Horses are great pattern learners and this can make or break our relationship with them!
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are training our horses with each and every interaction we have. What that really means is that we are setting up patterns of behaviour - habits. This is how behaviours become automatic. We call it habitual but all that means is that something has become a habit and is now an automatic response.
Obvious examples of this are standing when tied and wearing a saddle but even more complicated behaviours, such as half-pass or flying changes, are also habits - they are a learned response to a cue, perhaps a leg or seat cue, in the same way as standing when tied is a response to the cue of being tied.
Thinking about it in this way makes it a lot easier to understand. It's no longer some complicated thing that we might not be 'good enough' to teach, it's simply a response to a cue, a good pattern, a new habit.
Of course, horses learn all patterns well so the old adage - "be careful what you teach" comes into play! Being aware that our horses are learning patterns all the time and forming new behaviours as a result of each of our interactions is the first step towards realising that you ARE a trainer, whether you call yourself one or not.
Have you ever taught your horse a pattern that you didn't want it to learn? Leave me a comment below and tell me what that pattern was.
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