Inspired by the book " Horse brain, human brain" from Janet Jones, Ph.D.
and "Understand horses" :courses.understandhorses.com/courses/understanding-the-equine-brain
and several videos, articles and other books I read about this.
This is the start on the journey of the horses brain and how it is similar, but also very different to our human brain. I am starting this journey here with some interesting facts.
Hopefully, these facts will give you some "oh "effects and will be helpful for you to understand some behaviour of your horse better. Enjoy the journey to your horses brain. : )
Why do I spend so much time on research and study?
As a horse bodyworker and Coach for riders it is essential for me to stay up to date to expand my knowledge. This is very beneficial for my work with you and your horse.
My treatments are successful and effective because I have the knowledge about anatomy, biomechanics BUT also the brain and nervous system of the horse.
Through my energetic work I am connecting to horses nervous system. I need to interact with the horse constantly, to get the the responses that the body needs to release tension, relief pain and get back into a balanced state for body, mind and soul.
So here are some facts about the horses brain you may not have heard of:
I hope you gained some useful information from these facts. Next time I will start with the senses of a horse. There is a lot to know about their eyesight, hearing, smell etc. that will help to understand why they behave the way they do in certain situations we all have experienced with our horses quite often.
More understanding results in better and more horse orientated communication and training.
For more happy horses and riders!
For the love of horses,
When it comes to improving the connection with your horse there is one skill that will take your horsemanship to the next level:
Learning how to be present in the moment with your horse.
Horses are the masters of being present, its in their nature and part of being in a group/herd.
As a prey animal they rely on this skill to stay alive
We all have good intentions when working and managing our horse,
but often our thoughts are somewhere else.
We think about duties we still need to do, what we cook for dinner, thinking about work.. etc.
Observe yourself, how often you think about other things when with your horse. ; )
What that means is, we are always either in the future or in the past with our thoughts.
We are worrying about something that MIGHT happen, or being unhappy with something that HAD happened already.
Our world is so scheduled and busy, its hard to escape and settle down, or take a real break for a moment.
The good news is: You can learn to become more present and be in the moment with your horse. You just need to practise it, like you train a muscle to become stronger.
I have experienced this process through Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation and also when just hanging out with my horse. That was kind of my meditation in the past.
These days I like to be in nature such as the ocean/ beach or in the beautiful New Zealand bush to meditate. Just watching the waves and listen to the sound, or walking to the bush and noticing the different types of trees, hear the birds singing...
Meditation is when you are PRESENT in the moment, when you are REALLY noticing what is happening RIGHT NOW. Everyone can learn that. And it is very beneficial when we are with our HORSES,
but actually it is very beneficial for our health and well- being in general to slow down a bit from time to time...
I want to give you some easy ideas how to practise with or without your horse to become more present:
When you inhale and exhale, what can you feel?
Where can you feel your breath?
Close your eyes to get less distracted from the environment.
You can practise this in the paddock of your horse, at night before you fall asleep,
or through the day, when you have a moment to sit down.
You are focusing on the candle.
Some ideas what to practise when you are with your horse:
I am interested to hear, what your experiences are!
Please let me know. And don't hesitate to contact me, if you have questions about this or need a little more guidance with this. Happy to help!
If you want to know more about this, have a look at my NEW option " Equestrian Yoga and Mindfulness coaching " here on my website.
For the horses...
Does the picture touches you? This picture shows CONNECTION.
Well, that moment was very special for me and my Paint Horse mare SUNNY back in Germany. She purely engaged with me ( look at her face...) and I was fully PRESENT with her ( and my coffee...:)).
How can that happen? And how can that happen to YOU and your horse as well?
Well, Sunny was my first "own" horse after I have been ridden and cared for other peoples horses for years.
Because that was so special and I got her as a foal I spend lots of time just hanging out with her.
I even did that, when she became older and I was already riding her.
So, I visited her and her mates in her paddock, sat down and just watched her what she was doing.
Next time, I took a book with me and was just reading, while with her. No plans or expectation when I visited her.
