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How Well Does Your Horse Learn?

I was working with a client yesterday and their parent came out to watch for a bit. They said they would like to do a bit more with their own horse, but 'It hates groundwork'.

It was an interesting turn of phrase because horses don't think like us. They don't have the same capacity to plan or judge because the part of their brain that forms those thoughts is tiny compared to ours. They just react in the moment. Horses are, however, very good at learning patterns, good or bad.

I explained that their horse had, in the past, said no by pushing past the person when being asked to do something new, and the person had backed off and not asked again. So in the horses mind, that was an appropriate response. When this happened over and over, a pattern forms, where the horse just says no to anything new.

What this often causes is a horse that is not confident learner because it just says no to learning and it's been left at that. It knows what it knows and it is just happy being itself.

Let's equate that to a child being asked to learn the alphabet for the first time. Instead of trying to figure it out, the child gets up and walks off. If this pattern of behaviour was allowed to be repeated, the child wouldn't even bother to turn up, but significantly, it would also not be learning something that might make their life easier.

So, if your horse appears to not like something or reacts badly to it, rather than ignore or punish the behaviour, ask yourself how your can make the question smaller so your horse can become a successful learner.

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