Young Horses Learn Manners From Adults

Keeping juvenile horses with just their peers, as often happens, promotes unruly behavior, a French study finds. Researchers reached this conclusion after comparing the behavior of immature horses before and after adult horses joined the group.

When two mares were added to a group of fillies, or two geldings to a group of colts, the young horses' social skills improved substantially. With the adults' influence, the one and two-year-olds became less aggressive, resorting less often to biting and kicking.

At the same time, the young horses grew more sociable, and more frequently displayed positive social interaction. The youngsters also learned new behaviors after the adults arrived, and developed preferences for which herd mates they associated with.

The study demonstrates that mature horses have a positive influence on how yearlings and two-year-old horses behave, suggesting there are benefits to raising young horses in circumstances where they can interact with adults.


Marie Bourjade, Maic Moulinot, Severine Henry, Marie-Annick Richard-Yris, Martine Hausberger. 2008. Could adults be used to improve social skills of young horses, Equus caballus? Developmental Psychobiology. 50 (4): 408-417.

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