Does DelVal have the world’s smartest horse?

May 04, 2011

Senior Victoria Gasser works with Maggie in identifying numerals

Delaware Valley College may soon enter the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to Assistant Professor Angelo Telatin, senior Victoria Gasser and an 8-year-old mare named Maggie.

On May 2, under Victoria’s guidance and with assistance from Telatin, Maggie did something unusual for a horse. She identified 21 numerals in a minute’s time.

If Guinness certifies the results, Maggie will have bested the record held by Lukas, known widely on the Internet as the World’s Smartest Horse. Lukas has identified 19 numerals and is the official record holder.

Telatin, a world-class animal behaviorist, said he was pleased with Maggie’s performance.

“We were lucky that she wasn’t distracted by the witnesses, cameras and media,” he said, all of which were required by Guinness. “She loves to do this task with Victoria. She went right out there and stayed focused.”

Telatin will send his documentation – signed statements, photos, video and more – to Guinness and await its decision.

“What happened was important, but it’s not just about having the record,” Telatin said. “What’s nice is having an imprimatur of all the time I’ve spent studying horse behavior and training.”

In the mid-day sun, in an enclosed area outside the Equestrian Center, Telatin and Victoria set up a card table. On it they placed four pieces of wood with the carved numbers, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Maggie was brought out. By the rules, she was not restrained in any way. Two local veterinarians were there to certify that, and to make sure the animal was not abused or coerced.

Victoria, an animal behavior major from Wilmington, Del., stood by the table with a bag of animal treats. She and Maggie had practiced this many times before. When Maggie approached the table, Victoria gave her a treat and called out one of the four numbers in random order.

Using her nose, Maggie pointed to the correct number. Victoria provided another treat, called out another number, and the pattern was repeated 21 times in 60 seconds.

That breaks Lukas’ record by two.

“She works for food,” Telatin joked to the small crowd.

Telatin has been working with Victoria all year in an effort to beat the record.
"There's no question she's very intelligent," Victoria said of Maggie, a Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross.
The biggest concern now is making sure all the proof of Maggie's accomplishment is accepted by Guinness, Telatin said.
“I feel good on one side but on the other hand I'm a bit anxious because I don't have the stamp in my hand yet.”
He said he did not know how long the process would take.