I just wanted to be with her and I was curious what she was doing through the day. One time, she even laid down next to me, put her head onto my lap and fell asleep. Her snoring was VERY cute :)
WOW what a gift from my horse to me! I can tell you, my legs were aching after a while BUT I did not move. It was such a touching moment!
Every time I spent time in her paddock, SHE engaged with ME, although she had her mates there and I did not give her any treats to make her come to me. I was just PRESENT, and she knew.
We developed a very strong bond over the years, which was awesome.
So why does CONNECTION changes your horses behaviour to a positive respond to teaching and training ?
Connection happens when you built up a positive relationship with your horse. That happens before you even start actively training/riding your horse. It is the FOUNDATION for learning, successful training and in the end for a good and safe performance with a happy horse.
The science behind it, is the function of the nervous system, especially the vagus nerve ( the study about it is called Polyvagal Theory). It is part of the autonomic nervous system, present in all mammals. If you want to know more details and dig deeper into the science have a look here:
Horseman Warwick Schiller applies this knowledge into his way of training. See a YouTube video here:
The Vagus nerve is kind of the super highway between the gut, heart and brain. It is the social engagement system. We know that horses are social animals, living in a group or herd to guarantee their survival against predators in the wild. They survive, because the herd or group members are PRESENT in the moment and aware what's going on. That makes the herd feels safe and relaxed. So, on the body function side of it, everything is slowed down ( heart rate, digestion,...) and the horse is in a relaxed state.
That changes, as soon as they don't feel safe anymore. They are more alert, tensed and ready to either fight or flight. Even the domesticated horses still have that instinct within them.
So, what can you do to make your horse feel safe and built up a CONNECTION?
We know the basic stuff, we need to meet the basic horses needs such as food, shelter, space, fresh air, water and companions.
BUT the other part to make them feel safe is when are felt seen, heard, felt and gotten. Means: When they notice that we notice their worries, concerns etc. and give them time to adjust. Because then , they know WE ARE PRESENT and AWARE and they can feel safe. And we are safe too, because we notice signs of facial expressions, tension in the body and body language much earlier when we are present with the horse, not thinking about dinner, work or the kids.
The 5 simple ways of making your horse feeling seen, heard etc. and built a connection are:
If this is new for you, try it, explore the world of your horse from the ground and develop a strong bond. Its worth it and you will notice the difference in the behaviour when they feel SAFE and SEEN.
If you have other ideas or great experiences please share them here in the comments. Like always, if you want to know more, or need some help with how to become present, contact me.
In the next Blog I will write about BECOMING more PRESENT and AWARE with your horse to avoid misunderstandings and danger in training/riding/handling.
If you have questions about that, please message me. Always happy to help!
For the horses!!
Through my equine bodywork I come across a lot of horses who have stomach ulcers (either diagnosed through a vet or as a thought of their owners, because of sudden behaviour changes in their horse).
I am quite surprised and also shocked how many horses suffer from stomach ulcers.
How do stomach Ulcers develop?
In thoroughbred racehorses, rates of 37% of spelling horses and 80-100% of horses in training have been reported. Rates of 54% in pleasure horses and 64% of sport horses have also been found in some surveys. The lowest prevalence was 11% in horses being ridden at home and not competing. Ponies who are on feed restriction for weight loss are at a high risk if they are not able to chew continuously." Read the whole article here :
I want to summarise the most important facts and signs of stomach ulcers here for you, so you can consider this as a possible reason for a sudden behaviour change:
When addressing ulcer issues, the more natural environment the horse lives in, the less stress he’ll experience as a whole. To avoid chronic ulcers, you do need to address the horse’s environment and make sure your horse is pain free (pain causes a lot of stress in the body...).
Consider the WHOLE picture, not just nutrition. Unfortunately, stressors of all types appear to contribute to ulcers, and ulcer discomfort itself is stressful, a vicious circle....
While some horses are simply predisposed to ulcers, if you manage diet and stress, you can help minimize your horse’s possibility of getting them. And that effort is totally worth it, right?
For more happy and healthy horses!!!
The full article: