The education of horse and rider can be as varied as the horsemen and women who publish and preach their own particular methods. But before any learning can begin, it helps to know learning theory.
Sometimes this basic concept is left out of the teaching process due to long held traditions in horsemanship. In fact I don’t recall anyone teaching me anything about learning theory and it wasn’t until after 40 years of horsemanship and the discovery of various training methods, that I discovered it.
Learning theory is not often taught in programs for the horse or for instructors, but really, it should be a pre-requisite. Sometimes this may be because of the difficulty people have in understanding the scientific terminology, however there is one author who has managed to explain it in every day terms and that is Mark Hanson in his book ‘Revealing Your Hidden Horse’.
This book actually details a revolutionary approach to understanding and caring for your horse so that training and learning is optimised. Mark shows us how to consider the horse’s physical health and emotional state so that learning is optimised for both horse and human.
The chapters on ‘Control and Communication’ followed by ‘Positive Reinforcement Training and Relationships’ delve into the fundamentals of training and the tools we can use to develop a positive and productive learning experience.
Another great resource for understanding learning theory is Emma Lethbridge’s book Knowing Your Horse: A Guide to Equine Learning, Training and Behaviour. This book provides the reader with the tools to analyse different training methods and to understand their horse better. If you understand how your horse learns and why your training is effective, you can train faster, more ethically, and more sympathetically.
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