I decided to post this in Training, as it seems appropriate. While I don't agree with every single thing the writer said, I thought this was interesting and I think many horse owners would be doing themselves and their horse(s) a favour if they stopped and looked at themselves for a moment.
***Be warned: this is a VERY long read!***
The following information is a model about the four stages of learning and how it relates to horses:
1- Unconscious Incompetence (I don't know what I don't know)
2- Conscious Incompetence (I know that I don't know)
3- Conscious Competence (I know what I know, when I think about it)
4- Unconscious Competence (I know without thinking, instinctive)
A lot of horse owners think they are in stage 3) Conscious Competence. They conclude this by the fact that they have bought a horse, read a book, rode a few times, attended a clinic or have owned horses their entire life. They have the attitude that they have been there, done that, and know all there is to know about horses. This prevents further learning, since they are unwilling to admit their lack of knowledge or the importance of this unknown knowledge. They are really in stage 1) Unconscious Incompetence, but until they admit this, they cannot move to stage 2) Conscious Incompetence. When people operate in stage one, horses and people get hurt and horses are blamed for the person’s unconscious contributions to any accident or injury.
Some people can get stuck in stage 1 for a very long time. It takes practise, feedback and critique for a person to move on to stage 2. Stage 2 is a very popular stage which can last on and off for a very long time. One of the main reasons people remain in stage 2 is simple laziness.
You must be able to admit that you don’t know it all, in order to begin to learn something new. If you continue to blame the horse for your mistakes, then you will never move up to “Unconscious Competence” level. The following explains all four stages with examples of horse situations at the end:
Stage 1 - Unconscious Incompetence
-- You are not aware of the existence or relevance of understanding the horse, how it thinks and how it reacts, and you do not care, since you have not seen a horse get killed or a person get seriously injured, or since you have been lucky and not hurt yourself.
-- You are not aware that you have a particular deficiency in understanding horses and may believe you are at the “conscious competence” level.
-- You might deny the relevance or usefulness in understanding horses since you think you already know how to “show the horse who is boss” or control the horse with a chain or big painful bit.
-- You must become conscious of your incompetence before learning can begin, until then, this is where people say “ I have owned horses all my life”, therefore I know it all or enough and there is not need to learn more.
-- A trainer or horseman must try and move you into the “conscious incompetence” stage, by demonstrating the skill and getting you to recognize that you are the problem and not the horse, they must get you to admit your incompetence so you can move to sage 2) Conscious Incompetence, where you open your mind and learning can begin.
Stage 2 - Conscious Incompetence
-- You become aware of the existence and importance of understanding the horse, its prey instincts and how it lives with pressure.
-- You become aware of your deficiency in the knowledge about the horse and know you can get hurt if you don’t develop the skills to safely handle a horse.
-- You realize that by improving your knowledge of the horse, your ability to safely control the horse and your effectiveness with horses will improve.
-- You have a measure of the extent of your deficiency in understanding horses, and a measure of what level of skill is required for your own competence.
-- You make a commitment to learn and practice understanding and thinking like a horse and to move to the “Conscious Competence” stage.
Stage 3 - Conscious Competence
-- You achieve “conscious competence” in handling, controlling and riding horses and can perform it reliably at will.
-- You will still need to concentrate and think in order to perform the skill and it has not yet become second nature.
-- You can handle most any horse without assistance
-- You should be able to demonstrate horse handling to other, but are unlikely to be able to teach it.
-- You need to continue to practice handling horses and commit to becoming “unconsciously competent” with horses.
-- You need to practice since it is the single most effective way to move from stage 3 to 4.
Stage 4 - Unconscious Competence
-- Handling and dealing with horses becomes so practiced that it enters the unconscious parts of the brain and it becomes “second nature”. (Common examples are driving, sports and typing.)
-- You can handle multiple horses or horse situations at the same time, like holding a horse and giving directions to someone riding or lounging or while you are riding.
-- You may now be able to teach others how to effectively handle and train horses, after time of being “unconsciously competent” you might actually have difficulty explaining how you do it, since the skill has become largely instinctual. (Reactionary or without thinking)
-- This arguably states the need for long-standing unconscious competence to be checked and periodically tested against new standards and new methods.
So let's talk about some examples:
1) I have owned horses my entire life, so when I lead three horses and drop the lead rope, the horse steps on it and rears and I get hurt from a horse head to the face, I blame the horse for pulling the rope out of my hands and for not knowing how to lead. (Unconscious Incompetence)
2) I get on a new horse that I know little about and it gets scared and runs, I can't stop it and it runs into a fence and gets hurt. I blame the horse for not listening to me when I told it to stop. (Unconscious Incompetence)
3) I am picking my horse's feet, I am talking to friends and not paying attention, another horse walks by and since I was not paying attention or did not know or see the signs, my horse kicks at the other horse and kicks me in the leg. I blame the horse for not respecting me or for kicking or being stupid or scared. (Unconscious Incompetence)
4) I put up hotwire and don't teach my horse what it is or how to move from it and the horse gets shocked and runs through it, tears it down and tears up the fence. I blame the horse for being stupid and not knowing how to avoid the hotwire. My attitude is the horse will learn when he gets shocked. If he gets hurt, it is his fault for being stupid. (Unconscious Incompetence)
5) I go to get my horse out of pasture and when I open the gate, I let another horse run out or over me. I blame the horses for not respecting me or being mean and I blame the owner for not teaching their horse not to run over me. (Unconscious Incompetence)
6) My horse spooks at a scary plastic bag. So I am going to show my horse that I am boss and he can't be scared so I put 50 plastic bags in his stall and on his walls. I'll show him for being scared and being a horse, this will teach him a lesson and he learn not to spook at plastic bags. (Unconscious Incompetence)
For each of the previous situations, I will explain the difference in response for the different levels so maybe it will be clearer as to where you are and where you want to be and where others are:
Situation 1: Horse steps on lead rope, rears and hits me:
Conscious Incompetence: I know that accidents happen with multiple horses, I know I get uneasy with multiple horses, so I only lead one horse and if I lead two and something happens, I know it is my fault and not the horse's. I try and do better next time and learn from it. I may ask other experienced horse people to help me.
Conscious Competence: I know the capabilities of each horse, I am aware of my lead ropes and keep them out of the way of the horse. I am consciously looking for things that may spook the horse and cause an incident. I am thinking ahead and being aware of all lead ropes, all horses behavior and know to stop and re-evaluate the situation if it looks like a wreck is about to happen. As soon as I see a possible problem, I take steps to give direction and avoid the wreck and help the horse stay calm.
Unconscious Competence: I lead three horses knowing that if I drop a rope the horse will react, how he will probably react, I stay of the way and am ready to move, I keep rope and horses controlled and are ready for unplanned events. I do this without looking like I am thinking about it and it is almost second nature, so when something might happen I react faster, without thinking and prevent it from escalating and getting worse. Since I am so confident the horses feel safer and see me as a strong leader, so they are less likely to react and get into trouble.