School For Scandal?

If you put a crowd of young people together, as in school or university for example, we can watch the courting process in action. Of course, the teaching challenge is to make the subject of the moment more interesting than the object of the moment sitting a few feet away. Not always easy. The larger the group, the more difficult it is, but even in small groups the tension is there regardless of the fact that while we are dispensing our pearls of wisdom, we are happy in our illusion of holding our students attention. If not rapt, then at least focused.

Apparently, as it is with well brought up children, it is with well-bred horses. In a recent study, Janczarek and Kędzierski evaluated the heart-felt response of young horses training in single sex and mixed groups.  These were 2½-year old Arabian colts and fillies who were being taught to get their workouts on a horse-sized treadmill. Half were trained in single sex groups and the other half in mixed sex groups.

On checking their pulses when going to and from their workout location and stables, the mixed group of colts and fillies were rather more excited. We don’t know who was whispering what in who’s ear, but there was definitely something going on. Their pulses were distinctly faster. The authors conclude that it’s not a good idea to train young horses in mixed classes, but that there should be separate classes for fillies and colts.

This conclusion has a distinct retro feel about it. There wasn’t evidence that the fluttering of the heart strings in going to class or back to their stables had any effect on their learning attainments. It might even have made them more eager to go to class if they knew that they could flirt on the way. Before making a definitive judgment, perhaps we should wait and take a look at their final grades.  

  1. I. Janczarek and W. Kędzierski, J. Appl. Animal Welfare, Sci., 14, 211, (2011).

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