The brain of the horse

23 augustus 2022

The brain of the horse is structured differently than the human brain, so horses and humans are wired differently.

To be successful with straightness training we have to try to think like a horse to avoid the frustration riders encounter when they try to use human logic in training.

Differences are:

  • The horse has a far smaller ratio of brain size to body size than the human.
  • The human brain is able to think in the past, present and future and controls memory, communication and association.
  • The horse’s brain, however, is mainly busy with muscle coordination, balance and body functions.
  • A horse is not able to reason through a skill. Horses learn by repetition, and he can learn to associate things with pain or pleasure, and to associate cues and signals with desired behavior.

Survival state vs thinking state

Like our brain the horse’s brain has a part in the brain that has an important function when it comes to survival. It’s the so called ‘reptilian brain‘. This reptilian brain triggers the flight, fight and freeze responses of the horse, the responses needed for survival. When a horse is using that part of the brain, and is in a state of survival, the horse is not thinking and the horse can’t learn.

So when we want to teach a horse something, we should take care the horse is in a learning frame of mind, and therefore he needs to feel calm, relaxed and comfortable. It’s our job to keep him out of his survival state and ‘reptilian brain’ and to keep him in his thinking state and a learning frame of mind.

Left brain and right brain “concept”

The brain is very complicated, so it’s always helpful to make a more simple ‘map’ of this ‘territory’, so we can find our way through the matter.

In this matter the concept of the ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ is used very often.

This concept has nothing to do with the two ‘hemispheres’, the left part of the brain and the right part of the brain.

It’s only used to give the people an understanding of two different aspects of the brain.

Some horses tend to be more ‘right-brained‘ whilst others horses tend to be more ‘left-brained‘:

  • A horse that’s in a state of fight or flight will use his right brain more. When the right brain is dominating the horse tends to be emotional unstable (easily disturbed/stressed out easily/sensitive/nervous/angry/anxious). In this frame of mind he is unable to learn new things from the trainer.
  • When a horse is using his left brain more he tends to be emotionally more stable (calm/secure/confident/relaxed). In this frame of mind he is able to learn new things from the trainer

A balanced mind

The aim of Straightness Training is to balance the horse mentally and emotionally.

During Straightness Training we keep him out of his survival state, out of his reptilian brain, and out of his right brain.

Due to the educational program of Straightness Training a horse learns to learn, and the more he learns, the more he starts to think and the more he will use his brain. It’s like Sudoku to the human.

Thanks to Straightness Training he will not only reach his full potential in a physical way, but he will also reach his full potential in a mental way. And that will make him more calm and confident, so emotionally he will feel better and he will be a proud and wise spirit. Straightness Training will balance and enrich the horse’s life!

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