So beautiful: these mares and their foals taking the road back up to the hill

Did you know that horses have their own ‘GPS’ (Global Positioning System)? Wherever they are, horses can orientate themselves based on magnetic fields. Have you ever wondered why your horse is much more forward on the way home than when you are leaving the stable? Even when riding with loose reins in an unfamiliar area, horses seem to know which way is home.

Horses use two types of orientation. Firstly, they create a mental map. Secondly, they have a type of compass orientation, in which animals utilize the magnetic field around the earth. Horses use a combination of both.

Horses have a very good memory. They remember an important location through the use of different visual ‘beacons’ in the area. This has developed from their wild origins – It is useful when you live on an open steppe and have to remember where the water is, to know where you are on a piece of terrain. A horse then knows, for example, that the water can be found at the third tree on the right, at a certain distance down a mountain. Using a mental map is also one of the most important ways of navigating for humans. However, whereas we record the main landmarks that are important to us on a map, horses ‘draw’ this map in their head and remember it.

Horses also create orientation points with the help of scents. Along the route, they drop feces, which they can use later on to find their way back to a location. Other horses also use these fecal piles as directions. Even without ‘manure maps’ though, horses can still find their way around.

So as you can see, horses don’t need GPS, and with a horse, you never have to worry about losing your way home. It’s not specific to certain breeds though and there will always be some horses within every breed that are better or worse at navigating than others.