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Who's a Clever Boy Then?

The Mail on Sunday 25 April 2004. (Excerpt)

Is your pet a clued-up cat, a brainy bird or a dog who's barking up the right tree? As the BBC launches its biggest-ever survey into pet intelligence, we asked five celebrities to put their animals through their paces.

Rock Star Kenney Jones, 56, lives in Surrey with his second wife, Jayne, and their four children, Casey, 16, Jay, 15, Cody, nine, and Erin, six. He has two grown-up children , Dylan and Jessie, from his first marriage. Kenney and Jayne have two dogs, three cats and six polo ponies. Kenney tested one of his favourite ponies, 12-year-old Inca.

Kenney says: Inca is very good-natured and clever. When she's playing polo she'll follow the game with her eyes, and always knows exactly where the ball is. We've had Inca for about four years and she's really part of the family, always pleased to see us. My son Jay rides her and she always treats him kindly. When Inca did well in the tests it confirmed what I though - she's a pretty smart pony.

Left or right hooved: The first time, Inca put her left hoof forward, the second time her right foot, and the third time her left again. This means she's ambidextrous. Polo ponies have to stop and start on a sixpence and change directions practically in midair. If any animal was going to be ambidextrous, it would be a polo pony.

Eye spy: (A special test for horses). if you look them in the eye, they are meant to respond sooner. While Inca was grazing, I walked slowly towards her, looking at her eyes. I got to about seven foot away before she lifted her head. the next time at looked at her rear end and she lifted her head when I was six foot away. Both distances are relatively close, but Inca is used to helicopters landing nearby and all sorts of noises going on so she doesn't get easily flustered.

Flip the bucket: We showed Inca a treat and then hid it under her bucket. She didn't even hesitate. The flipped the bucket over using her nose and gobbled up the treat. And then looked at us as if to say, "Where's the rest?"

Round the bend: We built the barriers for this out of hay but Inca completely ignored the treat and went for the hay instead! No amount of coaxing could budge her.

Command of language: Inca understands about 21 verbal commands. But all the time she is also responding to hand pressure, foot pressure or to my body language, to my tone of voice, or to a twitch on the reins. If I said that Inca understands hundreds of commands it wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Pull the string: We tied Inca's treat to a piece of string and put it over the other side of the fence. I even put the string into her mouth and made her walk backwards. When she was left to her own devices, Inca went straight for the string and pulled at it to get the treat.

Collete Casey says: I'm not surprised Inca did so well. As a polo pony she will be highly trained and mentally-stimulated, so she will find problem solving a lot easier than your average pony left on its own in a paddock ridden once a week. What Inca has shown is that any animal can benefit from attention and stimulation, and can, in effect, become brainier. If animals don't fulfil their intellectual potential they can become depressed, which is when the behavioural problems start.

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