Building Confidence Through R & R (Rhythmic Repetition)
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
A confident horse is better equipped to give their handler “priority” in any given situation, which in turn improves predictability, performance and safety. The process of learning known as habituation is very effective in helping build a horse’s confidence, and the key ingredient for successful habituation is Rhythmic Repetition.
For example, whenever a horse overreacts to something I am doing or asking, I try to maintain position and repeat the stimulus rhythmically, in the same manner as what caused the overreaction (assuming it is safe and compassionate), until their response is no longer an overreaction. At the very moment of improvement, I reward them by ceasing the process and praising them.
Why is rhythm so important? Rhythmic repetition is predictable. When the horse is able to predict exposure to the stimulus, they learn to cope with it (they become habituated to it). Conversely, repetition without rhythm is unpredictable. Unpredictable repetition of a “scary” stimulus is likely to perpetuate the overreaction.
Predictability leads to habituation, which inevitably leads to confidence. For the horse, the end result is a more balanced mindset as they learn to respond, not react, to their environment.
Rhythmic Repetition --> Predictability --> Confidence
Have fun and be safe!