By Shelley Appleton
Legendary horseman Ray Hunt famously used to sign his autograph with the word “Think”. This is because when you work a horse you need to be operating from your intellect and not your emotions. Why? Because you need your intellect to retrieve the information that you understand about the horse in order to observe, analyse and evaluate the horse during training. You need your intellect to problem solve, judge your own performance and make decisions during the training process.
Horses are emotional creatures and their behaviour is a reflection of how they feel. However, human thoughts and actions are shaped by both our emotions AND our ability to think and reason. Aristotle labelled us the “rational animal” as our brain has the unique ability to perform complex reasoning. We are able to do this because our brain has both an emotional and intellectual system to assist our survival. Our emotional and intellectual systems are connected and every thought and action is a product of varying input from both systems. When we work with horses, we are more successful when our thoughts and actions are principally influenced by our intellect and not our emotions. This is easier said than done because our emotional system is a primeval system, involuntary and fast. Our intellectual system is evolutionarily newer, relatively voluntary and slower. It takes more mental effort to utilise our intellect than our emotional system. When we are under pressure we also tend to default to our emotional system.
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