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LUKAS GOES ON THE ROAD WITH GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS You Can Count on the World’s Smartest Horse! Walnut, California – Lukas (, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), is currently being featured in the Guinness World Records “OMG! On the Road” series....

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Video du Jour: The world’s smartest horse? Meet Lukas, a 19-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred that the Guinness Book of World Records has declared “the smartest horse in the world.” Lukas is able to count, identify different numbers and shapes, spell his owners’ names, and perform various tricks. On June 16, 2010, he swept the Guinness record for “Most Numbers Identified By a Horse In One Minute”–he...

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Lukas and Louis Vuitton World’s Smartest Horse in Prestige Magazine News Flash – Paulick Report, Abundant Hope, Discover Horses, Good Relationships, Relaxed Horsemanship, That’s Really Wild, Equilink Times, Horsealacious, Just Equus, Equine Chronicle, Happy News, My Horse, Equine Welfare Alliance, Horse and Friends Radio Walnut, California – Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to...

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Lukas Has Plenty to Smile About World’s Smartest Horse Grabs a Guinness   Walnut, California --- Lukas (, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), has been featured in Caters! Caters news is the United Kingdom’s leading independent photo...

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World’s Smartest Horse Gets Cable! Lukas on Time Warner Television

Category : In the Press

Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder, was recently featured on Time Warner CNN Headline News (January 21, 22, 23). An interview with Karen Murdock, Lukas’ owner/trainer, traces his past and offers insights into their purpose.

  1. How old is Lukas and how long have you had him? Lukas is seventeen now; I bought him nine years ago.
  2. What is his background and how did you find him? I found Lukas advertised in a sale ad described as an inexperienced project horse. He’d been found starving and neglected in a yard – the woman I bought him from had tried to make him into a jumper but he wasn’t fitting in. His breed is a Thoroughbred and he raced in three races as a two-year-old, hurt his legs and left the track. He changed homes several times over the following six years until his rescue.
  3. What is your background and experience? I’ve been a psychiatric nurse for the last twenty-six years and I’ve also devoted my life to studying ways of training animals in a kind manner for their improved treatment. I use liberty – the horse is loose and free – and no equipment at all to show that animals can be taught without force.
  4. What are your techniques and can they be applied to other species? After thirty-five years of studying every type of training available, I developed a system based on Shaping, a clicker approach and positive reinforcement. In a nutshell, it’s getting small behaviors and putting them together by encouraging cooperation. And yes, I also use these techniques on all of my dogs as well; Wendel, my spaniel, who I’ve trained, is a certified therapy dog. My psychiatric patients, daughter, friends and neighbors, even my husband, and especially myself have benefited from this approach – principles based on trust, caring, appreciation and respect apply to everyone.
  5. We’ve heard that Lukas was just approved for a Guinness World Record – can you tell us about that and when did you notice that he was so smart? Yes, thank you, that was so exciting – our Guinness record was recently approved: “Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19.” Lukas’ intelligence came out gradually and as his eagerness and understanding grew, I just kept expanding the lessons.
  6. What are some things that Lukas can do? Lukas can kiss, smile, yawn, catch, fetch, wave, bow, curtsey, stay and come, sit, go on his pedestal, do lots of fancy footwork and rear. I’ve also taught him to identify letters, numbers and shapes, and discriminate colors, and he understands the concepts of spatial relationships, object permanence, same/different, proportion and absentness.
  7. Why did you start teaching him cognitive tasks? The cognitive tasks resulted from several things: curiosity about how much Lukas was capable of learning and a strong belief that animals would be treated better if people realized how smart they were. Also, from my mental health background, it is a way for people to practice kindness and hopefully be better humans to each other as well.
  8. What are your future plans? We have lots of exciting projects planned for 2011: increased exposure through appearances, interviews, articles and events. We hope to continue to spread Lukas’ message of hope and happiness to more people who also believe that the world can be a better place for all.

Watch the Time Warner interview at

DOES LUKAS KNOW HE’S LUKAS? World’s Smartest Horse Will Experiment with Self-Awareness

Category : In the Press

Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder, will participate in an experiment designed to determine his level of self-awareness. Lukas’ owner/trainer Karen Murdock was a recent guest on Horse Conscious (, and this prompted a lively discussion and her further investigation into animal cognition and perception. For a long time, experts have claimed that humans and animals differ in two primary ways: the use of language and the capacity for self-awareness.

For this experiment, Murdock will utilize the mirror test, developed by Gordon Gallup in 1970 (based on observations by Charles Darwin). It determines whether an animal can recognize its own reflection in a mirror as an image of itself. Only humans (after the age of eighteen months), great apes, bottlenose dolphins, orcas, elephants and European magpies have passed the mirror test (Surprisingly, pigs, parrots and pigeons have not conclusively passed the test, to date). The duration of Lukas’ experiment will be approximately three months.

