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Brain Processing Time

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  • Brain Processing Time

    Anyone else find that they need 'brain time', even off the horse, to absorb their lessons? We were talking about this last night, the idea that to absorb something in a lesson, we need some time to think about it, maybe that process isn't even always entirely something one is aware of or focusing on.

  • #2
    no. just need the physical practice.
    a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


    • #3
      Originally posted by slc2 View Post
      Anyone else find that they need 'brain time', even off the horse, to absorb their lessons? We were talking about this last night, the idea that to absorb something in a lesson, we need some time to think about it, maybe that process isn't even always entirely something one is aware of or focusing on.
      There's a lot of evidence that learning takes place after an activity as well as during it, particularly while you sleep. So it's not at all surprising that allowing some time for your brain to go over things might be really productive.

      When I was taking lessons regularly, after a challenging lesson with an element that had gone really well, before bed I would often try to go over the *good* part in my head - what it felt like, what I did, etc. That definitely seemed to help get things to 'settle'.


      • #4
        I find that even taking 5 quick seconds to picture a piece of a movement in my head before attempting it DURING a lesson helps it go well. An old trainer of mine once explained that riding is like a flow chart: there are the boxes, and the lines between the boxes. The better the rider, the shorter the lines between the boxes.

        I find if I picture myself attempting what the instructor has just explained in slow motion once (a....b....c............d), and then a few more times, quicker each time, my brain already has the path of the flow chart mapped out and I am much more successful in real time without making the poor horse five times as tired.

        By now it is automatic; if I am planning to ride a 10 meter circle at B into a shoulder-in to M and my instructor has imparted some advice on the last one over at E, I have initiated it two or three times in my head with the new advice 'installed' already in between F and B.
        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


        • #5
          Sometimes it pays to take your brain out of the equation and just allow your body to react.
          ... _. ._ .._. .._


          • #6
            Unfortunately, in order for the body to react properly, enough correct brain time needs to occur.

            Some call it "muscle memory", others just trained reactions. When you need to ease from canter to counter canter without a hiccough because some idiot just invaded your line, it can only be done easily if it has already been done quite a few times..
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • #7
              Yup, lots of time I will go home, think about something and come back with a clearere idea the next day.
              Shop online at


              • #8
                I frequently do not "get" something new during the ride. My life is such that I often don't have time to actively reflect and think later that evening, but I do find that the next day "poof" it's there. I must subconsciously process things over time.

                My overall riding has skyrocketed with 3 things the last 3 years:

                1) starting from scratch on the longe after having a baby
                2) competing for 2 years at (some) 2nd, 3rd, (some) 4th until the tests were practically rote--reading the test comments, fixing the holes, lather, rinse, repeat
                3) taking 2-4 lessons per week, every week, plus "on my own rides"

                I think the consistency implied with #2 and #3, has gotten my brain (and the body) to process regularly without too much "down time" in between.
                From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.


                • #9
                  Practice may make perfect but the human brain requires processing time between new experiences for learning to occur. Particularly, SLEEP is crucial to the brain's ability to secure memory and integrate new experiences into the existing framework. Muscle recovery and growth are also dependent on the duration and quality of sleep.

                  Unfortunately, who sleeps well? For those of us that embrace the philosophy of "better living through chemical means", you gotta love ambien.
                  Balance is the perfect state of still water (Confucius)


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                    Unfortunately, in order for the body to react properly, enough correct brain time needs to occur.
                    I don't think that's true for all people.
                    ... _. ._ .._. .._


                    • #11
                      Yes! I can listen and respond during a lesson, but in order to really learn something in a repeatable way, I need to consider it. Usually this happens when I am in my car, driving to or from work. I need to break down what I need to do, when, what the ideal responce from my horse is, as well as what common issues I will experience with my horses quirks, and how to handle them, Visualizing in this way actually seems to improve my body memory, even if I only got to do the exercise or movement once or twice, if I think it through, the next time I ride it much better then when I just drill an exercise. But I know not everyone learns this way, to each their own!
                      Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of the Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                      • #12
                        I have to agree slc; in my experience it has not been conscious thought though. I trained 4-5 days a week with my trainer for the better part of a year. We progressed nicely. Her real job has occupied her since May and i have found that alone i have been forced to use what i have been taught. Both my horse and I have moved up a level in our time away from my trainer.
                        I didnt learn anything new, the horse didnt learn anything new, we just applied what we had been taught but unable to implement.
                        chaque pas est fait ensemble


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                          I don't think that's true for all people.
                          yeah it is. The brain is involved in directing all of your movements except spinal reflexes like the knee jerk. Any kind of coordinated movement requires the lil' puddin upstairs.


