Suggestions for flash cards and your horse...

I experimented with Max (Raynyday Maximillian). The other two horses seemed uninterested in discrimination but poked at and played with the cards, especially after they saw Max getting treats connected in some way with the cards. This was probably contagious learning, so if you plan to run experiments, they should be out of sight of potential test subjects.

The possibility of contagious learning also means that your horse can learn from you. Max learned as a colt how to open boxes, trunks, anything with a lid. And he did it because a friend of mine teased him about opening her tack trunk at a horse show. It only took once, so if you want to test your horse in clever ways, think ahead to consequences. As for Smoke, he had what appeared to be an obsession with wheelbarrows. It turns out that his breeder feeds supplements to their Morgans out of a wheelbarrow. Not surprisingly, he associates wheelbarrows of any sort (class of objects) with food.

Being cautious about access to containers is also a health issue, as horses can founder if they get into feed containers. I am careful to prepare feed in a separate enclosure and keep the main pelleted feed in a shed outside the barn and pasture area.

In the photo below (Dr. Ruth M. Vale, photographer), Raynyday Smoke 'n Mirrors (Morgan and nephew of Max) and Vulkan (Württemberger) play with objects in their arena.

The first "run" of the Social Intelligence Tests gave Max the idea of fetching objects. So I bumped it up a notch, and had him fetch named objects like "stick" or "bucket." He added automobile tires, which I ignored (extinction). Too easy. He can discriminate among objects, as he showed in Tests TWO and THREE.

So I bumped it up another notch with flash cards. He quickly caught on to the pair of flash cards as a game. So I bumped it up another notch with three cards. I gave him one, two and three dot cards, where the dots were all the same size. He would go to cards in succession as they were pointed out, as in the image below (Dr. Ruth M. Vale, photographer). It turns out that many combinations of trials are possible with three cards.

Some results were unexpected, as Max (above) could figure out any card with pointing (easy). Or I could use voice. I would say "one," "two" or "three" or let him see which card got the treat and then mix them up (shell game with non identical shells). He always figured out which card had the snack (they were all rubbed with the treat to smell the same). However, the voice set of tests resulted in what I thought were "mistakes" until I realized that there was a pattern to the "misses." After initial training trials (see Test ELEVEN) plus several successful picks of the spoken name of the card, he would pick any card but the named card. Is this a negative confirming test on his part? Hmmm... It may be that he uses the "Dr. Seuss Principle" when dealing with three or more objects: This one thing, and all other things. This strategy of thinking reduces categories back to two from a higher number.

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