Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Different Viewpoint

     Do you ever try to look at things from your horse's perspective?  Do you try to think like your horse or even see things visually as a horse does  ("that's one pole, but those are a LOT of poles!)? 
I also like to remember how horses behave in the wild and in the herd and I like to teach my students to work with elementary things such as a horse's mental strong points - like memory and association. 
     If horses didn't have such good memories, they could never survive in the wild.  While their brains are small compared to their bodies and don't really have the ability to "think" and be logical like humans, they have strong association abilities that allow them to be trained.   (Though I must point out that you only have about a 6 second window for a horse to associate your action with his response or vice versa.  After that he's living in his new "present" and it does no good to discipline or reward because he won't associate it.)
     Horses also learn routines quickly and overall and they thrive on consistency.  This can be difficult when preparing for a pattern class though, too much of the same work over and over and your horse will just start to anticipate all your cues. Change up each ride enough that you achieve a goal or improvement but don't establish a rote routine - like "training" your horse to always turn left after a certain move.
     Horses are "hardwired" for their fear-flight syndrome.  This manifests itself in diverse ways, many times a horse that is unsure of himself in a training situation will simply go faster and that makes sense if you're a horse ("must go faster and get away when I'm nervous!").  This means that going back over training steps often will help your horse understand what you want so they can relax and the "fear-flight" syndrome disappears.  Most horses are also great atheletes and often take pride in their work.  If you reward them for this, they will often excel! 
     And, of course horses also need herd leadership - and that must be you.  I firmly believe every horse is born wild then, from the moment of their birth and through every interaction thereafter, we tame and teach them to fulfill their lifelong journey with us.  See how much more you can accomplish by learning to work with your horse's natural tendencies and see through his eyes and think like a horse!  See you next week, JD 

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