Threshold, in this case, refers to the level at which the horse becomes afraid.
Keeping a horse well below threshold means they are never worried about anything.
Getting a horse way over threshold removes any ability to learn. They wont take any offered food to help calm them down. They are too afraid to eat. So feeding for calmness wont help. A horse who is scared can’t think, they wont remember anything you try to work on while they are in this state. Other than that what you did with them made them afraid. Keeping a horse well over threshold without any way to escape the fear brings on a state of learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is when a horse has given up. They can’t escape the fear so they shut down. They seem fearless because of their lack of reaction.
With most of the training we do, we want to stay well below threshold. Our horses will be happy and gobble up all that we can teach them. By working in this area we will build a solid foundation of trust so when we cross that threshold they will be better able to rely on us and know we will get them out safely. All training to help them over come fear has to come before the fear is present.
By pressing close to threshold without crossing over, we can sample fear in small doses and show the horse that we will keep them safe. Offer a taste of fear, then back away, give treats, offer support and comfort so we become the safe place when there is danger. Not physically the safe place of course 😉
Once we have crossed threshold it is too late to do any training. All we can do is our best to get them back to a safe place, mentally and physically, so we can recover and meet the challenge better prepared next time!
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