I thought I’d share a few last thoughts on not just Special Needs horses, but also the learning of horses in general, and the idea of using active discovery to learn how to teach them, and teach ourselves.
These people practice that concept, or have said it beautifully, so I’m sharing their words or pointing you to their thoughts.
There’s a very good article at Artistic Dressage (May 25, 2009) by Dr. Thomas Ritter, called The Root Principle. (You may have to scroll down)
I read his article after writing about my experience of getting to know Sunshine, the horse I wrote about in Special Needs Horses.
In the article, Dr. Ritter speaks to the need to go below the surface of the apparent ‘problem’ to find the root cause. Very thoughtful article. I highly recommend it.
The article reminded me of Sunshine, and how hard his trainer had to work to keep his training geared to his learning needs and ability, and how much attention to who he was this required. When I think about it, it’s miraculous he made it to 4th level. The article also made me think of the mis-read horses who possibly have learning disabilities or low IQ’s. Are they branded as disobedient, untrainable, or dangerous?
This may be the more common event, and why we don’t see many horses like Sunshine.
Sunshine was lucky to have also been blessed with an ultra-sweet temperament. It made him easier to teach, less easy to brand as recalcitrant or difficult. A cranky horse with a low IQ is most likely going to be read as being a ‘bad’ horse.
Dr. Ritter asks riders to momentarily set aside the presenting problem, and ask questions that will take you deeper into the issue.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with Shaun recently, after I heard her say to someone on the phone “I keep telling you, it’s all about the five Y’s. You can’t stop at the first Y, you have to go deeper.”
The 5 Y’s? Is this some retro reference to Y2K?
“Shaun, what are the five Y’s?”
“You have to ask Why (note to self: DUH, the five WHY’S, not the five Y’s) something is the way it is, and when you get the answer to that, ask why THAT is the way it is, until you get into something real, otherwise you get stuck putting out fires instead of proactively creating something.”
She explained this meant going five levels deep, minimum, with your “why is it this way?”. That it might take a lot of “why-ing” to get closer to the root of the issue, and find out what the real conversation is that needs to take place.
What if Katherine had never asked why Sunshine didn’t respond immediately to her aids? What if she hadn’t gone further, and asked herself why, if he didn’t appear to listen, he then went ahead and did what she asked much later?
Wendy (Wendy’s Horse Adventures) had some interesting thoughts on how horses learn: stacked learning and lateral learning, distinctions and differentiation. This, her Fields of Chocolate post, Dr. Ritter’s article , and Shaun’s Five Why’s are all chasing my thoughts, attempting to sort themselves into a connected order.
The common theme seems to be approach situations with discovery and patience before making and judgement calls that might affect you or your horse’s learning.
Comment box is open for ideas, input, discussion, experiences, dissent, finer points, whatever!
Honestly? I find it difficult to keep asking why without coming to a conclusion based on the immediate surface answer. It is a lot of work to step back and ask: why am I getting this response, exactly?