Some of us
remember being read to as a child. We had our favorite books. We could
say all the words on the coming page before the page was turned. But
we were not in school yet and had not learned to read.
We learn a lot by repetition. The times table, the alphabet, the elements
of the periodic table, to name a few. Learning by repetition or rote
is acquiring a skill without the need to understand any underlying complicated
theory. You do not have to “get it” to score a hundred on
the test. This method can be good discipline, and sharpen your mind
as you stretch you brain to receive series of numbers, formulas and
laws. Game shows thrive on contestant’s expertise for rote.
In our computer age there is less reason to memorize- just look it up
or type it into the calculator. Most people have not learned things
that a generation ago were necessary or just plain common knowledge.
(What is my body temperature supposed to be and my blood pressure is
what?) A lot of tests in school were geared to those who could memorize
the best and spill the same thing back on to paper in a limited amount
of time. Those who did not excel at this method had report cards that
made them look less than desirable to college scholarship awarders.
Yet those same people will be repairing the computer the “smart
‘ person cannot fix. There is definitely a place for different
forms of learning in our human world.
now for the horse world? With what kind of learning technique do horses
excel? Is that wood chewing a spiritual desire to be reincarnated as
a termite? Does knocking down another fence rail show an innate longing
to be an architect?
Years ago horses were used for agriculture, transportation and war mounts.
I remember sitting astride a broad equine back as a tree was dragged
from one lumberman to the other. The horse would work with purpose and
wait while the log was hooked or unhooked, yet seemingly doing the job
on his own. When cars made an appearance on the back roads, my grandparents
had an awful time teaching their team to start working on the now “right
“ side of the road.
minds are very moldable to repetition. It seems to be the preferred
method of learning and maybe indeed the most practical. They seem to
want to adapt, and feel comfortable or content in activities that are
constant. Even when it was a difficult and dangerous repetition. Take
the charging into battle- not for the faint of heart. (Whips and spurs
and strong bits were often introduced in these scenarios to encourage
the animal to face the situation. We now use these tools to get around
a dressage ring, hunter course or just down the local trail. Hmmmm.)
Horses that perform the disciplines they are presented with today may
or may not be enjoying themselves. Is nonresistance proof of enjoyment?
If a person with more power grabbed my arm, wrenched it behind my back,
and told me to dance- I would dance. If he did that everyday for prolonged
periods, I would eventually put my own arm behind my back when I saw
him coming, to spare him the trouble. My arm would get used to the position
and I would probably improve my dance steps. Can you picture this and
extend the picture to horse life?
have seen horses adopt positions on their own. When “waking up”
from a standing sleep they will arch their neck until the head almost
touches the chest, and a hind leg will come up under the body and then
stretch out behind to full extension.
a horse has practiced some activity or has been genetically endowed
with traits- (where he should hold his head, how fast or slow to go,
which stall is his) and has it down pat, is it desirable or beneficial
to the horse to change that behavior? Or if the animal has not had certain
body parts touched in their entire life- what kind of repetition is
needed to get it to another comfort zone? Repetition can be severe,
light or the whole gamut in between. To what extent should we go to
retrain the animal? The gaited horses are a pleasure to ride but you
do not see too many of those around here. They do not understand the
need to change to a hunter/jumper or western pleasure mount. There is
no shame in that.
have feet that naturally turn out- but my left knee dost protest. I
have been encouraged by a physiotherapist to practice moving straighter.
Is this according to my natural bent - no. Is it beneficial - yes. So
I do it.
Some habits that are dangerous can be remodeled or removed. A Chinese
proverb says it takes 10,000 repetitions to form a habit and 30,000
to break it. Who’s going to be paying for that? Will it be the
owner with money and time because the habit has been engrained for the
last 2 years or the trainer and horse because he has to cure that habit
in 30 days?
I believe that life is all about experiencing change and growth and
that it is not always pleasant. I have also decided that there are certain
things I will not do to get a horse or human to change. So there are
clients that I will encourage to go elsewhere to achieve their goals.
I enjoy seeing an animal look a certain way that is appealing to my
desires or do an activity that it is mentally and physically geared
to do. They can learn and perform as designed. As long as the design
is not too humanly contrived (some narrow headed dogs give me cause
me for worry), I can usually watch the proceedings.
quotes help to dictate my actions. “Train up a child in the way
he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” “A
righteous man regards the life of his beast”.
Success to me is not whether I am doing what those at the top of their
game are doing. After the towers in New York were hit in September 2001,
a lot of successful people were coming down the stairs to escape. Those
on the way up were those I believe to be the great ones.