As a coach, judge, equine behaviorist and columnist, knowing how horses think and learn has saved me time, trouble and trauma in training! Whether coaching at the in gate, teaching in a classroom or speaking to an audience, I show riders how to bridge the communication barrier using the science of how horses and humans think.
To find out more about the long distance video coaching, clinics and judging I do, go to my site www.lgrice.com.
I’m asked this regularly. I may dig a little deeper, “Tell
me what you mean by bonding.”
If bonding means to you:
my horse feels
safe/relaxed in my presence
he understands me,
I’d say that’s very
important. However, if you’re hoping for your horse to share your human
emotional needs and share your goals, probably not.
Dr. Robin Foster, researcher of equine behaviour, writes
that the horse’s perspective probably does not mirror the human experience.
“People have an emotionally based social need
for companionship, and research shows relationships with animals help to
satisfy this need.
In contrast, a horse’s social
needs are rarely met through his relationships with humans. In a
recent article published in the journal Behavioural Processes
researchers reported that horses are more interested in and form stronger
connections with other horses than with humans. Horses tend to be wary of
humans at first…”
Attachment to humans
might be stronger when horses are hand-reared, but researchers cautioned that
“the negative welfare
implications of keeping horses socially isolated from others of the same
species may constitute an ethical dilemma for caregivers wanting to increase
their horse’s attachment to them.”
How to make a horse feel safe? Is this the same as “trust?”
More about this next blog, but I’d like to hear your
My list starts with
the predictability of my
movements and cues
the predictability of the
environment and schedule I provide
A CBC interview about
helmet safety piqued my interest.
that in nearly every study of hospital admission rates, helmeted cyclists are
80% less likely to receive serious head and brain injuries —but these stats apply only for those who
get into accidents.
So here’s the flip side
–research says that helmeted cyclists bike faster, take more risks, and ride in riskier environments.
We’ve also discovered
safety feature in cars give drivers a fall sense of security – what
psychologists call “risk compensation”.
The University of
Guelph’s driving lab put drivers in a simulator and told them to watch for
moose.Drivers sped up when they knew
their cars were equipped with special moose detectors. “The moose would be in
the back seat before people stopped the car,” remarked the lab’s director.
Risky behavior. At
every horse show I see impetuous riders – climbing aboard fresh, distracted or
green horses – prey animals in a busy, unfamiliar environment…but these riders
are wearing their helmets. Yikes!
Compare two riders
who’ve brought their young horses to the horse show: the western reiner, on a
supple, focused, carefully prepped horse who chooses not to wear a helmet, and
the helmeted rider on the distracted, jigging horse – resistant to rein aids
and without lateral cues installed.
I guess in the event
of a fall, the helmet will minimize damage.But wouldn’t it be better not to fall in the first place?
I guess the best
overall solution would be to ride it as if you had no helmet…and then wear one.
I changed hats t this weekend-literally. Sometimes “stuff happens” and show managers have to adjust on the fly- and so do judges! Arriving prepared to judge the western ring , I was asked if I would judge the hunter and jumper rings instead. For those who judge multiple disciplines we must learn to change hats -scoring systems, terminology, penalties, class formats, even judging location (in the ring or in a booth), depending on the assignment.
So I didn’t have my score sheets or whistle… But I did have my trusty visor!
“Just get back on! You don’t want to lose your nerve.”
“Why not enter the trail class?You’re at the show anyway.”
“Are you coming out on a hack with us?”
Well-meaning invitations, but sadly, invitations into
situationsfor which neither you nor
your horse are quite prepared.
Have you ever felt pressure to push the boundaries with your
I am a professional bubble-burster. As clinician and coach,
I act as the voice of caution. As a show judge, I can only wince.
We’d never suggest a friend commute into Toronto with
unreliable brakes and steering.Yet, it
makes me sad to see at a few horses at every show,in the pressure cooker of an unfamiliar
environment without the tools needed for the task.
I’ve been there- felt the pressure from afriend, a coach, a client.The time I’ve spent rebuilding confidence in myself or my horse
inspires me to help other riders and horses rebuild theirs. Systematically installing
the buttons to move the horse laterally, lengthen and shorten stride, connect, collect
run deep in the horse world. From tack to training, to the terms we use ...WHY?
- I figure it doesn't hurt to ask! Hey sometimes I've found there's a good
reason - someone way smarter than me "invented the wheel" and doesn't
need ME to re-invent it :) So I'll keep
Like the new bride whose husband asks "Why do you cut off the ends of the
roast before you cook it? — that's the best part!" She answers,
"That's the way my mother always made
it." So when the guy raises the question at Christmas
dinner, mother in law shrugs, "that's the only way it will fit in my
pan!" What about you?- anything you do differently with
your horses after doing some snooping into the research? Or
with a few years of wisdom under your belt?
Traditions persist in the horse world. Does anyone know why
flat classes traditionally start on the left rein?I caused a little stir recently, at an open
hunter show by starting on the right rein in an equitation class. Can you think
of other enduring(though
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, until evidence leads us to
look outside. I do like how AQHA is encouraging judges to mix up the gait calls
and direction of flat classes. I do this regularly when I judge and appreciate
it as an exhibitor. Ring sourness is a problem with show horses. Horses learn
by association, anticipating what’s next. This is classical conditioning – the
same principle causing my cat to appear at the sound of the can opener.