Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter November 2017

November 2017

How to Help a Horse Learn

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 22, Number 11



In This Issue:

1. How to Help a Horse Learn
2. Equine Holistic Resources Just a Click Away



1. How to Help a Horse Learn

If you want to help a horse learn you have to learn to think the way he does. Horses don’t have agendas the way people do. They just want to feel good. I have had to retrain myself to think like a horse so that I can help my horse learn and build on our relationship.

My brain getting ready for a ride with my old way of thinking – “Ok, today I want to work on softness. I will need to do a lot of suppling exercises and back some circles. I want to pay attention to my riding position so I don’t brace in my body. I better make sure I notice every try from my horse and reward him with a good release.”

My brain now with my new way of thinking – “Today I want to have a nice ride and see what my horse has to offer and see what learning opportunities present themselves.”

My horse and I are both enjoying our time together much more now.

As a human it is so easy to have an agenda and expect the horse to be on the same page. In reality the horse is just wanting to feel good. To help a horse feel good we want to work with him in a way that causes the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Dopamine is released under very specific circumstances. One is when a horse figures out a pattern of events that works out for him. For instance, when your horse sees you preparing his evening meal he has learned that dinner will arrive shortly and the dopamine release is responsible for the licking and yawning behavior that shows your horse is content.

Ever wonder why your horse starts yawning before you start to groom him. This is a dopamine release in anticipation of feeling good.

Another circumstance where dopamine is released is immediately after removal of a stress. This is how you can use your understanding of dopamine to help a horse learn. The challenge is to create just enough stress to trigger the release of dopamine when the stress is removed but not so much stress that the horse tips into his sympathetic, flight or flight, mode. Say you are wanting to get your horse to the other side of a creek. You could just find a dry spot to cross but you have not taught your horse anything by doing that. What if someday you have to go through water in an emergency?

Helping your horse learn to cross through water is very important to having a safe trail mount. Instead use your horse’s desire for the good feeling he gets from a dopamine release to encourage him to work to figure out what you want him to learn. Take your time and reward your horse for any effort he makes towards crossing the water. Reward him even if he looks at the water at first and then if he faces the water and again if he steps toward the water. Never force him but keep just enough pressure that he keeps trying. If your horse is struggling, just stop and let him rest, maybe let him take a few bites of grass then start again. Once your horse gets across the water stop and let him rest. This is when he will get the biggest dopamine release. Next time he comes to a creek he will think about how good he felt after crossing the last creek.

You can often get a horse to do something by forcing him or making him more scared of you than what you want him to do but you have not helped him learn. If you help a horse learn and he gets lots of dopamine release around you then he will associate feeling good with you. This is the best way to build a strong partnership with a horse. This is how to help a horse learn.

If your horse seems to be struggling to learn, it is possible he could be missing some important nutrients he needs to build his neurotransmitters. I love blue green algae as a whole food source or amino acids and micronutrients needed for good brain function. Focus biscuits are another great product to support brain function, especially during stressful situations.


2. Equine Holistic Resources Just a Click Away
Has this ever happened to you? You are out at the barn and realize you are getting low on a particular supplement for your horse, but by the time you finish your chores and get back to the house and your computer you get busy with other things and totally forget to order it. Now, if you have your SmartPhone or tablet with you at the barn, you can avoid this with just a few simple clicks. Holistic Horsekeeping has a totally mobile friendly site that allows you to easily order while it’s fresh in your mind. Supplements, books, educational materials, consults and more are available on your mobile devices at holistichorsekeeping.com.


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