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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
  • Left brain right brain test in equines

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    01-06-2012, 03:24 PM
  #31
Showing
I think some horses are bigger thinkers than others, some think in cause, effect.. some think big picture, some just don't think :P, some think more linearly, some think with open ended questions that they test later on.. just as with people. That's probably one reason of of a hundred why there are so many different training methods and tools.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Zimmerman    
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 .
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I liked your post based on this premise only. :) I was going to like the entire thing but I figured this way was better.
     
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    01-06-2012, 03:41 PM
  #32
Green Broke
I am jumping in a little late on this conversation and I have never put a whole lot of thought into the right/left brain approach. I am not a follower of any clinicians methods nor am I phsycologist , I just know what I have learned from different people and horses. To tell the truth I am not even sure how to articulate my thoughts on this and this thread may be well over my head.

First of all I think that this packaged training, as bsms put it, should be used as a guideline not a bible.
It took the thinking for yourself- problem solving right out of horse training. People take it too literally. If it doesn’t fit the description, they are lost. People, like horses, like to be shown and told what to do and this is what it accomplished….and these guys made a lot of money doing it. That further more proves that people want to be told what to do.

Also, people get confused by the term “feel” and frankly I am not even sure how to explain what it means to me. It’s not exactly a physical touch thing, nor is it emotions like feelings. I think feel is more like reading. As humans we are so desensitized to each other that it makes it hard to read/feel a horse. We are crammed into cities, we bump into each other on sidewalks and are completely oblivious to what goes on around us. Horses aren’t like that, they are very aware of space and energy. With us being desensitized I think it makes it hard to feel/read a horse the way they read each other and surroundings. When I was very young child we lived way out in the middle of nowhere, I had rarely seen other children before I was sent to kindergarten,. I can still remember the way it felt being crammed in a room with a bunch of other kids. I hadn’t been desensitized to people yet. I was so aware of the presence of people even at a distance. I was horribly shy and wouldn’t even speak to the teacher. I just remember watching the others and how they interacted with each other. I am still to this day sensitive to peoples moods and body language. I try to keep that and use it with my horses.

As far as right vs. left brain, I have been told I am a right brain person….whatever that is. And when I did the “test” I could only see the dancer going clockwise, so I guess again -right brain. I agree there should be a balance between the two. I am a very emotional and volatile. It can be an advantage to be reactive and emotional. I can react on instincts/emotion rather than having to go through a lengthy conscious thought process. I think that is where timing comes into play. If I have to think about what I need to do next I have lost my window of opportunity to do something about it. However reacting on emotion alone doesn’t make it right. Sometimes my reaction isn’t the correct response to my horses action. To produce the result desired.
That is where the left brain needed to kick in.

But I never thought of it as a right versus left, but more as being aware of how I react, or need to act to create a reaction.
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    01-06-2012, 03:56 PM
  #33
Foal
Even if you don't agree with the idea of right and left sides of the brain doing different types of thinking, wouldn't you agree there is at least those two patterns of thinking? I'm going to keep refering to right/left thinking because that's where I started this.
I think how we literally see our world around us falls right in with everything else.
Human=left brain dominant, predator, binocular vision
Horse=right brain dominant, prey animal, monocular vision

And that brings us right back to what Sally calls "hard eyes" and "soft eyes" which was mentioned a little earlier.
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    01-06-2012, 04:11 PM
  #34
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Zimmerman    
I think how we literally see our world around us falls right in with everything else.
Human=left brain dominant, predator, binocular vision
Horse=right brain dominant, prey animal, monocular vision
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Left brain dominant?
Well we "see" the world physically the same. But do we see the world as for the emotions and feelings and whatnot be left-brain dominant or is there a mix?
     
    01-06-2012, 05:07 PM
  #35
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Zimmerman    
...
Human=left brain dominant, predator, binocular vision
Horse=right brain dominant, prey animal, monocular vision

And that brings us right back to what Sally calls "hard eyes" and "soft eyes" which was mentioned a little earlier.
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Well, when I walk into a corral at feeding time, I'm a wolf with hard eyes, thinking about tearing the head off of a horse who wants to grab hay off of my fork. Not only are my eyes hard, but they flash lightning, although the thunder may be coming from a different part...

When I go to catch a horse, I'm Mr Mellow. My eyes drip down my face and I mosey on in and eventually get around to putting a halter on someone.

Riding? Depends. Moseying down the trail is OK, but if I want my horse to do a pattern, or to canter a certain section, then dig under and turn hard and sprint 50' and then turn 90 and walk...then having soft eyes that scan everything doesn't do much. In fact, my horse will feel my concentration and echo it. If I want Trooper to go from a walk to a canter, I psych him up first. Ask him if he is ready, does he think he's tough enough, call him a wimp, settle into the saddle, ask him if he REALLY wants to go, lean forward some...and whisper, "GO!" I'm not in front of him, but I'd bet his eyes aren't real soft & droopy right then.

I think a lot of this presents a false dichotomy, forcing a choice that doesn't exist. Horses aren't predators? Maybe not, but I've seen enough pissed off horses to know I don't want a horse truly pissed off at me! When a horse is galloping after another one, neck stretched and teeth bared, I don't see a lot of soft eyes.

I don't jump horses, but if I did, I wouldn't want a soft eyed horse approaching the jump. I'd want focus, concentration, and a gathering of his power to make the jump. I've watched (but never ridden ) cutting horses, and I wouldn't want a soft-eyed cutting horse either. Horses tend to echo our emotions. We become the herd on their back, and they respond with our feelings. I subscribe to the theory of 10: My horse and I should add up to a 10 in intensity. If my bolting mare is at a 9, I need to be a 1. If I've got a lazy-butt 2 horse, I need to be an 8. For some purposes, we might both drop to 3+3, or need to climb to 8+8, but I need to use my intensity and focus to drive them to where I want them on the scale of intensity.

How linear a thinker you want to be, or want your horse to be, depends on what you are trying to do. How dominant you want to be also varies with the horse and goal. There isn't a predator/prey dichotomy.
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    01-06-2012, 06:32 PM
  #36
Yearling
No, Mike, because I don't buy this left versus right dichotomy as a particularly valid or useful social construct. While I certainly find hugely varying ways in how both individual humans and horses process information, I think this dichotomy is overly simplistic. So is the predator versus prey dichotomy, as the domestic horse-human relationship is far more complicated than that. I've never been around unhandled or abused horses, so I have zero experience of horses who actually fear us as though we were predators. Most of the horses I've met over the last twenty years have assessed their handlers in terms of the person's ability to be a leader, or whether or not the horse can take the piss out of the person and do what it wants.

Sure, horses are more sensitive and attuned to their environment, reactive rather than analytical, alert to any kind of change, that sort of thing, and you can embrace these as essential attributes of "horseyness" without buying into the left v. Right brained malarkey.
     
    01-06-2012, 06:46 PM
  #37
Foal
Bsms, isn't the idea of horse and rider equaling 10 from Mark Rashid?
Interesting perspective Thesilverspear, may I ask what kind of riding you do?
To be honest I don't think these thoughts are exactly right or wrong, I don't think any of it can be proved one way or another, and each persons opinion is right for them from their own expiriences.
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    01-06-2012, 06:50 PM
  #38
Yearling
bsms, I'm reading this book about the sub-conscious that I think you should read, what you're saying is true-- the book is called 'The Hidden Brain' by Shankar Vedantam.
I agree that people try to automatically put things into boxes, like what was said. It's how we work. If you're not this, you're the opposite, automatically. That's because our subconscious works a mile a minute, taking in things that are all around us, all the time. You only need your conscious mind once or twice, until your subconscious can take over, which is what learning is. Walking is an example, as is squinting your eyes if you have bad eyesight, typing, anything that you do which you don't think about. Your subconscious is doing that. And this can be applied to riding- for example, if you ride long enough, keeping your heels down and your back straight will go from conscious to your sub-conscious and you will do it automatically when you get on a horse. Just like if your horse constantly tries to bolt, your subconscious will put your body in a defensive position, etc.
As for the right/left brain thing, I see more evidence for it than against it. It is true that both sides of your brain control different things. People do try to put things into categories- boxes. When they notice that you have traits that come from the right brain, they label you as 'right- brained'. This is the sub-conscious at work. The sub-conscious is what sees this trait, connects it to the right brain, and files that away, so your conscious just thinks, he's right brained.
The job of your sub-conscious is to make things quick and easy, to do all the hard work for your conscious, in a way. To do all the difficult thinking in a matter of seconds and then provide your conscious with only the conclusion.

It's not possible to only be right brained or left brained, because both sides control important things. The difference is what is more noticeable- the part of your brain that controls emotions lies in the right side, for example, if you cry a lot, peoples' subconscious will think cries a lot -> emotional -> right brain, and send that conclusion to your conscious. I believe that people do, in fact, have affinities for one side of the brain or the other- I think of it like this: the brain is a muscle. For many reasons, people will end up exercising one part of the brain more, and, like working one arm's biceps and not the other, that one will become stronger, which makes it automatically used more. The more it's used, the stronger it's get, and then the more it's used again.
As for horses' thoughts, I can't say if they are right brained or left brained, because I don't know which traits/behaviors/ etc. exactly are controlled by which side. I can say that every horse I've met has had the intelligence level of a 6 or 7 year old, respectively. They're no doubt intelligent animals, but don't have restrictions on how they act- if they're angry, they show it. If they're happy, they show it. If their personality is social, they run to other horses and people and try to make friends. Literally, like a 6 or 7 year old child. Their thoughts are simpler, but not dumber. I know that there's something we develop as we grow older that makes us less honest with our emotions, which in my opinion is part of the barrier people have when working with horses.
I'm not sure if I worded any of this in a way that makes any sense... hopefully I did.
But I'd also like to add that I think everyone here is correct. The way I see it, everyone has a different point here, but they all add to the whole picture... I'm really tired right now, so this is probably all jumbled, but I don't want to go back and fix it, it's too much, lol.
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    01-06-2012, 06:52 PM
  #39
Yearling
If I had to put myself in a wee box I'd say I'm a dressage rider but I haven't competed since 2002 due to achieving high levels of cantankerousness about showing (and little else). Mostly I just faff about aimlessly, like in that bareback avatar photo.
     
    01-06-2012, 07:03 PM
  #40
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by thesilverspear    
No, Mike, because I don't buy this left versus right dichotomy as a particularly valid or useful social construct. While I certainly find hugely varying ways in how both individual humans and horses process information, I think this dichotomy is overly simplistic. So is the predator versus prey dichotomy, as the domestic horse-human relationship is far more complicated than that. I've never been around unhandled or abused horses, so I have zero experience of horses who actually fear us as though we were predators. Most of the horses I've met over the last twenty years have assessed their handlers in terms of the person's ability to be a leader, or whether or not the horse can take the piss out of the person and do what it wants.

Sure, horses are more sensitive and attuned to their environment, reactive rather than analytical, alert to any kind of change, that sort of thing, and you can embrace these as essential attributes of "horseyness" without buying into the left v. Right brained malarkey.
I agree that it's overly simplistic, since, as I stated in my above book-long comment, there's no such thing as purely being right or left brained as both sides control different and equally important things, I have to say that you're kind of confusing me- the traits you called 'horseyness' effectively all fall into the category of things mostly controlled by the right side of the brain, from my understanding... I don't feel like doing the research right now to see which part of the brain controls what, but if anyone else wants to, please do, lol.
     

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