Lukas will be introduced to his (Plexiglas) mirror and his response will be gauged. The test will be conducted by covertly marking Lukas with two odorless spots: the test spot will be on a part of Lukas which will be visible in front of a mirror, and the control spot which will be on an accessible but hidden part of his body. Videotaped recordings will document if Lukas reacts in a manner consistent with him being aware that the test spot is located on his own body, rather than on the mirror, while ignoring the control spot. Indications of awareness will include: turning and moving his body in order to better view the marking in the mirror, or poking at the marking on his body with his muzzle while viewing the mirror. If Lukas does not recognize his image, Murdock will attempt to teach this to him. No prior access to mirrors and not having the necessary previous experiences to use them could possibly be a factor in the event of Lukas’ non-recognition.

According to most animal intelligence ranking scales, equine statistics are dismal: horses rank anywhere from fifth to ninth in intelligence comparisons between species. In addition, the horse population in general is thought to be a typically reactive group at the mercy of flight instincts and walnut-sized brains. Murdock believes that the commonly used repetitive machine trials to assess horses’ learning capabilities are missing some important components: a social and interactive element, voice prompts and reinforcement variations. Furthermore, she proposes that the prevailing methods of force training are inadequate and even counter-productive. In contrast, Lukas’ lessons resemble those used for children: enjoyable, gentle and a mutual exploration into possibilities.

Murdock, a psychiatric nurse for the last twenty-six years, and an animal trainer for over forty, will use her own particular blend of techniques, as always. Sessions with her dear friend will be brief, fun and tender and will include the following guidance: “That’s you in the mirror, Lukas. You’re a horse. I love you.”

LUKAS – Training Article Series – World’s Smartest Horse Shares his Techniques

Category : In the Press

Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy), and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19), is making his techniques available through an article series. Owner/trainer Karen Murdock is offering the six-part series: Basics, Liberty, Rewards and Punishment, Pressure, Touching and The Smile to publications with attribution. According to Murdock, “It has been more difficult to keep up with the increasing volume of Lukas’ mail. I wrote these to be able to continue to help others with training questions.” Excerpts from Basics follow:

“Together, through these articles, we’ll be reviewing the techniques and how to blend them to magnify results. Additionally, you’ll discover ways to refine these techniques for advanced lessons. You’ll also learn principles I’ve found helpful. Keep in mind that this system, as with all approaches, should be tailored to fit the individual learner’s needs. There are no rigid formulas or recipes, and viewing difficulties and obstacles as ways to grow and improve will keep our training fun and fresh. Being open to possibilities has enabled me to learn much more from animals than I’ll ever be able to teach them!”

“My program has three main parts: Shaping, Clicker Training and Positive Reinforcement. Shaping is the overall process, the basic foundation; the tools are your click, an indicator that the desired behavior has occurred, and positive reinforcement, which energizes your methods. I was impressed with the effectiveness of clicker training when it came out years ago, but there were several disadvantages as far as I was concerned: I didn’t want to carry anything around in my hands, it wasn’t conducive to riding (horses), and there always seemed to be a time lapse between the response and click, from what I could see. So instead, I substituted sounds – words and whistles – for my click. Be aware that you’ll need to pair the click of your choice with primary reinforcement – food usually – so the animal learns to work for your click. And the click promises food, so be careful what you choose. If you repeatedly, accidentally click and say “Good” for example, and no food is forthcoming, you’re weakening the link and lessening the student’s motivation.”

“Shaping is a way for me to introduce a behavior in a gentle and subtle manner. It teaches small behaviors by growing and connecting them. In order to shape a behavior, I have two choices: I can create it and/or capture it. Think about this: not only am I cueing my horse Lukas for expected responses, I’m also always watching and looking for things I might want to use and save for later. This doubles your training potential and is very powerful tool. Creating and capturing resemble a steep staircase – the trials and attempts are the flat steps and as the horse catches onto the game, learning rises sharply. In the next article Liberty, you’ll discover the secret key element in putting these strategies to work for you.”

Murdock, a retired psychiatric nurse, donates her time and services to show how wonderful and intelligent animals are for their improved treatment. Feel free to contact her for free complete articles and additional information.

Trick-Training Animals – Lessons with Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse – Pressure

Category : Written Words

Pressure is any request I make of my student. I use the lightest detectable cue possible – in this way the animal becomes more sensitive and anticipatory. Let’s all take a little test. This one always gets everyone’s attention! I’d like you to take your finger and using a regular cueing pressure, the amount you’d typically use, say, to get your dog or horse to move over – touch your own arm. Now hold that for a moment, feel it? OK, now let’s try this. Ready? Same finger, and this time with a touch as … light … and soft … and barely there as a feather, rest it on your arm. Notice the difference? This is what my horses feel.

