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Innovative Behavior in a Can of Peanuts
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Pamela Nolf
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Joined: Wed May 4th, 2016
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 Posted: Wed May 4th, 2016 11:47 am
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For several years, I have used peanuts as a reward for my Icelandic gelding Blessi. One day, I put the peanut can on the ground and lost track of it. Blessi did not. He flipped the top off the can in under 14 seconds.

He must have been watching me for years, translated my finger movements to actions he could perform with his lips, and figured out how to gain leverage by holding the can on the ground. Considering he had to perform these activities mostly in his blindspot, I am amazed at his problem solving abilities. See video link (this is the third time he had a can to play with but it is exactly how he performed on his first opportunity). Blessi was 18 when he first opened the peanut can.

https://youtu.be/wpA0AeTo2m0

I often observe him investigating objects by using his lips exactly where a person would normally place their fingers--playing with the joystick on a wheelchair, picking up a cat in her cat travel crate by using the handle and walking away with her, pushing a desk chair with wheels around and spinning it, investigating an ATV by playing with the keys, the shifter, the cushions. Blessi is more likely to repeat his original offered behavior if treats become involved and/or I laugh at him. For some reason ;-), he associates laughter with earning treats. Or else he has trained me.

I was wondering if mirror neurons are involved in this imitative behavior. I read some research on mirror neurons and mimic behavior in monkeys (research about mirror neurons and humans is controversial). Is there any research on mirror neurons and horses? I couldn't not find anything on Google.

Pamela Nolf


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