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Does your pony/horse know it's name?

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  • Does your pony/horse know it's name?

    In the Two horses - one name thread, there was a sub-discussion regarding whether ponies/horses really know what their name is.

    I was fairly certain that all three of mine did- but thought I'd try something (totally unscientific mind you) to see if I was right. Two of mine are in the same 4 acre pasture, a good 100 yards from the gate. I call for the pony once, by name and he immediately raises his head, turns toward me and pricks his ears. The horse stays head down in the grass. I wait for the pony to go back to grazing, and I call the horse once by name. The horse immediately raises his head and pricks his ears and starts walking toward the gate. The pony doesn't move from eating grass.

    So, I am confident when I say that they really do know their names. So I'm curious if you think your ponies and horses know their names?

    71
    Pony/Horse definitely knows their name
    77.78%
    56
    Pony/Horse sometimes knows their name
    5.56%
    4
    Pony/Horse knows name only if food is involved
    0%
    0
    Pony/Horse knows my voice, but not their names
    13.89%
    10
    Horse/Pony definitely doesn't know their name
    2.78%
    2
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

  • #2
    I am not sure my mare knows her name.

    But today I had my coach's old school master mare out in attended turnout. When the horses were standing near the gait hoping to go in for dinner, I said her name. Her ears went up. I said a couple nicknames, Toodles and Beautiful. Her ears were neutral. I said her name. Her ears went up again.

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    • #3
      I once knew a horse who knew his owner's name in addition to his own. If you said "Kim's here!" He would look out his stall and look for his owner. Although i think he was quite disappointed that I wasn't his "Kim".

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      • #4
        I am not sure they know the name as the words.
        Horses probably have the intonation that we mean as them in mind as we are referring to them.
        Some horses even know the names of other horses, dogs, "Billy!" the goat, as they will look at the one we name.

        Again, it is not so much the name itself as we know it, but that intonation, I think.
        Try saying their name but thinking another name, not them and saying it in a very neutral manner and see if they still respond.
        At times I have meant another horse and said the wrong name and the right horse responded, the other one named ignored me before I corrected myself and repeated with the right name.

        Or they are reading minds.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Bluey View Post
          I am not sure they know the name as the words.
          Horses probably have the intonation that we mean as them in mind as we are referring to them.
          Some horses even know the names of other horses, dogs, "Billy!" the goat, as they will look at the one we name.

          Again, it is not so much the name itself as we know it, but that intonation, I think.
          Try saying their name but thinking another name, not them and saying it in a very neutral manner and see if they still respond.
          Today the older mare pricked up her ears when she heard her name in a sentence. And her ears went neutral when I said nicknames in a come- hither voice.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

            Today the older mare pricked up her ears when she heard her name in a sentence. And her ears went neutral when I said nicknames in a come- hither voice.
            Some times, there is more to names than just the name itself.

            Maybe context matters to horses also.

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            • #7
              My mare can certainly hear words in sentences. If she's having a pissy day and I say to another human "I'm going to try to canter now," she pins her ears and shakes her head.

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              • #8
                They definitely know certain words at least from context (No, Breakfast, Dinner, Whoa, Move Over, Good Pony) but I'm not sure they know their names. I also don't typically make a big effort to teach them like I would a dog or cat, though. I'm not even sure the cats know their names, one comes no matter what name I call and the other one only comes if she's hungry.

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                • #9
                  My young QH knows "his" whistle. He will leave the heard and come to the gate when he's whistled. His last owner before me taught him that . . .kind of cool because he actually canters/runs to the person who whistles. But no, none of mine know their names . . .just that they are greatly loved and cared for.

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                  • #10
                    My girl knows her name and likes it. If I say her previous name she will pin her ears at me.

                    I love walking up to her field, calling her name and watching her head come up with her cute little pony face and ears.

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                    • #11
                      My horses seem to know who I'm yelling at when it's preceded with a name. For example, when I'm leading one horse from the pasture and her buddy runs up and gets in her space. I can yell at the buddy by name ("Dobbin GET") and she will respond to my elevated tone, but the horse I'm leading won't react and seems to understand the command is not directed at her. I'm not sure if there is some other body language or cue at play that tips the horses off, but it works in nearly every circumstance.

                      But in other contexts, they seem to either have selective hearing or just don't care about their name. For example, if I'm calling them, they usually all come at the sound of my voice with no obvious recognition of names.

                      As others have said, they certainly know other words in context. Walk, trot, canter, whoa, cookie, etc.

                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

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                      • #12
                        I think (IME) that they respond to their human's voice saying a "word" that they have heard repeated - when the human in question is trying to engage with them.

                        Voice tone is important too; when I call my mares' names I use a higher pitched voice (both of them have names with two syllables so it's easier to use a singsong tone), and they will snap their heads up. I call my younger mare over to me to get a treat using her name - have been doing this since she was a baby.

                        (I'm a dog trainer and constantly have to point out to my students that voice tone is everything when it comes to communicating with dogs; they tend to talk their dogs' ear off using full sentences in a conversational tone, or use baby talk - I'm guilty of this too! - but getting them to use appropriate and different voice tones for attention, praise, and commands can be challenging!) I do demos showing how this works by saying the words "dog's name! Watch me!" in a high pitched, excited voice tone - all the dogs snap to attention, surprising their owners but making my point.

                        Now I'm going to have to do an experiment and try calling out a different word in my "name calling tone" - and see whether my mares respond to that.

                        "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                        "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")

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                        • #13
                          I have kept multiple horses of my own (7-18, the number varies) at home for almost 30 years. When I call a name, that one particular horse responds out of the group. They are all mine. They are all treated similarly. For whatever reason they connect with the sound of their name: maybe each one has learned it as 'treat' and they do not wonder why the others ignore it?
                          No matter where you go, there you are

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                          • #14
                            Mine know my voice. They know my truck, too. But, I don't really believe that they know their names and even if they do, they don't respond to their names any better/differently than they respond to me saying, "my sweet boo boo," "you handsome boy," or "butthead" (said in loving tones).
                            "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                            that's even remotely true."

                            Homer Simpson

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                            • #15
                              Mine know their respective names. I too have owned multiple horses over the years and despite the group or their location, they know exactly who I'm calling. That doesn't mean I might have more than one respond at a time; but, the 'victim' isn't the only one who recognizes his/her name; so, do the others and will often chase after the one I'm focusing on at that time.
                              Ranch of Last Resort

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                              • #16
                                My {Ahem} Theoretical Research seems to prove they do indeed recognize their names as well as simple commands.
                                Each of my current 3, as well as their predecessors, will acknowledge - raise head, prick ears, look at - me calling them by name when in a herd situation. The un-named will ignore me, unless it is near feeding time or they suspect a treat may be available.
                                They all also respond to simple commands & physical signals.
                                EX:
                                Over = move away from me < used when I'm in the stall & need them to move over a skosh

                                Get in your house = get back into your stall < after I've let them roam the aisle or run in the indoor
                                (my own barn, so no safety issue for anyone else)

                                Cookie = come out from your stalls & get a treat < used after I've fed mornings, finished chores & am seated on the bench outside my barn

                                & of course: NO! or QUIT! < meaning whatever you are doing, cut it out Pronto

                                My mini, who I drive, knows verbal commands (as does any Driving horse) & will Halt (the Gold Standard for a Driver), Trot or Canter on command. I use Step It Up to ask for more in any gait.
                                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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                                • #17
                                  Both my girls know their names and will respond if called. They both also know a few basic commands such as "Stall" which is used for go line up by your stall and wait to be let it (usually for dinner), "leave it" usually to stop my Welsh from tasting the dogs tail, and "up" to put their foot on the farriers stand. They also know the basic riding/groundwork verbal cues and will stretch themselves on command.

                                  The only issue I've ever had with having "verbal" horses is my Welsh will listen to my test caller or the announcer at a show and respond before I give the cue. So she needs ear Poms to stop her reacting to the speaker.

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                                  • #18
                                    I have a 13yo horse and a yearling. Both of them know their names very well and react/come when called. I also use a very specific intonation when I call my older horse, however, I use the same intonation when calling other horses with three-syllable names/nicknames, and he only ever responds, if I'm calling his name. He also knows lots and lots of voice commands and responds to them accordingly - from change of gaits and various tricks or handling commands, to an accidentally taught half-halt, as I'm quite vocal and kept saying a short "Ready?" when doing a half halt. Now I just have to say "Ready?" and he does it by himself

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                                    • #19
                                      I know my lease horse "knows" her name, but she doesn't always listen to it.
                                      Thinking of it, the way she and the other horses she lives with act, I think their names are actually just individual versions of the command "come" for each of them, at least when they are out in the paddock.

                                      They know that their individual name means walk over to me, and there is a special "dinnertime" whistle as well, which is asking everyone to come in.

                                      Funnily enough, one word my lease horse doesn't seem to know is "cookie" or "treat" which I find odd because she is a total chow hound. Just the other day I had already let her go out, and my mom had brought half a carrot for her. We said "cookie, B" and she kept walking away, but as soon as we said "B" on it's own, and authoritatively, she turned around and then saw the carrot.

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                                      • #20
                                        I used clicker training to teach my horse to “come” like I would a puppy. The verbal cue is his name spoken with a particular inflection. I use his name in a more conversational tone to preface other cues. He knows his name as much as my dog does and is more obedient lol

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