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Right brain, left brain and our approach to natural horsemanship

This is a discussion on Right brain, left brain and our approach to natural horsemanship within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • The parts of a horse's brain
  • Imho horsemanship

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    01-06-2012, 01:21 AM
  #21
Showing
Soenjer that made a lot of sense to me! Very very true.. thanks for that!
     
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    01-06-2012, 09:07 AM
  #22
Trained
I disagree with the concept. You do not ride a horse with emotion, nor with conscious thought.

First, according to the research I've seen, emotion IS thought. It is not rational, surface level thought, but it is a form of thinking. It is much the same form as conscious thought, but it goes faster, is less precise, and can operate parts of our body the conscious mind cannot control.

Second, when you start riding, your subconscious cannot 'think' riding because it doesn't have much to go on. Your conscious mind can think "This is how I sit. This is what I need to do if X happens." That gets you in the ball game.

Your subconscious mind may help or hinder. A youngster won't have bad habits brought in from a lifetime of doing something different. 40 years of jogging made me tight, because 40 years of jogging taught my mind that tight hips make for less injuries - which is true when jogging, but not when riding. Since my conscious mind could not truly control the tightness of my hips, it has taken time for my body (my subconscious mind) to relax the parts that need to be relaxed to ride well.

Natural horsemanship, IMHO, is packaging ideas that have always existed. Teddy Roosevelt, writing about breaking horses in the 1800s, explained that many ranch horses are 'broken' in a day, but that personal mounts are trained over months. The difference is between a business providing adequate mounts quickly and cheaply, and someone taking the time to train their own horse.

Folks have known for thousands of years that you get better results with horses if you take time. However, if you used horses for business - and most did until the early 1900s - then you normally used a horse for business, and got what was needed to get by. Life in 1890 was gentle to neither horse nor rider.

Individuals vary in their intuitive learning vs rational learning. My daughter is very intuitive, while I am hard over into math and science. It isn't surprising that I learn by reading, talking, and then experimenting with different ideas while riding. It isn't surprising that she doesn't want to talk about or look at diagrams, videos of horses moving, or discuss how the tree of a saddle affects the horse and riding style.

None of this has anything to do with 'feeling' for your horse. I'm as analytical as they come, but part of my analysis is how my horses respond. The satisfying part of riding, for me, is not in accomplishing XYZ, but when my horse & I work as a team to accomplish some goal. I'm not interested in riding as a skill, but as a way of working with an animal to experience teamwork between the animal and me.

"Centered Riding" is my favorite book to hate. If someone talks about a circle of power going from the hindquarters thru the back, into the bit and back to my hands, I tell them no such thing exists - if it did, the reins would rip out of my hands.

Natural horsemanship is not about using intuition to ride or train. "Common Sense Horsemanship" is a very analytical book about riding, but it starts with a chapter on imagining you are a horse. When Parelli talks about 'horsenalities', it is both a strength and a weakness. By packaging, it seems that a horse must fall into one of the categories, and that will tell you how to train the horse. But horses don't fall into neat categories, so it is a failure. OTOH, many trainers try to put ALL horses into ONE category, and Parelli shows them to expand their views. So the Parelli packaging helps some, but doesn't take one as far as they ought to go - and I'm pretty sure Parelli knows that.
thesilverspear likes this.
     
    01-06-2012, 09:22 AM
  #23
Yearling
The left-brain/right-brain theory emerged out of some neurology experiments in the 1960s and gained massive popularity in "pop-psychology," which it retains today, but neurologists nowadays find it overly simplistic at best and nonsense at worst. Have a read of this article: The left brain/ right brain myth : Neurophilosophy

It seems to me that people will jump at the opportunity to place themselves -- and their horses -- in some sort of box. "I'm right-brained! That's why I'm bad at math," as if there were a simple biological explanation for being bad at math. But there isn't -- the brain is far more complicated than that.

On a side note, this is why these categories are even more nonsensical when applied to horses in the manner of Parelli's right or left brain model. Given that scientists have dismissed this paradigm as a valid model for how PEOPLE process information, it is even more bogus as a model for describing how horses process information, especially as none of the initial 1960s experiments suggesting that different sides of the human brain do different things were ever done on equines. The results of these experiments cannot be extrapolated to equines or other non-human animals, as the earliest tests examined subjects who had brain damage on their right hemisphere, and other experiments were mainly done by attaching the subjects to machines which monitored electrical activity in the brain and asking them to perform various tasks.
kevinshorses likes this.
     
    01-06-2012, 01:27 PM
  #24
Super Moderator
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
I disagree with the concept. You do not ride a horse with emotion, nor with conscious thought.

