“Take care of your horsemanship and your horsemanship will take care of you.”

~Pat Parelli


Neuro Science vs Behaviorism

Jake and I were out on a nice trot. We were going over some territory he had been a couple of times before. I was working on getting my feel better for rhythm, relaxation, longitudinal stretch and lateral flexion. I was ever mindful that I was mounted on an eleven hundred pound prey animal. I was also mindful that he had not yet paid attention to the donkeys in the herd of 30 plus horses in the pasture to the right.


I saw the donkeys first. They were huddled next to the fence. Little beady eyes, huge radar ears, standing stock still. They might as well been a lurking stalking pride of lions. I started taking note of Jake’s behavior. Trot trot trot. Soft soft soft. Stretch stretch stretch. Snort, SNORT, Louder Snort, Alarm Level SNORT!!! I hopped off in one quick move.


Jake’s 16:2 was now 20+ hands on the end of short, short reins. He busted some moves but was still aware of where I was as his alert level continued to escalate. I could see him getting too close to the pinnacle of the Martin Black and Dr. Steven Peter’s Pyramid of Parasympathetic Nervous System.


The potential for tipping over to pure panic was very close. He was looking for an exit with or without me. I managed to release one rein so I had 5 feet rather than 2 ½ feet to negotiate and communicate. My Left Brain, steady Eddy Introvert, was predictably going to his opposite quadrant in a time of extreme stress, Right Brain Extrovert.


The key strategy, behavioral modification, for this horseanality is “focus me.” I directed his feet for the next 10-15 minutes. Suddenly he tipped back into curiosity. Relaxed and looked at me as if he just realized I was there, “Hi, where have you been?”


All worked out just fine. I am sure we will have more opportunities to catch the curiosity and hyper alertness a little earlier and shape it into a learning experience.


I was interested how powerful both the behavioral analysis including strategies that are based on the expression of the behaviors, and sensing the neuro-science potential were very powerful for me to regain Jake’s feet and mind.


I was just musing over this when I came across and article discussing a book that appears to be about being a life long learner. This review pointed out the need to be “wary of Schools of Thought.” The example given appeared to be Behaviorism VS Neuroscience. I don’t know if the point of the book is an Either/Or—however my experience shows how valuable multiple theories are.

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