When I was much younger a horse trainer stated to me flatly that horses don’t think. I bristled! I said, “of course horses think, that’s like saying horses don’t go to heaven!” But, as I said, I was young and even more emotional than I am now.
Years passed, many horses came and went, and I have observed many wondrous things. Like the horse that figures out how to undo the latch on the feed room door. Of course horses think, they just use a different set of rules. Humans are taught to use deductive or inductive logic, while horses, being more instinctive, think associatively. An example of associative thinking is “post hoc ergo procter hoc,” after it therefore caused by it. Lawyers and doctors are taught to shy away from this type of thinking. But tell that to the horse who got stung by a wasp in a horse trailer! Or watch when you feed a horse at seven in the morning for three days, he meets you at the gate at seven on the fourth day!
Bridge and target training, where a treat is offered and a sound is made when the animal takes the treat, like Pavlov’s experiment ringing a bell when dogs were eating, is a good example of associative thinking which can be used in training dogs and horses. Crack a whip each day before you put a horse in a trailer to eat. Soon you can load him by cracking a whip!