                          • #14
                            I have a blog I try to write in on a regular basis, especially if I have time to get to it that night it really helps me think about everything I worked on in that ride and then have a plan in my head for the next ride.
                            Ellie and Werther Blog


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by stecia View Post
                              Practice may make perfect but the human brain requires processing time between new experiences for learning to occur. Particularly, SLEEP is crucial to the brain's ability to secure memory and integrate new experiences into the existing framework. Muscle recovery and growth are also dependent on the duration and quality of sleep.
                              Yup. I think the initial study was with rats and learning to run a maze - they found that there was brain activity very similar to that of running the maze while the rats were in a certain phase of sleep - if they interrupted the rats right before they got to that phase (so they never got to 'dream' about the maze) then their performance was markedly worse than in the rats who were allowed to sleep normally. (I think they also interrupted the sleep cycle during other phases, to rule out sleep disturbance in and of itself as the cause of the difference.)

                              Anyway, you don't HAVE to mentally go over it before you sleep - your brain is going to go over it (and bunches of other things you've done during the day) while you're asleep whether you like it or not unless you have a sleeping problem such that you don't get through the proper sleep cycle. (People with sleep apnea, for example, can have horrible problems due to not hitting all the cycles of sleep.) It's just that focusing on the specific moment or moments when things went well helps to reinforce that memory and keep it 'fresh' for when your brain starts processing.


                              • #16
                                I have found it works for my horse, too. When we first try a new thing, I ask him to do just a little, just once or twice. Then I leave it alone. And often, the next ride I find that he can do it much better already, almost as if he secretly practiced in his paddock


                                • Original Poster

                                  I don't think it means one needs a certain number of days between lessons. I don't think it means that someone must write about it or even talk about it. I think how each person works a learning varies a little, but I'm not sure conscious writing and talking is the core of it, I think much of learning dressage is is by feel, and by a not-entirely conscious review of that feel.

                                  I'm not sure one fundamentally enforces feel learning intellectually; I think it's a more subtle process based on my experiences. Not muscle memory type of thing, which is supposed to be processes that don't hit the brain and stay in the spinal nerves. But I think a lot of dressage learning is higher than muscle memory, but not wholely conscious, intellectual learning reinforced by writing and speaking. I think writing and speaking might help minimally, not fundamentally.

                                  I've occasionally experienced this with 'intellectual learning' but I think that's generally not how intellectual learning works - I think tutoring, study groups, discussion, reinforcing reading, work sheets - I took a course, got sick, missed all but the first day, studied for a test out at the end of the term, and wasn't able to grasp all the material immediately by reading, as evidenced by a sample test. I waited two months, didn't restudy the material, didn't do any labs, didn't even consciously THINK about the material, and 4-pointed the test out.

                                  Learning is decidedly weird, LOL. I think because dressage is largely about producing a feeling that you experience and then try to duplicate, and that feel is only bolstered by intellectual information, and is produced by physical action, that it takes not-conscious time to make it more duplicatable.

                                  Our talk the other night was that those who have to rush on to a million other activities and demands on their brain and time, don't get that not-so-intellectual, not-so-conscious processing time.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by spotted mustang View Post
                                    yeah it is. The brain is involved in directing all of your movements except spinal reflexes like the knee jerk. Any kind of coordinated movement requires the lil' puddin upstairs.
                                    Are we talking about the conscious brain activity or the subconscious. I was referring to the latter.
                                    ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho" View Post
                                      no. just need the physical practice.
                                      Yup. Muscle memory. I find that if I ride the very next day, I retain the feel for what I've learned much better.
                                      "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                                      the best day in ten years,
                                      you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."


                                      • #20
                                        for me, if i spend time visualizing my rides/lessons then i learn a lot faster..... it is like i am actually riding and my "muscle memory" builds much faster ans does my response time etc.