Over the course of 2 weeks, researchers conducted daily 15 minute training sessions that gave horses the ability to better express their needs to their human handlers. It sounds simple, but their new horse code allows them to tell their humans whether they are “too hot,” and need their blankets removed, “too cold,” and need a blanket put on, or “just right,” and that they don’t need anything at all.
The conversations between humans and horses is limited, but the horses learned quickly, stunning the world.
The experiment was simple. The horses were kept in a controlled environment. During sessions, researchers placed the horses in very warm stable with a blanket on, or in a cold environment without a blanket. The horses were rewarded when they chose the correct option with a nice carrot. When horses were sweating and indicated for their blanket to be removed, researchers rewarded the horses. When they asked for a blanket while shivering, they were also rewarded with a carrot. If they chose the wrong option, they were not rewarded, but their choice was demonstrated until they chose correctly.
Eventually, the horses realized that they could communicate with humans and were excited to do so. Even when they were not being trained, they would get the attention of a passing researcher by indicating on their boards that they were hot or cold without expecting a carrot. The researchers discovered that the horses truthfully understood their choices, as the horses who asked for a blanket removed were found to be sweating underneath.
The horses began to use their new skills as weather conditions changed over the next few months, telling their owners how they felt.
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