BB HORSE CARE - Equine Bodywork & Coaching for Equestrians
The big question is: DO HORSES RELY ON SMELL?
The answer is YES, they do.
Here are some facts why:
Remember, horses are prey animals. Our domesticated animals such as dogs and cats are predators. Horses can smell them when they are on the same property as well as when further away e.g. in the neighbourhood. Our dogs are relatives to wolfs ( predator!!!).
Horses can get used to our dogs as we all know, some better than others and based on experiences.
Its our job to remember, WE know that the neighbours dog is friendly when he barks, our horses might get nervous about that and feel threatened. So we need to make them feel safe and comfortable and be patient and calm.
One aspect to help them feel safe is, let your horse sniff objects of interest and humans or animals too if it safe to do so. If you are worried about your horse getting annoying sniffing everything you can train him with consistency in what situations he is allowed and in which not. As an example: sniffing with halter on is okay, under saddle with a bridle on is not okay. Sniffing is okay at home, but not when going to a competition or clinic or a trek with other horses. Horses are smart and will learn the difference.
A really interesting questions is: Can horses smell fear in humans?
There is no scientific evidence for that, BUT what we do know is that they can smell stress hormones ( cortisol and adrenaline) in us. They can smell sweat when we get nervous, before we even notice it. And we know that stallions can smell mares when they are in season but miles away. We also know that mares can smell their own foals and will notice the difference if another foal wants to come close to her and drink. That's why it is often tricky if we need to introduce a foal who has lost its mother to a different mare to nurse. There are some tricks people use to " manipulate" the sense of the mare for that reason.
Finally, some interesting facts of horses smell ability compared to a dogs sense of smell:
We all know how extraordinary a dogs sense of smell is. If we look at the dogs working as " bomb dogs" to find bombs, or the "drug" dogs at the airports, or the dogs that find people buried under an avalanche...the list is long. A fact is, a dogs sense of smell is about a 100.000times more accurate than a humans sense of smell. So what about our horses?
Science found out, horses have more or the same amount of receptors for smell than many breeds of dogs have. What a surprise!!!!
Compared to the visual pathway in a horses brain, the smell pathway is much much bigger.
Means, the horses brain processes much more information from the sense of smell than the eyesight.
Did you know?
Once again, it shown how extraordinary our equine friends are and that we often underestimate their brain and how they explore the world!
The next blog will be about the sense of smell. very important to know when it comes to food, but also the taste of water or even the different taste a bit has, what we expect them to take into their mouth and keep it there for as long as we ride.
One fact to finish here and make you curious about the next Blog:
80% of the sense of taste comes from the sense of smell, just like in humans.
Stay tuned for next time.
For the love of horses,