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August 23, 2022 9 Comments
If I've said it a thousand times... it may not have been enough. The way the human brain holds and uses memory is not always stellar. In other words, you can hear something once, then forget it, then days later, or even years later, hear it again and it seems like it's the first time. For instance. As a horse owner, you should spend time bonding with your horse outside of lesson time. Training is important for learning and progress but training without bonding is just plain inappropriate. Horses don't appreciate training, training, training, without bonding, bonding, bonding.
Now I'm willing to bet, you've heard it before. Or, at least some version of it. Training and bonding need to balance out. Too much bonding without training and you get a horse that learns nothing and you can't take them outside their comfort zone. Too much training and you get a horse that's perfect, but totally resentful! So not perfect, not really.
Now, here's where it gets interesting. I've repeated the same basic thing several times in the last two paragraphs. Will you remember it? Chances are, if you do remember it, it's because you've heard it before. MANY times before. See, the interesting thing about us is we hear things, but we need to see them, feel them, experience them, live with them for a while, then hear them again, and again and again. Repetition is the mother of skill. So if I want you to learn how important something is. I have to repeat it, over and over. And here's the kicker! I can't get frustrated by needing to repeat it. If I do, I risk losing your trust. Imagine if I yell at you for not remembering a conversation we had two days ago. How would you feel? Would you remember it better because I yelled at you. Or would you think more about how I feel about you than the very thing you were supposed to remember?
Learning, truly learning something takes constant... well... repetition. The only other way to truly learn something is to make the experience so emotionally charged, verging on trauma, that you'll never forget it. But we don't seek those kind of experiences with humans and horses. We seek basic communication and understanding in kind, compassionate ways. So the answer to getting something across is to repeat it, in kind, compassionate ways.
The thing is, I know I'll have to repeat this message again. I know in a year or two another article will come out with a similar title and message. I know it because we need it. I need it. I need to remember as much as you need to. What we do in-between lessons matters. Little things matter. Loosening the cinch at the end of a ride matters, picking the feet before the ride matters, patiently asking the horse to accept the bit matters, waking the horse up slowly matters, flexible outcomes matter, preparing yourself to not be in a hurry matters, giving breaks matters because we all need breaks, all the little things matter. Horses remember details about you, about how kind you are when you ask for things, about how repetitive and persistent you can be to help something make sense. When they get it wrong. Instead of saying, "What the hell?" Say, "Oh, I knew this would come up again. Of course it would come up again." Be kind, patient, persistent.
Be willing to be firm to get a point across, but not mean about it. Be willing to spend undemanding time after and between lessons to ensure your horse "remembers" you care about him or her. Because, trust me.... They forget about that really quickly.
So I hope this helps. I hope you remember how much I care about you and how I know how we all learn. Some things stick better than others and we are slower to forget. Other times we need more time. I'll leave you with this... Nearly every year I have a big blinding flash of the obvious moment. Usually it's about something trivial, something I heard many years ago, and finally, it sinks in. Why does it sink in years later? You guessed it. I've heard it, felt it, seen it, lived it for long enough, that finally, it means something more to me.
Here is my latest "BFO" (blinding flash of the obvious):
I am filming a liberty course and my horse has sour ears. It doesn't look good and I don't like that he doesn't seem to like what he's doing. I want to change it and I search my memory for how to guide his expression from one of resentment about having to circle me without a rope to one of enjoyment as he wins a simple game. And then BANG! BFO comes right out of left field. I've been inadvertently punishing him for his ears back rather than allowing him to be that way and reward him only when his ears come forward. My timing was off and my own attitude was geared toward punishment rather than reward. I caught the whole thing on video, it's part of the Liberty course available to anyone in our Mastery Group or sold separately. Check it out.
In summary. Memory takes repetition. The more you repeat, the more it means, as long as it's done in a kind, compassionate way. So I'll repeat this one last thing in case you haven't heard it enough. YOU! ARE! AMAZING! I appreciate all you who choose to dig deep with me and read on.
Comment below and share with your friends. God bless
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