The sensory memory of the horse
What does ‘sensory’ mean?
It means that the sensory performance gets activated. Sensory performances are for example – hearing, seeing, smelling etc.
The sensory memory refers to ‘memory tracks’ which get created in the sensory area of the central nervous system.
This happens every single time – when a sensory receptor gets activated. Basically every time when the horse sees, smells or feels something – sensory receptors get activated – and a new memory gets created or expanded.
Studies have shown that only ~ 2% of the sensory input – will find its way into the long term memory.
Exposing a horse for the 1st time to a saddle blanket
Let’s say you are exposing a horse for the very first time to a saddle blanket. You put the saddle blanket on his back, he walks around a little bit, you wait until he stands still again, you take the saddle blanket off again , you praise him and you let the blanket rest in your arm.
Now- in 99% of the time the horse will try and reach out towards the saddle blanket again to smell it or even lick it. He’s trying to get more ‘sensory informations’ about the saddle blanket.
💡 Let him smell the blanket!
This step is super important for the horse in order to be able to create a positive connection to the saddle blanket.
Because -now you are working with the sensory memory of the horse – which you NEED- to be able to create a fully developed memory that will get transferred to the long term memory – where it can also be recalled with a positive feeling.
The BIGGEST thing that will block your horse from being able to create a positive memory is -> Stress!
As soon as your horses heart rate goes up – you are hindering your horses thought process from developing and therefore you hinder your own progress and create negative connections towards the desired behavior.
Note: Every-time you want to teach your horse something – you HAVE to keep his heart rate low (stay below fear threshold!!!) – to be able to ‘upload’ the desired behavior into his long term memory with a positively connection.
You have to be well prepared,focused and concentrated to be able to set your horse up for success. Keep it easy and keep it calm. Don’t put time pressure on yourself or your horse.
💡 Tip: Make yourself a plan! You want to teach something new ? Write down step by step what you need to do and what props you might need (saddle/blanket…).
That way you can get everything ready for the session without having to leave for example the training area because you forgot to grab something and you have your guide of what to do already in your mind