First, according to the research I've seen, emotion IS thought. It is not rational, surface level thought, but it is a form of thinking. It is much the same form as conscious thought, but it goes faster, is less precise, and can operate parts of our body the conscious mind cannot control.

Second, when you start riding, your subconscious cannot 'think' riding because it doesn't have much to go on. Your conscious mind can think "This is how I sit. This is what I need to do if X happens." That gets you in the ball game.

Your subconscious mind may help or hinder. A youngster won't have bad habits brought in from a lifetime of doing something different. 40 years of jogging made me tight, because 40 years of jogging taught my mind that tight hips make for less injuries - which is true when jogging, but not when riding. Since my conscious mind could not truly control the tightness of my hips, it has taken time for my body (my subconscious mind) to relax the parts that need to be relaxed to ride well.

Natural horsemanship, IMHO, is packaging ideas that have always existed. Teddy Roosevelt, writing about breaking horses in the 1800s, explained that many ranch horses are 'broken' in a day, but that personal mounts are trained over months. The difference is between a business providing adequate mounts quickly and cheaply, and someone taking the time to train their own horse.

Folks have known for thousands of years that you get better results with horses if you take time. However, if you used horses for business - and most did until the early 1900s - then you normally used a horse for business, and got what was needed to get by. Life in 1890 was gentle to neither horse nor rider.

Individuals vary in their intuitive learning vs rational learning. My daughter is very intuitive, while I am hard over into math and science. It isn't surprising that I learn by reading, talking, and then experimenting with different ideas while riding. It isn't surprising that she doesn't want to talk about or look at diagrams, videos of horses moving, or discuss how the tree of a saddle affects the horse and riding style.

None of this has anything to do with 'feeling' for your horse. I'm as analytical as they come, but part of my analysis is how my horses respond. The satisfying part of riding, for me, is not in accomplishing XYZ, but when my horse & I work as a team to accomplish some goal. I'm not interested in riding as a skill, but as a way of working with an animal to experience teamwork between the animal and me.

"Centered Riding" is my favorite book to hate. If someone talks about a circle of power going from the hindquarters thru the back, into the bit and back to my hands, I tell them no such thing exists - if it did, the reins would rip out of my hands.

Natural horsemanship is not about using intuition to ride or train. "Common Sense Horsemanship" is a very analytical book about riding, but it starts with a chapter on imagining you are a horse. When Parelli talks about 'horsenalities', it is both a strength and a weakness. By packaging, it seems that a horse must fall into one of the categories, and that will tell you how to train the horse. But horses don't fall into neat categories, so it is a failure. OTOH, many trainers try to put ALL horses into ONE category, and Parelli shows them to expand their views. So the Parelli packaging helps some, but doesn't take one as far as they ought to go - and I'm pretty sure Parelli knows that.

Bsms:

I agree with much of what you have to say there, but I want to repsond to the two bolded parts.
If you made your remark about "feeling for the horse" in reference to my mentioning "feel", and if you meant it to mean feeling in the emotional sense, such as being empathetic, then you did not understand my usage of the word "feel".

I am using the word, as perhaps coined in print, by the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt, to mean being physically attuned to the horse's mental and physical stater, aware of his body placement, and even in the physical sense of "putting a feel on a rope" in the way that a person might lift a rope and put some tension on it, but it not actually pulling on the horse.


Sally Swift talking about the power (she might have used the word "energy", no?) in a circle from hind , through the back , to head and back (and through the rider) is a very common dressage mental image to use to consider how the rider changes and positively affects the horse's way of going, changing it from falling forward and out the front, to being a more vertical, collected and contained energy for carrying a rider.
HorseTrance likes this.
     
    01-06-2012, 02:32 PM
  #25
Showing
Quote:
It seems to me that people will jump at the opportunity to place themselves -- and their horses -- in some sort of box. "I'm right-brained! That's why I'm bad at math," as if there were a simple biological explanation for being bad at math. But there isn't -- the brain is far more complicated than that.
Silverspear.. I agree with you. But I do know what people think about things differently than the person next to them. They go through a different thought process. Therefore they may use different 'sides' of their brain in a different fashion or more frequently than the person next to them. I would definitely NOT put a label on my horse, because he changes based on the situation. Nor would I put a label on myself.. I can change too given the situation.

It's short changing yourself to stick to one note and not play or explore the rest.



Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
I disagree with the concept. You do not ride a horse with emotion, nor with conscious thought.
I don't know about you, but I'm very much aware how much pressure I put on my horse's mouth and on his sides. If I'm too rough, I'll hurt him and make him unhappy. Having a happy horse makes for a good ride and progress, rather than going backwards.
     
