What Least Resistance
Training Is

Part two -
The Science of How it Works

There are several theories as to how a horse perceives his world and responds or reacts to it. While modern science hasn't provided all the answers, it is giving us greater insights into the process of how a horse thinks.

Most of us are aware of the theory that the halves of a horse's brain don't communicate well with each other. This theory is based in part on hundreds of years of observing horses. For example, a horse will encounter an unexpected object with his right eye and shy from it. Even after he becomes comfortable with that object, he might be coming back down the path from the opposite direction, see the object in his left eye, and react as if he had never seen it before. The common conclusion was that what was processed on one half of the brain (from the right eye) didn't get communicated to the other half of the brain (from the left eye) and that the two brain hemispheres in the horse don't have good neural connectivity.

That conclusion is wrong. Through meticulous post mortem study of horse brains, researchers have determined that a horse's brain has pretty much the same neuropathways as any mammal's brain. So what's the deal here? Why does the horse "learn" something on one side and it be foreign when viewed on the other side just a few minutes later.

The horse instinctively has to check everything out
A big former wild stallion a few minutes into the gentling process

The current working theory involves what we call "behavioral compartmentation." The horse's survival over millions of years depended on a constant test of "friend or foe" with things in his environment. The complacent animal ended up as some predator's dinner and the modern horse evolved to limit acceptance of some stimulus to a specific perceptual "compartment."

Something accepted on the left often has to be proved to be safe on the right. The same results can be obtained from front to back, and from different elevations.

Why does the horse accept a human standing on the ground, but spook if the human is sitting on a fence rail? The horse knows the human. He sounds and smells familiar. He's not behaving in threatening manner. The horse has never experienced a cougar perched on a rock so why does the human "up high" spook the inexperienced horse? It's because the horse has never experienced and accepted the human in that "upper compartment."

Sometimes there is stimulation in that one "compartment" the horse isn't ready for
in a few days from "untouchable" to loading easily in the trailer for the first time

Why does a particular horse accept being touched and rubbed all over except for his ears? He hasn't been "eared" or hurt in any way. He has no reason to expect being hurt. He simply has never been desensitized to touch in that "compartment" and now has produced a habitual behavioral response that keeping everyone away from his ears is the thing to do.

Why does a particular horse who is quite comfortable with humans around his head and shoulders shy and threaten to kick when someone approaches his hind end? He can see perfectly well back there and like the human perched on the fence, he surely knows who this person is. He's never been attacked by a human from the rear yet he is instinctively defensive.

Each horse has a different level of innate defensiveness. Some are pretty laid back and accepting while others may range through the spectrum to dangerously reactive. But the fundamental behavioral triggers remain the same throughout all of these animals.

Stress creates defensiveness in the horse. Defensiveness typically strengthens compartmental boundaries. This explains why the laid back horse seems to accept everything while the uptight horse has hundreds of worry points.

There are several approaches that we consider part of the Least Resistance "family" of horse training methods. While the mechanics of some of these approaches may differ greatly, the consistency between these approaches is that when applied correctly they reduce stress in the horse, raise the horse's level of consciousness, diffuse the horse's defensive compartmentation and promote comparative thinking on the part of the horse (what is OK in compartment "A" is therefore OK in the other compartments.)

Keno was explosive if anyone attempted to touch her
The same horse later being trimmed without being tied or even on a lead rope
A formerly dangerously spooky horse calmly accepting being vacuumed

Continue to Part Three

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