When we were editing Lula's progress video, we thought this was an interesting comparison! These pictures are of Lula heading home from a ride a couple of days apart.
The first picture shows Lula at four days with a rider while being restarted. Lula was a sensitive mare and had a bit of baggage, she was extremely rushy and one sided, would pull to the left and fall out towards the right, but she'd had her back done early on with us, and her owners had sorted teeth when she went to them, so we put it down to trained behaviour. The picture depicts her running through the bridle, which she did all the way home.
The second picture is the same horse, in the same scenario a couple of days later. Lula was relaxed the whole way home (which is more noticeable in the video, which is coming).
So what happened in between the two pictures? Just lots of training? Did we work her really hard? Maybe lunged her? Put draw reins, a bungee, a standing martingale or a lunging aid on her?
Well most of you know us well enough to answer 'no' to most of those suggestions!
So what did we do? The answer is: Nothing.
We gave her the weekend off, just like all the backers get (sometimes at our peril as they get 'Monday Morning Syndrome').
People so often underestimate the power of latent learning! This is the learning that your horse gets done in the field. We can do as much training as you like, but unless you're using force (which will eventually backfire), the horse has to understand what you're saying!
It's hard to say how latent learning is achieved, but horses are even smarter than we give them credit for. Over the weekend, everything connected in Lula's brain and she came out on Monday knowing what was being asked of her.
We don't turn all horses away or anything (unless they are young and underdeveloped), but we really do recommend giving them regular, small breaks.
We don't give horses the weekend off because it's easier for us, we still have to feed, poopick, muck out and hay up, and as mentioned above, the horses are sometimes much harder to work on a Monday! We do it because it's what's best for them, and I'm sure that you will all agree, looking at these two pictures!