“If the rider is unsure, fearful or only trying to survive on the horse’s back, this will prompt most horses to become just as unsure, fearful and concerned about survival. The horse is a perfect mirror of the feelings, emotions and even thoughts of whoever is with it, either on the ground or in the saddle”.
Frank Levinson, Horse whisperer.
The Horse and Rider Analogy
When you observe the rider, sitting on top of the horse and holding the reins, he/she seems to be in charge. But let’s not forget their relative sizes, with the rider weighing considerable less than the horse.
If something scares her or if she sees food, who is really in charge? ...For when the Horse and the Rider disagree about which direction to pursue, the Rider loses.
The horse can ‘feel’ whether you, the rider, are OK… she feels your emotional state.
So how do you get in harmony with each other? Can you ever be truly in control?
First attend to your rational brain and get your bearings; then consider the horse.
Put simply, the horse:
The UNESCO award winning psychologist, Robert Ornstein, refers to these survival drivers as the 4 F's, namely; feeding, fighting, fleeing and sexual reproduction. He is well known for his sense of humour!
Understanding how these drivers influence us today is crucial to being healthy and having a positive mindset. The goal, as the French say, is feeling "bien dans sa peau" - 'good in your skin', and having a genuine sense of well-being.
Horses don't have a pre-frontal cortex
Who's in charge now?
Horses used to all live out on the open plains, as herbivores they foraged for food and lived in herds. They travelled many miles each day while grazing.
As seasons changed and grass died off, the herd would move to find new grass and other types of shrubbery. What kept them alert was the threat of predators, which could surprise them and catch them unawares if they were not constantly on the lookout.
Unlike predators, horses as prey animals needed no reasoning skills to be able to plan ahead, consider or visualize in the mind’s eye. These skills were only developed by predators and omnivores that needed to know how to find herds of prey animals, work as a pack, and hunt down their prey.
Scientists believe that this explains why horses’ brains have not developed a "Prefrontal Cortex" which is responsible for reasoning abilities in humans and some other predators and omnivores.
This explains why horses have little or no ability to plan ahead, consider events or visualize what might happen. Instead, their behaviour is controlled by responses learned from simple trial and error, which over time develop into rather predictable habits. This is to be found especially in the presence of a large amount of fear, stimulating the ‘flight or fight’ response.
So it is the actual occurrence of certain stimuli that trigger the horse to remember how it reacted and/or solved a problem the last time it faced it.