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Right Brain, Left Brain: Knowing how horses operate can help your training efforts

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association International Spokeswoman Julie Goodnight

Horses are very one-sided because they have a very underdeveloped corups callosum, which is the connective tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain that allows messages to go from one side of the brain to the other.

Humans have a very highly developed corpus callosum, meaning we think with both sides of the brain at one time.

In horses, however, thereís not a lot of information going from one side to the other.

So, thatís why you train a horse on one side and then you have to go back and train them completely on the other side.

A horse pretty much thinks with one side of his brain at a time.

This has many implications for behavior and safety.

For learning, this one-sidedness means that we have to train both sides of the horseís brain, but we should only work on one side of the horse at a time. In other words, if you are training the horse to be mounted, you would work first on the left side, train the skill thoroughly, then go over to the right side of the horse and start over with the training until the horse gets it.

For some horses, the second side will come much more quickly; for others, it is like you are starting all over (especially if you have not handled the horse from both sides).

Being able to switch from side to side fluidly with any skill will only happen once the horse is thoroughly trained on both sides.

How quickly a horse picks up a new skill on the second side is a good indicator of how balanced, or two-sided, the horse is (which, of course, is a good sign for performance training).


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