Standard indicators of fearfulness in the novel objects tests — for example, heart rate and alertness — were found to be unrelated to learning performance, whereas exploratory behaviour towards the novel objects correlated to performance in the two learning tasks.,The study team said the exploratory behaviour in the novel object tests likely reflects the animal’s intrinsic motivation and curiosity, suggesting that this trait is favourable for learning performance.,“Young horses’ intrinsic motivation to explore novel objects was positively associated to learning performance in both a positively and a negatively reinforced task,” they reported, “whereas traditional measures of fearfulness, such as alertness and heart rate responses, were unrelated to learning performance.”,The authors said their results are the first to suggest that novel object-directed curiosity could be central to cognitive performance in horses across different types of learning tasks; an association that has previously been demonstrated mainly in humans and primates.,They said their study provides the first evidence of a link between object-directed curiosity and learning performance in young horses in two very different learning tasks (visual discrimination and pressure-release).