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To help guide you to a deeper relationship with your horse.

 

The Horse's Brain

Many scientists believe there is a correlation between brain weight and intelligence.  The adult human brain weighs approximately three pounds.  A cat's brain weighs about a third of a pound. Dog brains weigh about three-fourths of a pound.  The brain of the horse is the size of a human child’s and weighs from one and a half pounds to two pounds.   Oddly enough, although smaller, the horse's brain is similar to our own with a few differences. The most important difference is that much of the human brain is used for fine-motor skills and language development, while most of the horse's brain is used for analyzing information received from the environment.

Some scientists have said that horses have the intelligence of twelve-year old humans. At the turn of the twentieth-century, the American horse Beautiful Jim Key could perform basic arithmetic, read, write, and spell.   A few years later the famous German horse Clever Hans demonstrated his expertise at reading unconscious human behavior.  Almost monthly, new studies are published confirming the complexity of equine intelligence.

Besides over-all brain size there are other interesting differences between equine and human brains.  The roundish protuberances at the base of all mammalian brains, the cerebellum, is much larger in the horse-brain than the human brain.  This is the part of the brain where the integration of sensory perception, coordination and motor control takes place.  Horses, as prey animals, must be able to run within an hour after they are born. Coordinating the movement of four legs while sorting out information received from the environment is necessary for the horses' survival as a species.  All gross motor movements are quickly and permanently stored in the large cerebellum.  Therefore, once a movement is taught to a horse it won’t be forgotten.

Additionally, while humans rely in large part upon their sight and hearing to understand and participate in the world around them, horses rely on their sense of smell.  The equine sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than the human counterpart.  The smell of a rose or a good meal compliments the human world of sights and sounds.  However, with their two different olfactory organs the world they perceive through their noses is one that we can only imagine. 

The differences in the two types of brain mean that people are experts at oral and written language development and using their hands for creating and using tools.  On the other hand, horses are experts at reading and understanding the environment and body language and learning large movements.  In fact, they learn many times faster than humans and preserve what they learned for the rest of their lives, while humans only retain information for a short time unless the information is regularly reviewed.  If horse handlers keep the differences in the horse and human brain in mind they can make better use of the horse’s potential. 

2015 BITLESS RIDING CLINICS

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