Good timing and the ability to respond fast and precisely to every movement, behaviour or unexpected situation is essential to training horses – whether it’s handling the horse on the ground, training for a dressage test or competing on a cross country course.
The right timing is key – for training your horse as well as your own safety. As a rider you need to be able to react immediately and in a controlled manner to various situations. This is true for giving the horse positive feedback during training at exactly the right time to help the horse understand what you want. It is also important in situations where your horse may spook or react impulsively. In these situations, you as a rider need to be able to react fast and in a controlled manner to avoid falling of, gripping with your legs or pulling on the reins, possibly making the situation worse.
The reaction time describes the period of time, which you need to become aware of a stimulus and react to it. This process can be divided into three phases:
Awareness: The period of time until the stimulus is consciously perceived.
Decision: The time you need to decide whether the stimulus requires a reaction.
Initiation: The time you need to initiate and perform your reaction.
The stimulus is perceived and processed by the central and peripheral nervous system and it is transferred by the efferent motor neurons as a command for a response by the targeted muscles. All of this happens in a split second. In contrast to reflexes, such reactions are carried out deliberately. The reaction time takes on average 180 milliseconds between the first realisation or feeling of the stimulus until initiating necessary measures. The better your reaction time, the faster you get to the desired result.
Several factors can slow down your reaction time: injuries, diseases or a lack of nutrients for example, as well as a lack of sleep, a negative mood, discomfort, fear or a lack of concentration. The good news are: You can improve your reaction time.
It’s all about how fast and how well-coordinated your body can react to external stimuli. For example, running through a forest on uneven ground trains your ability to process and react to visual and haptic stimuli. Using a reflex ball or playing video games improves your hand-eye-coordination. Have fun improving your reaction time with this fitness game: