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Does your pony/horse know it's name?

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    I'm pretty sure my horse thinks her name is "pony" since that's what I call her most often. I'm betting that cadence and inflection matter just as much as the actual words.


      I have four horses. Two of them definitely know their names, and the other two definitely do not know their names, but know my voice and come when I whistle for them all.

      I think the difference is just because I use the two names individually more often than the two who don't know theirs. I'm not sure why that is, maybe they're just easier to say, or maybe it's because they get ridden more? I have owned one of the ones who doesn't know her name for 22 years.


        I think anyone who has seen an upper level CDE team or pair work knows they certainly know their names. Also I think given the range of verbal commands many learn and all driving horses absolutely must know, why do we think they don't recognize their names?

        Now I think a lot of people are pretty inconsistent in the use of their horse's name, probably more so than they would be with their dog who is in much closer proximity for many more hours of the day than the average boarder's horse. And even dogs have selective hearing and I think they are far more evolutionarily adapted to being attuned to human body language and commands. My corg does this hystrical high speed rollover when I say "you should roll over". It does not matter how another person says it, it's not gonna happen unless I say it. So I could understand if the owner is a boarder and not the first of his name, mother of the feed bin and breaker of carrots... well maybe name recognition comes a bit slower...
        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


          My horses know their names. We get flooded a lot. Sometimes in the dark. I can call to them and they will answer so I can locate them. They will also swim across flood waters to get to me if I call them and ask them to do so. They know and trust I will come for them and lead them to high ground and safety. If they are in separate paddocks I can call ones name and the one I call will respond while the others will continue to go about grazing. I don't understand how we can think dogs can know their name but horses can't?
          Just like our eyes, our hearts have a way of adjusting to the dark.--Adam Stanley


            My mare has a silly name. I call her lots of nicknames in her stall.

            I do whistle when I arrive and its also a cue to come when she is loose. I think that has functionality replaced her name in those situations.




                I changed my horse's barn name when I brought him home (Stater was way too close to Starter). It took him about 3 months to learn his new name. Yesterday I called him to the gate and he walked over while the rest of the herd ignored the non-food bearing human. My horse also knows canter, trot, walk, whoa, halt, over (move his hind end), shoulder (move his shoulder), side (side pass), foot (pick up your damned foot), back, and a couple of no sounds. Tone is important but I have given him these commands with multiple tones and he still reacts to each of them appropriately most of the time. All my previews horses learned these commands as well.

                I also have my cat trained to come, sit, laydown, high five, high five other paw, and sit up on his hind feet. He is learning to sit/stand/lay on a target then I tell him now. The cat definitely knows his name and reacts accordingly when I talk to him. My dog knows about 10 hand commands (he can't hear) and would learn more if we put the time into him.


                  Original Poster

                  My senior horse knows voice commands as well - walk, trot, canter, halt, back and away. Away was a new addition last year to make him stay away from me as I dump his mash into his feed bucket.,,, he kept trying to help me get the overturned bucket out of the way faster. Now when I say Away! he moves off, usually does a circle, then stops and looks at me. If I say "Now" he knows he can come up to his bucket. He turned 28 in Feb, so you can teach old horses new tricks!

                  I know a number of COTHers do clicker training with their horses and may give that a try because I think my horse would really take to it. I just always forget to buy a clicker when I'm out shopping.

                  When all three of mine were in the same pasture, a whistle would get them all to come up to the gate. I don't recall actually training them to do this, but for as long as I can remember, a whistle would get them to come running. We've been at the same farm for 17+ years, so it's hard to remember back that far! lol
                  ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                    My horses are all deceased now (after long lives), and I never figured out if they knew their names. But they certainly recognized voice commands. My driving ponies knew whoa, walk, trot, canter, easy (to calm down when hyper), and on the ground, back, step over, and others I'm not thinking of. They also differentiated who was giving the command. When I clicked my tongue to them, that meant move your feet, or move them faster. My husband always clicked when he asked for their feet to pick them out. They figured out clicking meant one thing from me, and another from him. There were other commands that we used differently, and the horses always seemed to sort it out successfully.

                    I sure miss them.



                      Horses are better at figuring us out than we are at figuring them out. There was that (admittedly small sample size but intriguing) blanket preference symbols experiment. And horses (along with dogs) are proven to be able to discern human emotional states from human facial expressions.

