Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The World’s Smartest Horse

Sidelines News

By Lukas, as told to Courtney Zimmerman
I love to say “cheese” for the camera and show off my Guinness World Record Certificate
While Sidelines Magazine isn’t in the habit of letting horses take the reins and write their own stories, it’s almost impossible to pass up letting the “World’s Smartest Horse” tell his own story. With that in mind, Lukas met with Sidelines intern Courtney Zimmerman who happily did the pecking on the keyboard while Lukas told his tale of what it’s like to be the smartest horse in the world.

My name is Lukas, and I’m an ex-racehorse that got a second chance on life. I am a Thoroughbred gelding (I don’t like to talk about it) and I ran three races at Santa Anita Park in California before I was retired. My owner, Karen Murdock, tells me that only the really good racers are retired after so few races, so of course I believe her because she is so nice to me.

Karen is the one who rescued me and helped me make a name for myself. She found me neglected and emaciated, with many issues that developed from my previous owner. Her patience and kindness built me up to be the confident and intelligent horse that she always believed I could be.

In case you haven’t heard of me, I’m kind of a big deal. I’m only 19 years young and I have already accomplished so much! I am the Guinness World Record Holder for the “Most Numbers Identified by a Horse in One Minute,” and I identified 19 numbers! I really set the bar high, didn’t I? There had never even been a record holder for this title before; it was created especially for me because I’m so smart. Karen says it’s a huge step for Guinness to recognize how intelligent animals can be.

Here I am with Karen, counting my numbers
On world record day, everyone was running around getting things ready for me and I felt like a king! I could sense that Karen was really nervous, yet I wasn’t worried at all. We had been working together for a long time for this moment. There were lots of important people at my house including a camera crew, photographers and official counters for the occasion and they had all come to see me. I wasn’t allowed to have a rope on Karen during the official timed event; but I was confident that she wouldn’t run away. Karen would call out the numbers 1 through 5 in random order and I would simply place my nose on the corresponding wooden blocks. It was so easy! I don’t understand what all the fuss was about; but I guess most intellects are just ahead of their time.

In addition to being a Guinness World Record Holder, I am also the spokeshorse for After the Finish Line, a non-profit that raises money to support other rescued Thoroughbred racehorses like me and I’m the first four legged to become a member of the Equine Welfare Alliance. Being the smartest horse in the world definitely has its perks!

Karen doesn’t like to take credit; but she really is the one who made me who I am today. She understands that horses thrive on patience and lots of love. Karen does not even own a whip! The times we have spent bonding together have been some of the happiest moments of my life. I have her really well trained, too: when I do a trick, she knows to give me a treat. I like to call that positive reinforcement. She gets really happy and showers me with attention, which is fine – I’ll let her pretend that it was her idea. Plus, Karen makes our sessions so fun that she doesn’t even realize I’m training her.

I have taught Karen lots of different tricks. We make a good team. I have trained her to perform at liberty, which means I don’t even need to hold on to her with a rope, I just communicate with her through my body language. I know she will give me carrots if I nod or shake, curtsy, bow, cross my legs, fetch or do the Hokey Pokey. Karen will do anything to give me a molasses muffin, so I will identify numbers, shapes and colors. She says I understand object permanence (whatever that means). My favorite trick to do is also the first trick that I learned, which is to smile. I know that if I smile, then Karen will smile, too — which I love. Do you know what else I love? That I found a home and a loving friend who recognized how smart and special I am.

About the writer: Courtney Zimmerman, from Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.S. in Equine Science and Management. She is currently working on her M.A. of Communication at Northern Kentucky University. She works at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden where she is an Animal Handler in the Education Department. Thanks to her experience, handling the interview with the Smartest Horse in the World was a piece of cake.

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