Can Horses Identify and Recognize Their Favorite People?

Does your horse react when you call its name but utterly ignore other people, such as the farrier, the veterinarian, or a total stranger?

Do they approach you when you open the pasture yet are evasive among your family and friends?

Even if this kind of selected behavior can occasionally be a coincidence, we must nonetheless wonder if our horses actually remember us. More importantly, can they tell us apart from other people who might feed them or ride them?

All people aspire to believe that our horses can distinguish between ourselves and every other human in the world. But it’s impossible to be certain without knowing their language. We do know, however, that numerous studies indicate horses appear to recognize the individuals who are close to them in a manner similar to how they appear to know other horses in their group.

A 2012 study by animal behaviorists revealed that horses can discriminate between humans using both aural and visual signals. It’s comparable to how people can connect a person’s voice to their face, according to lead researcher Dr. Leanne Proops.

She revealed to Horse Illustrated, “When we hear a familiar voice, we form a mental picture of who spoke. We match visual and auditory cues to recognize specific individuals.”

In order to carry out the experiment, the researchers had two persons stand on either side of a horse. The horse recognized one of the individuals, while the other was a complete stranger to him. After then, they played a recording of either the known person’s voice or the unfamiliar person’s voice through a speaker that was hidden somewhere.

The researchers’ findings indicate that whenever the horses heard the known person’s voice, the horses frequently looked in that person’s direction. This suggested that the horse was familiar with the voice and knew who the person was whose voice it was.

The horse did not appear to form any associations when it heard the strange voice coming from any of the persons who were standing close by.

The experiment was also carried out with two other people who the horse was previously familiar with. The purpose of the test was to determine whether or not the horses could differentiate between two familiar voices and associate each voice with a known face. The fact that most of the horses were successful in the test is evidence that horses employ multi-modal memory, which refers to memory that involves more than one sense, in order to recognize humans.

This experiment is analogous to what happens outside of a laboratory when, for example, your horse comes when you call it but chooses to ignore everyone else. They are able to identify your voice, compare it to the image of your face, and then draw the conclusion that you are someone who is known to them and can be trusted.

Dr. Karen McComb, who is also a co-author of the study, believes that horses may have developed this ability in order to protect themselves. Similar to dogs, horses have a long history of living alongside people. They are also animals that would be considered prey and have a powerful instinct to protect themselves. The necessity for horses to know who they may trust in, according to McComb’s theory, led to the evolution of the ability to recognize humans.

Recognition attained by Repeated behavior

According to a different school of thought, horses are more likely to recognize the patterns of behavior exhibited by humans as opposed to specific individuals.’

Your horse will begin to await your appearance if, for instance, you enter the barn each morning to provide hay. The same is true of your frequent outings, rides, and workouts. These interactions are acknowledged by your horse, and your routines may serve to further cement your familiarity in his thinking.

However, what would happen if you sent a neighbor to turn out your horse because you were ill one day? Will your horse recognize that your neighbour is not you if he or she does everything you normally do?