I’ve recently started using a phrase that originated from my favourite TV show, Sherlock. It’s called a ‘learning palace’. In the show, it’s Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’, but I think it might be the same thing.
It’s important to create a Learning Palace, especially when you get a new horse, because it provides a safe place to learn without inducing stress and anxiety. For those of you with life-time partners, you most likely have established a Learning Palace without realizing it. Here’s what it is, exactly:
- A geographical place where your horse feels relaxed and peaceful
- A place where you feel inspired or at peace
- A familiar place that poses no mental, physical, or 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. After all, don’t we want our horses to be good in any environment? YES, we do! But first we have to establish our relationship in a safe place. Then you can step out of your comfort zone and continue learning with a solid foundation of trust and respect.
Here’s how to start building your Learning Palace:
- Find a place that you like. 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; it could be a meadow in the woods. Choose carefully, and once you’ve chosen, stick with it.
- Make your first successful contact in your Learning Palace. You’ve probably had some sort of first contact with your horse by now, whether it be good or bad. To establish your Learning Palace, you will need to re-assert yourself and reset your relationship in the new area. Think about ‘joining up’, or get connected with your horse very strongly the first time you enter your Learning Palace together. Let him know that you are strong, confident, and relaxed in this new place. Make this new area a place of learning AND comfort for him.
- 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, groom them, let them explore at liberty, 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. Your horse will expect and look forward to going there.
- Keep growing. Once you have firmly implanted your ‘Learning Palace’, keep growing! Become an avid learner in that space. Take advantage of the safety your palace offers and stretch your relationship.
The Learning Palace encourages bravery and adventure because horses realize that they can feel safe, confident, and joyful away from their herd, with you. It’s amazing how Storm switches gears as soon as he enters our Learning Palace; from rebellious and playful to attentive and patient.
Anyone can benefit from having a Learning Palace. It’s like a having a study spot or work office in which you can enter ‘the zone’ as soon as you sit down.
This post was edited February 2018.