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First Posted Aug 16, 2009
Aug 3, 2010

Horse's Visual Preference/Left or Right Eye?

PubMed

"Visual laterality in the domestic horse (Equus caballus) interacting with humans." Farmer K, Krueger K, Byrne RW.
Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JP, Scotland, UK.
Published in the July 2009 issue of "Animal Cognition"

"Most horses have a side on which they are easier to handle and a direction they favour when working on a circle, and recent studies have suggested a correlation between emotion and visual laterality when horses observe inanimate objects. As such arterialization could provide important clues regarding the horse's cognitive processes, we investigated whether horses also show laterality in association with people. We gave horses the choice of entering a chute to left or right, with and without the passive, non-interactive presence of a person unknown to them.

The left eye was preferred for scanning under both conditions, but significantly more so when a person was present. Traditionally, riders handle horses only from the left, so we repeated the experiment with horses specifically trained on both sides. Again, there was a consistent preference for left eye scanning in the presence of a person, whether known to the horses or not. We also examined horses interacting with a person, using both traditionally and bilaterally trained horses. Both groups showed left eye preference for viewing the person, regardless of training and test procedure. For those horses tested under both passive and interactive conditions, the left eye was preferred significantly more during interaction. We suggest that most horses prefer to use their left eye for assessment and evaluation, and that there is an emotional aspect to the choice which may be positive or negative, depending on the circumstances. We believe these results have important practical implications and that emotional laterality should be taken into account in training methods."

Interesting Note

It has been shown that the left eye is the 'rapid-reaction' eye, and has a stronger and faster flight reaction to a frightening stimulus presented on the left. The study indicated that this affects the horses's interaction with people.

The horse that generally prefers you on the left, but is not bothered if you are on the right, is probably seeing you as a cooperative partner, whose lead it would like to follow.

For More Information

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