Just a relaxed mind can learn at its best!
Really? Relaxation is important for learning?
If we think about learning from a human perspective, we know we can just "absorb" and process a certain amount of information until we feel tired or we get the feeling our head will " explode" lol.
Why do we still demand from our horses to be able to focus for one hour constantly within a training session or riding lesson?
For our horses this amount of time is too long, if there is no proper resting/relaxation time within.
No resting periods result in bad learning or no learning at all. So you start all over again with the same stuff all the time. Frustrating for you, but also for the horse.
So, why are resting periods and breaks so essential for our horses learning ability???
Learning means, creating new connections within the brain. More connections within the brain creates more experiences ( hopefully positive ones...), more experiences result in confidence and more "knowledge". Horses create connections within their brain through exploring (moving) and problem solving (how to use the mechanical water hole, how to open the gate to get to the other pasture, how to open the bin lock to get the grains lol...) Some horses even have figured out how to untie the lead rope from the pole. They are driven by curiosity and then try to "solve" the problem.
Exploring and problem solving also gets the highest release of Dopamine ( the feel good hormone).
Dopamine is so reinforcing it can even override fear.
Another reason why we want to create curiosity in our horses. Curiosity makes them start to explore and expend energy. This will help them to downregulate their brain, the curiosity helps to release a big amount of dopamine and the horse feels great again.
If you have pushed your horse ( mentally) too far, you have to back off and let your horse find its mental balance again to regulate the nervous system and enable learning again.
And by the way, its very helpful for us too to have a moment of a break to reset ourselves as well.
We, as the riders can often get a bit too ambitious, wanting a little bit more, try something else as well because the horse is doing a great job. Please remember, if the horse is doing something good, let him have a rest to process. Or even stop for the day and let him have a break in his paddock, pasture etc.
Nobody needs to always ride for an hour to practise jumping, dressage tasks, groundwork etc.
Often less is more, because it enables learning for your horse long- term and it can memorize what he learnt that day. This will keep him motivated and engaged with you and the learning progress will be much better each time.
Relaxation is connecting time for the brain. Leave your horse alone in peace for the relaxation.
No grooming, touching etc. Give him time and space to "re-think", " replay" the task you have been working on, so the brain cells can built up a stronger connection, a pathway and the learning outcome will be much better.
If you want to train your horse, you need his attention.
For his attention he needs to feel safe with you. Get your horse motivated through problem solving tasks.
Examples for problem solving training on and off the horse:
So, stay curious and inspired. For your horses.
See you next time here at my Blog,
Britta Bruns, Invercargill