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  • Lauren Fraser, MSc, CHBC

'She's faking lameness to get out of work.' Horse Behavior Myth #5

It's frequently said that horses fake lameness to get out of work. Or that they spook to annoy their riders. But horses simply do not have the cognitive capacity to plot and scheme in this manner. They are no more able to mentally plot and scheme than we are able to flap our arms and fly. They lack the cognitive ability as much as we lack the physical ability. Plotting, scheming and devising are all easily accomplished by human brains. The cognitive qualities that allow us to do this are the same that allow us to project those abilities onto the horse. But that still doesn't make it true, or possible.

If a horse acts lame, they are lame. If a horse spooks at something, it is because they have been startled. Neither are occurring because the horse has devised a plan to get out of work. While horses are very intelligent animals, they have not evolved with the ability to plot and scheme as we have. Horses are intelligent in ways that are very specific to them as a species, just as we are, and our brains have evolved for different purposes

Let's use our brains for good, fellow horse people, and not for projecting such abilities onto the horse. Use your brain to help bust this silly and harmful myth next time you hear it spouted.

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