Monday, March 2, 2015

How Sensitive is the Horse to Touch and Motion

Horse language can be very subtle.  The March 2015 edition of Equus Magazine features an article on "Getting the Feel" by Janet Jones, PhD, (pp. 54-61) about how to improve your proprioceptive abilities when riding.  Proprioception is defined as the brain's ability to be aware "of body location, pressure, and movement."  The example that I remember from college is taking a glass of water filled to the brim and holding it at arm's length.  When you close your eyes, you will find it much more difficult to maintain the water at an even level.  Some people are better at this trial than others.

Dr. Jones states that you need to develop better proprioceptive abilities to help you match those of your horse.  We have all heard the analogy that a horse can feel the weight of a fly but Dr. Jones takes this analogy so much further:

"The average horse weighs 50 million times more than the average fly but immediately feels the pest settle on his body.  A hypothetical human with that degree of sensitivity would feel the weight of five unseen dandelion seeds.  Trained horses can detect from two yards away a nod of the human head that measures only 8/1000 of an inch in displacement.  That's two and one half times more sensitive to visual displacement than we are. Faced with the same nod, humans wouldn't even know it had occurred.  One more statistic: At the withers, horse can detect .0003 ounces of pressure from one nylon filament--the weight of about three grains of sand.  Push the same filament into your fingertip, and you'd have no idea it was there." (p. 55)

I always said that abuot 80% of my signals when riding Blessi are white noise to him.  Perhaps I should revise the percentage upwards.  Poor boy!

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