“Who cares about pressure?” I’ve been asked, “The horse does what I tell it and we get ‘er done,” they say. Well, this type of demanding intensity has several negative consequences: the directives will need to escalate as the student becomes numb, resentment builds up, and it makes us into pushy, loud, harsh tormentors. NOT how we want to think of ourselves and definitely not the message we want to convey to our students and the public.

Why start with a heavy cue when you’ll just have to take extra time to lighten it later? This is just good training sense. You’ve probably already realized that this training is more than just tricks, and can transfer to other areas as well: ground manners, procedures that need to be done, riding, even our lives. You see now that the horses can also train us to be polite, patient, and use finesse. One of the goals here is to do less in order to obtain more. What does that mean?

In Lukas’ case, the quieter, more considerate, and attuned I became toward him, the more responsive he became and the more he wanted to do more for me. Building relationships based on caring and respect develops closeness and trust.

It’s been suggested that this type of training is best suited for sensitive breeds, Thoroughbreds like Lukas, for example. “My horse wouldn’t feel a Mack truck and you expect him to feel a feather?” someone once said to me. Well, I’ve used this system on many different breeds and saw some improvement in all of them. Results will differ, of course. People vary in their responses and capabilities, don’t they? Why wouldn’t we expect horses to also exhibit this as well? Granted, this may take some ingenuity. Some tips to try: a light double tap or a bit of vibration instead of more intense force often will get the message across quite effectively.

Let’s use another example here: I’ll often point to an audience member and question what type of riding they do. If they answer Dressage, for example, I’ll ask their response to being ordered to go out and jump a three-foot cross-country course instead of riding twenty-meter circles. Do you think you’d get it right away? No, probably not, yet we want our horses to go along unquestioningly with any program we use and do whatever we say. What it boils down to is helping our students learn by using fun, progressive sessions that motivate them.

Any discussion of pressure must include the release. For any response by the animal in the direction of the desired outcome, I release the cue immediately. The release is what reinforces the lesson, not the actual cue. Even an inclination toward the correct behavior is something I carefully observe for and acknowledge.

Make it a deliberate and obvious removal of pressure, along with your simultaneous click, followed up by a reward, and you’ll have not only a trick horse but a well-trained horse.

Trick-Training Animals Lessons with Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse: Rewards and Punishment

Category : Written Words

“You’re going to spoil that horse!” If I’ve heard that accusation once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yet, their horses grab for fingers while Lukas waits patiently and motionless for his carrot sliver an inch from his muzzle, and gently scoops proffered treats from the hands of toddlers. As with every other lesson, patience and care is instilled while encouraging positive and productive associations.

Rewards are a book in themselves. Because space is limited in an article, I just want to be sure that you’re clear on a few things before we go on. For Lukas, I use carrot slivers and a bit of Senior Integrity, but it’s important to find something that your horse will enjoy working for, and with some animals I don’t use any food at all.

Now be careful, this is where most trainers get stuck – they continue to reward for the same initial, minimal effort which actually un-trains the behavior. The animal expects and receives a steady treat regardless of the effort, and then does less and less.

Think of giving your kids a set allowance for doing certain chores, but not checking on them or monitoring them in any way; pretty soon they’ll be out skateboarding instead of earning their money.

Initially, treats are given on a steady, consistent basis to strengthen the associations and then as understanding increases, the treats are switched to an intermittent routine – say, every second or every fifth acceptable response. Gradually and eventually, we move to a random pay off – the unpredictability keeps the animal guessing and trying. Sometimes, I’ll also give a jack-pot – a large treat – to show my appreciation for an outstanding effort.

Of course, throughout, we insist on courtesy and manners from the horse – I never allow grabbing or jostling. The anticipation of the treat is a reward in itself. Let me give you a cute example of this with one of Lukas’ poses. He holds his head immobile, completely in frame on the vertical while I count: one … two … seven … forty … three! As I’m counting, he’s nickering the entire time – he knows what’s coming. And what do you think he does as soon as he gets his treat? That’s right, back to his pose for another game. I sometimes think he’s proud of teaching me to count!

Punishment – I suppose there are some rare times when force is necessary: outright aggression or a safety issue might qualify. In general though, I don’t think punishment is an effective or helpful tool. That’s not to say that I don’t set firm limits and have definite parameters for acceptable behaviors – I certainly do, at all times. I just don’t believe in being made to react and constantly chase after repeated mistakes with worsening consequences.

I’d much rather prevent problems than fix them and I’ll use a warning signal (i.e. uh-uh) to remind others when they’re getting off track. This is a fair and clear arrangement that works well for me and my friends – both human and animal. From what I’ve seen, punishment results in unpredictable and volatile outcomes and animals don’t naturally reason in a backward fashion. Why, just look at our own people problems: getting into debt, not exercising, smoking – even we don’t find negative consequences a deterrent, yet we expect our animals to put it all together.

In summary, we’re looking for what we want, ignoring and re-directing what we don’t want. In this way, our lessons remain fun and beneficial.