My horses are on holidays until the end of the month- I’m devoting so much time to putting my new program together that an equine sabbatical seemed to be the most sanity-saving option as opposed to trying to do it all-and consequently, much of my learning and musing is coming from working together with Lupin (my puppy) … which, as it turns out, all feeds into the same pool anyway.
At the moment, there are many things that we are learning together that really achieve no functional purpose, in and of themselves. For instance, the latest thing I taught her was to start at me, run out and wrap around a cone about 5-10 meters away and come back. Aside from being fun, that actual exercise isn’t specific “for” something. What it does do, however, is teaches her how to learn. And I believe this to be the best thing that you can gift any creature with, human included.
In many cases, we’ve become so outcome-driven and goal-focused, that we’ve forgotten that one of the most fundamental aspects of teaching and absorbing anything is to create the right conditions for learning to occur.
And in order for that to happen, we have to ensure a few things are in place.
The first thing is that the being in question- horse, human, or otherwise- is in a mind space where learning is possible. Any creature in the midst of a fight/flight response, or “stuck” in sympathetic is not capable of absorbing new information. If they are, your first mission is to figure out what they need to feel safe in their own skin, so they are capable of being open to new sensory information.
The second thing is there has to be no such thing as punishment. Only when you remove mistakes as a punishable offense will learning occur. The most Lupin will hear from me (and my horses too for that matter) is “oops”, and even that I will only say because she is confident in what we are doing together. If she wasn’t, I would consider that even too much.
Mistakes are a necessary part of it and to be expected. Teaching anything, I would expect her to get it wrong many more times than she gets it right. That’s the whole point.
The other thing is clarity. If you are teaching anything- to yourself or something or someone else- you need to be super clear on what you are asking and even clearer on when movements towards fulfilling those criteria are achieved. If you aren’t clear on what you’re teaching, don’t teach it yet. Educate yourself a little more on what’s required and break it down into steps. Have it live in your own body first before you try to communicate it outside yourself.
Learning lives outside of boxed rules. If I have the belief that there is a right way to do something, I’ve eliminated all possibilities for learning. We have to create the conditions for learning to occur and then let it find its way into the world.