Training a Horse’s Brain

How often do we stop to consider the unique role of the horse’s neuroanatomy? The structure of a horse’s brain is very different to that of a human, and to effectively educate our horses we must take this into account.

The left and right hemispheres of the human brain are densely interconnected by millions of white-matter fibre tracts. These tracts allow humans to generalise a task from one side of the body to the other. That is, if we learn to do a task using our right hand, that information can be generalised to allow us to replicate the same task in our left hand (that’s not to say it’s always easy, as we are generally dominant on one side, but the concepts for how to do it are already encoded in our brain!) In fact, the brain’s wiring criss-crosses: the right side of the body is actually controlled by signals originating in the left side of the brain and vice versa.

The way the horse’s brain works is very different in this regard. The equine brain has a limited capacity to generalise and apply what is learned on one side of the body to the opposite side. Each side must be approached and learnt independently. It is crucial to train a horse in a balanced fashion- repeating the same tasks on both the near (left) and off (right) sides. In addition to the neurological component of performing tasks on both sides, doing so will also help to promote more balanced musculoskeletal strength and development on both sides.

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