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Shared from The Zen Racehorse. Horses aren’t naughty!


How does this apply to schooling/training? Frontal lobes are involved in higher mental functions such as reasoning. This means that horses cannot reason or plan to be naughty. They cannot be blamed for bad behavior or poor performance. They cannot recognize future consequences. Horses simply react to the situation. They learn through conditioning and memory.

I see and hear so many riders anthropomorphize their horses instead of finding better training tools. Phrases such as, ‘he just likes to be difficult’ or ‘this pony is so naughty’ or ‘he understands or knows what I want, but won’t do it’, or ‘he moves his hindquarters at every halt just to irritate me’. Horses do not know what we want unless we explain it in a manner that they can understand immediately.

A few months ago a rider told me how her horse ‘just does not want to co-operate’. It started with overt flight behavior and then became a subtle ‘snatchy’ movement of the nose. I asked her whether it could be due to discomfort. She answered, ‘no, she is just naughty’. It turned out that the horse was suffering from laminitis and was in severe discomfort! It made me want to cry.

At the moment I am training a young horse from scratch. I also used phrases such as, ‘she has a short fuse’ and ‘she challenges me every step of the way’. Then I realized that everything I was doing on this horse was completely new to her. I realized how frightening that must be for an animal with no reasoning ability. She was actually trying hard to understand me, but when new instructions were a tad confusing, she showed me in no uncertain terms that she did not understand it. The horse’s reactions to learning new skills all depends on personality. This particular horse is extremely sensitive and an introvert. Utopia, my older horse, is less sensitive and a complete extrovert. She can deal with much more pressure than the youngster. The message for me is that I must train each horse with the kind of pressure which they can deal with. Each horse has a different tolerance for pressure. Us riders have to be adaptable to each horse’s ability to deal with pressure. Personally I find that most behavioral problems stem from confusion, discomfort and too much pressure. Photo is the equine brain in front of the human brain.

Thanks to Karin Blignault for the info!!

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