    01-06-2012, 02:41 PM
  #26
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
...I am using the word, as perhaps coined in print, by the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt, to mean being physically attuned to the horse's mental and physical stater, aware of his body placement, and even in the physical sense of "putting a feel on a rope" in the way that a person might lift a rope and put some tension on it, but it not actually pulling on the horse...
That is not an analytical or intuitive approach. That is attention to detail.

When I took lessons this summer, the only time we could look at the horse was when practicing at a walk when to give a leg cue. The goal was to develop awareness of what the horse was doing with his body, and which leg was moving when. That was using the conscious, rational part of the mind to teach the subconscious how to interpret feelings from the horse's back to know when to apply a leg cue. With practice, I could stop staring at the horse's shoulders and legs, and use the 'feel' to time cues when they would be effective.

Much of what we say is an intuitive awareness is actually a set of small cues. We can be consciously aware of any one of them, but cannot process all of them fast enough with our conscious mind. However, WITH TRAINING, our subconscious mind can pick up and process that information accurately.

In WW2, folks were trained to identify various enemy aircraft. At first, they would need to compare features and stare at a close plane for a while. With training, a person could get a 1/10th second look at a distance, and accurately 'remember' what it was.

After 4+ years with horses, I'm getting much better at picking up their responses. I don't have to wait until the horse bucks to know something is wrong, and I don't have to stare endlessly at their ears, neck, etc. But this is not an intuitive response to horses, but a trained subconscious review of many physical cues I've learned from observation.

"a very common dressage mental image"

Yes. Mental imagery. I'm sure it helps some. It leaves me cold. I consider a bit to be like a keyboard. It allows me to input information into a computing device (the horse's brain). That mental image might not help many, but it reminds me that a lot depends on how the horse was 'programmed'. I once played around with teaching Lilly to turn based on pressing a finger against the left or right side of her wither. I didn't go too far because she was green-broke and it wasn't fair to confuse her - but she was picking it up easily enough. When riders talk about cuing a horse for cantering, I can't help but think I could train a horse to canter based on the 'cue' of squeezing his withers.

There is no energy going from the horse's rear, bouncing back from the bit and into your hands. If that helps you picture how to handle the reins, fine. I have always granted that Sally Swift's book has helped a lot of people. But I would argue that someone who responds to that mental picture is not a better rider than someone who thinks of a bit as a keyboard (or, to show my age, punch cards).
     
    01-06-2012, 02:47 PM
  #27
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyseternalangel    
...I don't know about you, but I'm very much aware how much pressure I put on my horse's mouth and on his sides. If I'm too rough, I'll hurt him and make him unhappy...
My point was that you cannot think fast enough with your conscious mind to ride a horse well. You cannot walk across the room with your conscious mind. I'm not typing on this keyboard with my conscious mind - although I did when I first started typing.

Your subconscious mind is thinking, just as your conscious mind is. Try reading a description of how to post. If you had to think your way consciously for each rise and fall, you could not do it any more than you could walk across the room that way.
     
    01-06-2012, 03:50 PM
  #28
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
My point was that you cannot think fast enough with your conscious mind to ride a horse well. You cannot walk across the room with your conscious mind. I'm not typing on this keyboard with my conscious mind - although I did when I first started typing.

Your subconscious mind is thinking, just as your conscious mind is. Try reading a description of how to post. If you had to think your way consciously for each rise and fall, you could not do it any more than you could walk across the room that way.
See.. this is where it gets fuzzy. Personally.. I have my muscle memory. But I think about my breathing, I think about my posting, I think about what my hands are doing, where my eyes are, where my shoulders and hips are, if I'm on my left seatbone, my right.. or balanced. Whether I'm leaning.. if I'm breathing (again :P)

But watching myself ride (I'm in the process of uploading to ask for a critique and share!!) I noticed I do a lot of subconscious things too.. and I make it look nearly flawless.. which is DEFINITELY NOT the cold hard truth! Lots of flaws
     
    01-06-2012, 03:59 PM
  #29
Foal
So now my question (that I think is more important) is how does a horse think? I myself don't feel that they are linear left brain thinkers, that's why we need to embrace the right brain because that's their way of thinking . I will even go out on a limb and say, left brain= predator thinking, right brain= prey animal thinking.

Bsms, I read your posts a couple times, I think you contradicted yourself a couple times but I'm still not sure.
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    01-06-2012, 04:02 PM
  #30
Yearling
As this model has very little validity for people in current neurological and scientific circles, I imagine it has even less for horses.

One could suggest, perhaps, that horses, and other animals are even better than people at "linear" modes of thought and responding to cause and effect. What they lack are certain levels of abstraction.
kevinshorses likes this.
     

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