Cognitive learning is a natural (inner) ability of horses, which is acknowledged, preserved and developed with great attention in the zooanthropologic approach towards the horse-human relationship. Cognitive activities are a need for a healthy way of living for horses, just like social activities are.
The cognitive/zooanthropological approach to horse learning and training includes:
- considering the horse as sentient being;
- considering horse behaviour as a result of specific mental representations;
- considering horse learning topics as dialogical sharing experiences and not as behaviouristic mechanicistic stimulus/respons events;
- considering horse learning as a building process of mental maps, linked to improved environmental richness and social context experiences;
- considering with much attention and respect the social aspects of the horse’s nature;
- working on social learning aspect as first and principal element about equine social cognition;
- considering with maximum attention the internal cognitive resources of the horse;
- considering and preserving the inner motivation and spontaneous behaviour of the horse.
The cognitive/zooanthropologic approach is part of a cultural development and evolution, leaving behind the following assumptions on which until now conventional training methods are based:
- horse performance, focused on the performance range that the horse can or cannot do;
- behaviourism and operant conditioning with the one-way trasmission of instructions towards the horse;
- the horse as only one to adapt in the horse-human relationship;
- considering behaviour as result of automatism, resulting from S-R chain reactions;
- working on stimuli standardization and with that on poor learning experiences for the horse;
- excluding the abilities of the horse to build (latent) learning experience himself.
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