that the teachers and clinicians that I recommend be commendable people, 'large of spirit', of good character.

Now, on a lighter note, I want to append this bit from last Sunday's newspaper -- because anything we have been saying here certainly applies to all animals, even houseflies, as J. Allen Boone so evocatively notices. The piece is entitled 'Tail Walking Amusement', and I am certain that Allen is going to appreciate this after all he has said about his more experienced horses teaching the foals:

'Dolphins off southern Australia appear to be learning to "walk" on the surface of the water with their tails and seem to be doing it just for fun. Researcher Mike Bossley of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society says he first observed two adult female dolphins demonstrating the spectacular tail-walking on Adelaide's Port River. One of the dolphins is said to have learned the trick while briefly held at a marine park. It later taught the other female the trick after being released back into the wild. The tail-walking behavior is being picked up by the wider dolphin community, according to WDCS. "As far as we are aware, tail-walking has no practical function and is performed just for fun, akin to human dancing or gymnastics," Bossley said.'

 

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 Posted: Thu Nov 4th, 2010 07:39 pm
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This has been a fascinating thread to read. I would like to add a note to dolphin tail walking story. The day after that story came out here in New Zealand, a video of NZ dolphins tail walking in in the wild was shown on TV here. The story quoted a dolphin biologist who said that tail walking is not seen very often but it is seen out in the wild and these dolphins haven't had any contact with humans.

I guess they don't really need humans to teach them how to have fun :-)

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 Posted: Fri Nov 5th, 2010 05:12 pm
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Just the other day I was talking with a friend on the phone. Her two pomeranians were barking in the backround everytime she spoke, they were quiet when it was my time to speak on the other end. We thought it amusing, funny actually, that they would bark everytime she began to tell me something. Now I look at it in a little different light; perhaps they wanted to be part of the conversation in the only way they could vocalize that was similar to human speach. We thought maybe they were barking just to get her attention but perhaps it was more than that.........VERY interesting. 


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