I’ve recently started using a phrase that originated from my favourite T.V. show, Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman <3) It’s called my ‘Learning Palace’. In the show, it’s Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’, but I think it might be the same thing.
It’s especially important to create a Learning Palace as fast as you can when you get a new horse because this will give you both a safe place to learn and get to know each other. For those of you with life-time partners, you most likely have established a Learning Palace without even realizing it. Here’s what it is, exactly:
- A geographical place your horse feels relaxed and peaceful in
- A place where you feel inspired and/or a peace
- A familiar place that poses no mental/physical/emotional challenges
Sounds like a place you know? Well, that’s your Learning Palace!
I used to think that having a Learning Palace was only a way to get stuck in a rut, with no development. After all, don’t we want our horses to be good in any environment? YES, we do! But that can’t happen until we’ve established our leadership in a safe place. Teaching should always start off in a safe place, until the horse and you are confident. Then you can step out of your comfort zone and continue learning!
Here’s how you can build your Learning Palace:
- Find a place that you like. Yes, a horse can make any place his learning palace if you make it yours. The place you choose should be a quiet, peaceful, safe environment. It might be your arena; it might be the back yard. Choose carefully, and once you’ve chosen, stick with it.
- Make your first successful contact in your Palace. You’ve probably had your horse for years (or months) and have had some sort of contact with him (good or bad!) I mean, ‘join up’ or get connected with your horse very strongly the first time you enter your Learning Palace together. Let him know that here, you are alpha.
- Settle down and let him explore. It’s good if you can fence in your Learning Palace. If not, you can improvise. Once you’ve made that first connection, let him relax and explore all he wants. Storm wanted to roll the first time in our Learning Palace! He almost hit a pole and had to learn for himself what was safe and what wasn’t. Maybe give them some hay in their Palace and let them feel like it’s home.
- Go there regularly. A Learning Palace is no good if you just go there once. This is a place to experiment with new techniques and teach new concepts. This is the place that you may take your first ride, or introduce scary objects. Let them expect to there.
- Keep growing. Once you have developed the ‘Palace’ part of your Learning Palace, then begin the learning. Become avid. Take advantage of the relaxation your Palace offers and stretch yourself and your horse.
Storm decided to jump into his Learning Palace by himself today.
For a horse who is decidedly attached to his herd, he was quite brave! But that’s what the Learning Palace does; it encourages bravery and adventure because they realize that they can feel safe, confident, and joyful away from their herd. It’s really quite amazing whenever I take him in there – he switches gears completely and gets so responsive! Obviously, in the summer I’m going to have to move out of my current Learning Palace and build another one, but it’ll be the perfect timing for change – once he has realized that I’m the ‘queen of the palace’and he can follow wherever I lead.