                      Winnie is my only horse. And I think she finally gets that I'm *her* person, and she's *my* horse. I call her anything from Winnifred Bee-at-trice Swift to Winnie B to Sweatpea to Ms. B to My Silly Girl to Snoochy to Sunshine (as in, good morning, Sunshine, if I show up to ride in the morning). She knows when I'm talking to her. Across the field or the aisle. As to whether she ignores me or not, depends on the day and the hay.
                      Last edited by MegBackInSaddle; May. 22, 2019, 10:22 AM. Reason: Can't proofread


                        I don't think I use my horse's name enough for him to know it's his name. He has a lot of nicknames. But I think he pretty much knows when I'm addressing him. And when I'm coming out to the pasture to get him so he can totally ignore me calling him until I'm almost to him, then act oh so surprised that I'm standing there.


                          I think it’s 50/50 for my horses. They have selective hearing! We recently bought a 4 year old who was an orphan and the old owner did a ridiculous amount of work with him so he knows his name. He is super annoying though!

                          My other two ignore my whistles, name calling etc when I go to get them from pasture. They will run up to my husband when he whistles. I’ll usually get half way out in the pasture and then they notice me.

                          I don’t really have any nicknames for them. It’s Lucky, Vinny, and Shades aka Shaders.


                            They know my voice and the " sound" of their name when I call or say it.

                            When I call "come on guys" they all come in. When I call my mare by name they both come in......

                            If someone else were to call by either of those methods I have no idea if they would respond or not. It's never been tried.
                            Last edited by candyappy; May. 24, 2019, 03:51 PM.


                              Having read this thread, last night I stood at the end of my horse's paddock, holding a carrot, and called "hello, hello there!!" My horse kept munching away, in his stall, at his dinner. I then called "Mark!" and his head shot up and he immediately walked out of his stall and down the paddock to me. (he also responds to 'Hey, you with the spots! because I call him that a lot. LOL)


                                My mare definitely knows her name ( I always use her name when calling her) but she also definitely chooses to ignore it at times.
                                But when she responds, I feel so blessed

                                Just yesterday I walked to her (big) paddock, she was grazing at the other end with her pony buddy. I called her, saw her raise her head and start moving toward me as I ducked under the fence. When I looked up on the other side, she was flat out galloping to me and stopped short a hand's width away. And stood like a rock while I pet her all over, picked up all her feet (routine check for us), took off her fly mask and put her halter on.

                                She made my day!

                                Today she didn't come to me, but after I went to her and petted her a bit and left, she walked next to me all the way to the gate and so I felt I had to put her halter on and get her out to "do" stuff, which I hadn't planned on. I just wanted to give her a pat in her paddock and let her be but she had her own agenda
                                Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                                  Since I usually work my horses in teams and have done so for many years, there is no doubt in my mind that horses can know their names, when they have heard them often enough in situations in which they were addressed individually, for example while grooming, feeding, etc. When I say to my team "step up", they both respond, when I use a name with it, the one addressed steps up, as is necessary when working in the field.


                                    My horse will pop his head over his stall in dramatic fashion if I call out his name. I think he also knows my voice and tone of when I greet him, and that voice/tone usually means a treat is coming! I can be talking in the aisle and he might not look, but with his name he for sure does.

                                    My cat has always come to his name. Even from the field next door. He for sure knows his name. He won't come unless I say his name, normal talking in the house doesn't guarantee his interest.


                                      Original Poster

                                      All these stories and anecdotes are great! Thanks to everyone for sharing. I've enjoyed hearing about everyone's experiences.

                                      Seems (so far) 77% think their pony/horse definitely know their name,16% feel its the voice the pony/horse recognizes, not the name and 3.5% each for definitely does not know name and sometimes knows name. Not sure why, but I guess I expected the voting to be more evenly spread amongst the choices.
                                      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                                        I think my horses know my voice more than their own names. I rarely use their names anyway - it's usually "mama", "mom", "girl" or "mare". They're both retired broodmares, hence the "mama" and "mom" pet names. The only time I use their call names is when I'm talking about them to someone else.

                                        Although... I sometimes wonder if my one mare thinks her name is "Ears Forward!" since she's a little grumpy. She'll be poking along, ears pinned and as soon as she hears "Ears Forward", they prick forward and she puts a happy face on.


                                          Oh and my animals sometimes learn the sound of my car beep when it locks. When we lived on a quiet street my husband said the cats knew my car "lock" sound was different than other cars. When they heard mine, they'd promptly leave his lap and wait for me at the door. Now I park in a garage and our street is super busy so they don't know it any more

                                          My horse's pen is near where the cars park and he looks up, even when eating, when I lock my car. But I'm not sure if he does it for other cars. The new gelding he is with doesn't look up with the car or when I call my horses name, so I there is that...