I was reading this thread by reiningcatsanddogs https://www.horseforum.com/horse-trai...eption-523273/
that referenced this article from 2005 about current research and findings about equine thinking abilities http://www.equineresearch.org/suppor...nkinghorse.pdf
While I was reading it, about halfway through, there was the following phrase: "This horse displayed the ability of “learning to learn” by using a general solution (one pattern in each pair was always rewarded) to more easily solve subsequent tests and was able to retain 77.5% of the [correct answers] after 6 mo."
I was So Very Excited when I read this, because this is exactly it. It is exactly what happened with my boy that changed him from a fearful-to-act horse into a determined-to-get-it-right horse. He "learned to learn". He learned there always was a right answer and how to go about figuring out what it is. And then, once he'd figured it out, he'd not only remember that answer, but use it to figure out the answer to the questions or challenges I'd face him with next.
I especially thought the idea of teaching horses enough so they have broad categories to toss novel objects into rather than having to figure out every band new thing as an individual potential monster is dead on. To start with, every cue and every object is a separate cue or object on its own that takes its own time and worry to deal with. Once a horse has seen enough "stuff" most of them, including mine, seem to start to begin "lumping" a new thing into a category they have in their head of old things so that they just treat it like they treat the other things in that group.
For example, my guy seems to understand that "bridges" are a thing and sometimes there are noises. Rattly chains, echoing foot falls, etc. But no matter how visually different or different they sound (overpass, railroad tie construct, graveled culverts, stone, etc) I now imagine him thinking, "Oh. This is one of THOSE things" as he sighs and moves over ones he has never seen the likes of before.
This article also validates my personal pet theory which is that we should act crazy around our horses (from their point of view) sometimes to teach them that the proper response to erratic or crazy human behavior is to ignore us. That way when my horse sees someone ignorant of horses 'act crazy' while we're out it the world, my horse can go, "Oh. We've done this one before. Standing quietly is the right answer. Can do" rather than freaking out. So often people look at me as though I've lost my mind. "You'll scare the horse!" Yes. That is the point, and done in a planned, careful manner, it is so that they're NOT scared when this happens under saddle and my health and life are at risk.