How to FIX Pacing: Pattern Interruption for Anxious Horses

It only takes three repetitions for a horse to learn something, this goes for positive or negative behaviors. It’s easy for horses (and humans let’s be honest) to settle into routines and habits regardless of whether it is beneficial for us in the long there, a lot of the time some of these habits may even be detrimental, but they are familiar, safe, and feel good at the time. Any habit can be applied to this pattern interruption theory, but in this case we are going to talk about horse that pace.

In this case, the horse above was a training horse with extreme anxiety and frantic behaviors when she felt unsafe. The hard part was, even when the perceived threat was over and she either had her herd or person back, the pacing behavior stuck. It was only because she had found safety or comfort in that familiar behavior, and it ended up being something that she could “check out” with.

The same thing happens when you hit snooze, or roll over to turn your alarm off and then scroll through Social Media for 20 minutes. It’s a way for us to turn our brains off. BUT! There is a way out.

In this case as the above photo shows – all I had to do was INTERRUPT this mare’s path with something that made her snap out of it and think in the present vs zone out. It can’t be in a pattern itself, it almost has to be something that is random, changes, but ALWAYS in this horses way. The photo above shows the first setup, and I spent the next 2-3 hours between riding horses changing this pattern up, because eventually the pattern created to interrupt the pattern would become the pattern. Soak on that for a second. Sometimes there would be a pile of poles, sometimes the barrels in weird configurations, but the consistent thing was it was always in her way and she couldn’t fall into the lull of going back and forth for hours. This is a commitment process.



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