Horses are naturally curious. They are curious as a foal, when they start to discover the new world where they are born in, and this continues for the rest of their lives. That is, if their trainers and handlers are aware of this natural curiosity and nurture that curiosity instead of killing it.
But, what is a curious mind?
Being curious is wanting to discover, to experience, to learn new things. It’s being interested in something, wanting to know an answer on a question or learn more about a certain situation.
Curiosity creates confidence
That’s why curiosity creates confidence: if a horse learns and experiences new things, he will gain more confidence in himself and in life in general.
However, this natural curiosity can be suppressed by the way you handle and train your horse, and this can lead to stress and frustration, but also a horse that is unconfident or uninterested and unmotivated. It can even make a horse feel depressed.
So you understand, that if you want your horse to like and enjoy your training and you want your horse to be happy , then it’s important to nurture his natural curiosity.
Nurturing the natural curiosity
How can you nurture the natural curiosity of your horse in daily life and while training your horse? Here are some tips:
- Allow your horse to make own decisions
- Give your horse options to choose from
- Allow your horse to ask questions
- Let your horse sniff, touch and even bite things
- Play games with your horse like the “Carrot Game” and the “Mirror Game”
- Let your horse come to you and check you out during Bonding Time and allow your horse to be curious about you (sniffing, touching, licking you)
- Do connection exercise 2 “Greet and Groom”
- Offer your horse a lot of variation in training
- Present new situations, obstacles, challenges to your horse (e.g. in Groundwork)
- Give your horse time to think (and then come up with an answer) when you ask something
- Praise your horse for his willingness to try new things
- Regularly place unknown objects in your horse’s field/paddock to check out and learn from (new shapes, colours, smells,…)
- Allow your horse to explore what he wants to explore, even if that is something you didn’t have in mind at that moment
- Be inventive and playful when it comes to training your horse: what will trigger curiosity in your horse?
- And last but not least: be curious yourself!
Here’s a short video (exerpt from a video of the Horsefulness Groundwork Program) with an example about letting the horse make his own decisions. Just to show you how simple it can be 🙂