Found this interesting article at TheHorse.com. (Link at the bottom!)
What do you all think about this? :)
" Is your horse ready to learn? Australian researchers have determined that a little mental warm-up to prepare your horse for learning can go a long way toward effective, ethical training.
“Increasing the arousal level of horses prior to a training session could improve learning performance and safeguard equine welfare by reducing stress reactions during the training session,” said Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVS (Animal Welfare), professor of animal behavior and animal welfare science at the University of Sydney.
McGreevy presented the work of his student, Kate Fenner, BEqSci Hons, of Kandoo Equine, in Towrang, Australia, during the 2016 International Society for Equitation Science conference, held June 23-26 in Saumur, France.
“This ‘engagement zone,’ as we can refer to it, is a level of arousal that’s not stressful, per se, but just brings the horse into an engagement of attention and preparation for a training lesson,” McGreevy said.
In their study, Fenner, McGreevy, and colleagues taught 68 horses to step backwards in response to bit pressure over a course of eight trials. Half the horses were first “brought into the engagement zone” by preparing them for the lesson with light bit pressure. The scientists removed the pressure as soon as the horse moved away from it. The other half were control horses which were not brought into the engagement zone before training.
“As we expected, heart rate increased and heart rate variability (variations between heart beats) decreased during this preparatory phase with the rein tension, suggesting a slight stress response that can be considered arousal,” McGreevy said.
During the actual training phase, “prepared” horses showed less conflict, possibly indicating a more positive learning experience. Further, the control horses tossed their heads much more than the prepared horses during the training session.
“Interestingly, both groups of horses chose to avoid rein pressure, by stepping back more quickly and taking larger steps, rather than habituating to it, highlighting a need for coaches and riders to assess rein tension requirements over time,” Fenner added.
“The significant reduction in head-tossing behavior suggests that preparing the horse for the lesson may improve learning outcomes by reducing stress during the subsequent lesson,” said McGreevy.
Fenner noted that “if the horse is too emotional, he is frightened and will not be learning, and when he is not emotional enough (not paying attention), he will also not be learning.”
As such, “defining this ‘engagement zone,’ as an arousal level that optimizes learning and minimizes stress, would have horse welfare benefits,” McGreevy concluded.
So before you dive into training, consider helping your horse prepare mentally by taking steps to bring him into the engagement zone."