Horse’s Memory Length

A while back I did some Parelli Training, it was quite a fascinating environment to be in, mainly about using the ‘herd instinct’ with the horse – behaving like a herd animal and treating them as if you are the leader of the herd. Very clever for getting on the good side of the naughty ones!

Now one thing that was mentioned in the training, was that a horse’s memory length is only four seconds long. I don’t know how you feel about this (hit a girl up!) but I am slow to believe this, mainly because they are creatures of habit thus resulting in salivation when they know it is nearly feed time, or asking for a treat because you’ve given one before.

So how does the four second memory idea work? I think it would be wrong to assume that it is the only way of navigating the horse’s brain. Horses are loyal, loving, hard working and cheeky. And this takes time to create a bond that gives space for these things. