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  1. #1
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    Default Intuition?

    Although there are some great stories in the folklore of riding, I've never been quite satisfied with the conventional explanation that merely thinking of something, e.g., a transition, resulting in the horse immediately performing whatever was thought of without any conscious cue on the part of the rider, is adequately explained by minute anticipatory physical shifts in the rider's position.

    I believe that's probably a mostly adequate and sufficient explanation for horses and riders trained at the highest levels given their mutual acute sensitivity and attunement -- but to me, anyway, that doesn't seem very satisfactory to account for this occurring with intermediate riders on horses they've not been riding for years. (Of course I'm also factoring in and discounting the obvious alternative explanation that if you performed a TC transition four times at the blue barrel going around the ring, an engaged horse likely will expect to do the same thing the fifth circuit, too, whether bidden or not.)

    All I know is that even for me as an intermediate rider, with a significant degree of frequency on an engaged 'pull horse' eager to go, it occurs, and it never fails to amaze me when it does especially when the transition begins to occur virtually simultaneously with my first flash of thought about doing it. I don't know how there could physically be enough time even if there *were* microscopic body clues the horse was picking up. But its intermittent enough to be puzzling, especially since I all too often on the same horse don't get the transition I'm thinking about and then consciously cueing.

    I don't ride western and am out of my element, but I understand this instant 'think-do' business works for Western riders as well. Because of the larger saddle and far more diffuse weight distribution on it, some of the aids invoked in the English case such as truly microscopic changes to one's seat such as wouldn't seem likely to be so operative or packed with subtle information.

    Am I alone in this? What might be alternative explanations?

    I hate to invoke seemingly ineffable notions, but there has to be an explanation. Some kind of Type 2 intuition connection?
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”



  2. #2
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    Default

    There are many studies that explains how our brains will have a thought and carry on thru nerve paths that are a bit faster than those neurons that fire so we then become aware we are wanting to do something.

    We are already starting to fire the muscles to raise a hand before we realize we are wanting to raise a hand.
    Our brain works faster at times, guiding our body, by a split second, than we become aware by receiving the signal of what we have decided to do next.

    Training animals, horses, dogs, they can sense that little twitch before our brain is relying to our though processes that is what we want to do and are going to do now.
    Working with dogs in agility you have to be very careful, as that little twitch you are not aware of may tell the dog to turn into the wrong jump by being a bit too early a signal, because you were behind.
    Agility demands very fine, exact handling of your body more than a trained dog, as they are already reading us so well.

    Mere physics there and yes, any one animal well attuned to us, even a feral horse we are just starting for the first time, will already "see" what we are going to do, maybe a slight start to turn our head one way before we are aware of it and respond to that body language.

    Horses can feel a fly land, they can feel the small change in our bodies and weight of our head moving a bit to start a turn when we are sitting in the saddle.

    That of course surprises us, because our animals are responding that split second before our minds are letting us know what we are doing.


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  3. #3
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    Default

    Clever Hans, case in point.


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  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Hippolyta View Post
    Clever Hans, case in point.
    No.
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”



  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    There are many studies that explains how our brains will have a thought and carry on thru nerve paths that are a bit faster than those neurons that fire so we then become aware we are wanting to do something.

    We are already starting to fire the muscles to raise a hand before we realize we are wanting to raise a hand.
    Our brain works faster at times, guiding our body, by a split second, than we become aware by receiving the signal of what we have decided to do next.

    Training animals, horses, dogs, they can sense that little twitch before our brain is relying to our though processes that is what we want to do and are going to do now.
    Working with dogs in agility you have to be very careful, as that little twitch you are not aware of may tell the dog to turn into the wrong jump by being a bit too early a signal, because you were behind.
    Agility demands very fine, exact handling of your body more than a trained dog, as they are already reading us so well.

    Mere physics there and yes, any one animal well attuned to us, even a feral horse we are just starting for the first time, will already "see" what we are going to do, maybe a slight start to turn our head one way before we are aware of it and respond to that body language.

    Horses can feel a fly land, they can feel the small change in our bodies and weight of our head moving a bit to start a turn when we are sitting in the saddle.

    That of course surprises us, because our animals are responding that split second before our minds are letting us know what we are doing.
    This is an explanation that makes sense for advanced riders whose cues, if conscious, would be clear. But a bit unsatisfactory for intermediate riders whose cues may be ambiguous, and as far as I can tell to all the western riders.

    I'd like to probe possibilities further.

    The fact that so few have been moved to comment suggest there may be a lot of mystification.
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”



  6. #6
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    Can you explain why you don't think Clever Hans is apposite?

    It seems fitting to me but I am open to being convinced otherwise.


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  7. #7
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    Not really, even a beginner will look where he is going and turn the head/body that way.

    The catch here is if the horse is going to respond, or has learned to ignore the rider until given more strong aids.

    When you learn to rein, you ride many hours with arms crossed in front of you, because if you just have your arms in front of you, you will still balance differently in very subtle ways and give conflicting signals with your body weight and seat and you are learning to refine those aids to the smallest you can make them and still be effective.

    There you can very clearly see when the horse is working almost anticipating before you even know what you were going to do next.

    Most people are not aware of that, but it does happen, in the right circumstances, with the right horse that is really listening.


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  8. #8
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    Clever Hans noticed changes in his trainer's demeanor that were unconscious on trainer's part & unnoticeable to humans. I don't understand why this is not a perfect example.


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  9. #9
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    Default

    I recently read an interesting article on this issue in Psychology Today.



  10. #10
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    Believe it or not, the horse and rider connection is a field of academic study!


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingFoalFarms View Post
    Believe it or not, the horse and rider connection is a field of academic study!
    I'd love to learn more!
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”



  12. #12
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    I am beyond delighted to have started a thread that for once will deal with a topic ant the edge of the riding envelope.

    As far as Clever Hans, while that is a very logical and hiostorically well know objection, the poor critter was always a stooge and unwitting partner in a contrived fraud.

    I guarantee you that Jack and Emily Bug are nobody's stooges, and to whatever sextent they may be relevant my riding skills such as they may be are probably more hard won than any of yours. Never met anyone on COTH who learned to ride not for the sheer love of horses nor because of natural talent, but simply on the strength of an inspired intuitive determination to do so while and lacking virtually all the inherent qualities typically required of a rider.
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”


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  13. #13
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    All that foregoing stuff aside, except perhaps the mysterious grace by connection to an individual horse that induces one to ride when otherwise one wouldn't, how are you connected in ways that seem to defy explanation with your horses? (I've repeated my story ad infinitum and will again in my book.)

    There's more to this kind of connection than meets the eye or mind. For my own part, I am so much of a critical thinker that I would rule out most everything unless hit upside the head with it.
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adamantane View Post
    I'd love to learn more!
    I stumbled across the field through a call for papers for a conference at UVA a couple of years ago. They were offering funding for scholars studying horse / human relationships from an anthropological and literary perspective. A friend of mine - a neurobiologist - told me there's a similar trend in her field. I'm a gender and battle studies person, myself, but am curious about the horse / human bond . . . as a rider and a scholar. I'm just now learning about this, and am considering writing about relationships between soldiers and their horses in WWI. Some of my colleagues also study zombies and zombie culture, so I guess to each her own

    The UVA library has some great stuff for anyone interested in horse history:
    https://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/collections/scott/
    Last edited by DancingFoalFarms; Feb. 20, 2013 at 07:37 PM. Reason: addendum



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adamantane View Post
    All that foregoing stuff aside, except perhaps the mysterious grace by connection to an individual horse that induces one to ride when otherwise one wouldn't, how are you connected in ways that seem to defy explanation with your horses? (I've repeated my story ad infinitum and will again in my book.)

