Factors That Dramatically Affect A Horses Ability To Think by Monty Bruce
I believe there are two major factors that dramatically affect a horses ability to think. The first, making the right thing easy and making the wrong thing seem difficult and the second being fair to your horse with your timing and feel.
Making the right thing easy and making the wrong thing seem difficult is a fairly easy concept, but sometimes requires thinking outside the box. We can always put a horse in a more difficult situation or give him more work than what we are asking of him.
I learned this lesson early in life, as my father was the master of this way of thinking. I would get home from school and he would ask me to clean a few stalls. I would say, “Dad, I really don’t feel much like it” or “I don’t have time.” He would then suggest sweeping or cleaning the tack room, cleaning and oiling all the saddles, wheel-barrowing in some oats from the grain bin or picking rocks out of the arena. I would then reply “well Dad, I have got the stalls, consider them done!” I was happy to clean them, considering the alternative.
The same goes for our horses. If we suggest that they do something rather than trapping them and making them feel that they have to do it, they will be a lot more willing. The key word is ‘suggest’. If they do not want to, they have the freedom of choice, but if they do choose not to, we will give them a lot more work and make it difficult for them. The key is to not lose your temper or be rough on them but to act in a way that prevents them from getting frustrated and they will understand that they are making their own choice.
The second factor that dramatically affects your horse’s thinking is being fair to your horse. This greatly speeds up the training and learning process of a horse but is probably the most difficult to learn and requires time and coaching.
Generally when we give a horse something harder to do, we are applying some sort of pressure, be it pulling their head around or driving them with our legs in a lope making them work hard. The instant they soften, relax, get slower, freer or quieter, we need to be fair with our timing and release the pressure so they understand they are doing the correct thing and start to hunt for what we want. Little by little, we begin to shape their thinking and show them when they do what we suggest, it is easier for them. When they do not, things can be difficult and a lot of work.
Every horse is different with different temperaments. It is up to us to decide if the horse is doing the job that is best suited to them. By using this method, we can advance every horse to the best of its ability and help you achieve your horse related goals.
Until next time, Good luck. If you have any questions or would like more information, log onto Monty’s website at www.montybruce.com.
Happy Riding, Monty Bruce
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 8, Issue 12