On my list of books to read is Horse Brain Human Brain by Janet L. Jones, PhD. In the mean time, I’ve enjoyed reading some online articles by the author.
Dr. Jones does some writing for the magazine Psychology Today. She wrote a piece about the incident this Summer at the Tokyo equestrian Olympics regarding a particular jump design. Specifically, a giant Sumo wrestler statue positioned next to one of the stadium jumps.
Show jumps can be works of art. It is amazing to see the creativity of jump designers. I enjoyed seeing many of the Olympic jumps clearly reflecting the cultural and environmental beauty of Japan.
Horses at the Olympic level are in fact used to jumping some pretty interesting designs. Unfortunately, a number of horses at the Tokyo Olympics had trouble with the jump accompanied by the Sumo wrestler.
If you have not yet seen photos of the wrestler, you can do a Google search for it. Multiple online news outlets reported on the disruption it caused. Some of the news reporting gave me a chuckle in how they recounted the story. But I remember seeing the statue on TV while watching the Olympics. I was not amused. The jump made my heart race while I was just sitting on the couch. It was quite intimidating.
If you are a horse person, you have likely read explanations of how horses perceive new objects differently than humans do. Still, I like the way Dr. Jones explained it. Straight forward enough for a non-equestrian to comprehend and yet interesting enough to add to even the experienced rider’s equine knowledge base.
The article particularly caught my attention as I read it right after I had returned from a riding lesson involving a new object in the arena.
Side note here- Those of you who regularly read The Backyard Horse Blog may know that in addition to riding my own horses at home, I frequently take riding lessons at a nearby barn on their lesson horses. If you keep your horses at home like me, I highly recommend taking outside lessons. Without them, I doubt I would have the skill practice and confidence to ride my horses on my own at home.
That particular week of my lesson, the indoor arena where I rode had a board replaced along one of the gates. The board had not yet been painted over to match the old wood so the new board clearly stood out against the other painted white boards.
Homer, the lesson horse that I was riding, immediately noticed this difference. He was anxious about heading towards it and passing by it for much of the lesson. For example, our attempt at cantering calmly next to it, past the corner onto the straightaway, turned into something that felt more like riding a skittering spider.
The poor guy was clearly creeped out by this out-of-place item that was absent the hundreds of other times he had entered the arena.
I have long struggled to keep a horse’s attention during moments of tension. This time was no different. Good practice, you say, in trying to keep my own composure and give the horse something else to think about besides the scary object? Sure. But it ain’t easy for me.
I suppose I should be grateful that nobody has propped up a sumo wrestler statue in the corner yet!
If you would like to see Dr. Jones article to read her explanation about why horses shy at unusual objects, go to
If you would like to purchase a copy of Horse Brain Human Brain by Dr. Jones, you can buy it through Trafalgar Square Books. The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate link with them. If you purchase any books through the affiliate link (click on the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse featured on the blog website), I will receive a much appreciated portion of your purchase. Many of Trafalgar Square Books materials can also be bought as downloads if you prefer reading on your computer.