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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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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.

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