    There's more to this kind of connection than meets the eye or mind. For my own part, I am so much of a critical thinker that I would rule out most everything unless hit upside the head with it.
    I have a very, very close connection to Le Doux (my favorite of my bunch). Our connection is something I haven't experienced in my 30+ years with horses, and I can't quite explain it. Even our vet, farrier, and complete strangers will comment on how bonded and "in synch" we seem. Part of what makes it strange (to me), is that he isn't one I actually bred and foaled myself; I got him as a difficult and unhandled two year old.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    There are many studies that explains how our brains will have a thought and carry on thru nerve paths that are a bit faster than those neurons that fire so we then become aware we are wanting to do something...

    Horses can feel a fly land, they can feel the small change in our bodies and weight of our head moving a bit to start a turn when we are sitting in the saddle.

    That of course surprises us, because our animals are responding that split second before our minds are letting us know what we are doing.
    Thank you for a succint add-on the the basic explanation.

    It accounts to everything to a 't' except in those cases where our most clearly conscious aids as an intermediate rider are at best muddy or clash in the execution such as mine too often do, or the special situation for Western folks.

    I hate to invoke any objection that fundamentally relies on arguing my own riding skill is deficient, but while a significant percentage of that time no doubt that may be true, it is not always. And the 'western' argument doesn't seem to be addressed.

    Hope this thread runs for a long time and that nobody will join in who has "all the answers" and is determined to set us all straight. as to how 'settled' wisdom is the only conceivable possibility.
    \
    "Things should be as simple as possible,
    but no simpler." - Einstein

    “So what’s up with years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”


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  17. #17
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    I think there is a connection that takes time and good 'listening skills' by both partners to develop.

    If you or the horse does not have good listening skills or has those means of communication shut down for some reason, it's going to take longer (or never) to get any meaning across - again it goes both ways.

    Some is intuition, some is experience.

    A 'fun' experiment is to have a friend/trainer have a lunge line on you horse while you ride with your eyes closed. Focus not only on the basic w, t, c gaits and transitions, but what leg is moving, contact in the mouth, swishing of the tail, the horse's breathing, etc.

    See if you can halt the horse from a walk without moving your body - you will be surprised at how easily it can be done. Pat the horse and try it again. Then try halt to walk, and so on. Reward your horse for 'listening'.

    Communication lines can be digital or analog, it doesn't mean you aren't communicating, you may just be missing very small details.

    Again, it has to go both ways and with a horse who is listening to you too. Peppermints help.



  18. #18
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    some horses are more in tune than others. I prefer to ride my own horse b/c he knows me so well, there is just a communication there.



  19. #19
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    Energy.
    A friend told me I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.



  20. #20
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    I think there has to be something going on. Some horses seem to be more sensitive than others, or are maybe not as good at ignoring the excess thoughts we have.

    I remember going for a hack (alone) shortly after seeing Jurrasic Park. As I rode I was idly thinking about the dinosaurs (T-rex and velociraptor specifically) and my horse got very spooky and was nervously examining the woods around us. I deliberately replaced the dinosaurs with something innocuous and my horse relaxed. I did not ask him to do anything or otherwise distract him, just changed what I was thinking about.

    Another horse I rode was super sensitive to what I was thinking. I tend to plan my pattern ahead as I go (we're trotting this long side, then we'll circle at A and canter) and she consistently gave me what I was planning to do over there, here. So if I was at B in my planning a circle and canter at A example, she would just offer the canter at B. She was a bit of a worrier and tended to get upset if she got it wrong when trying to do what I asked too many times. I had to ride much closer to the now, and really think about what we were doing and not what we were going to do (my planning was done behind the screen of now thinking) and she became a much happier and easier ride.

    Both horses were green. I'd had the first for a year or so, and been riding the second for only a few months. Perhaps that's why I noticed what was going on. When I've had a horse for a long time I tend to notice the breakdowns in communication more than the response before the aid moments because it becomes normal to have that kind of connection. It goes both ways too - have you ever shut down an action your horse was making before they made it? What were you reacting to?


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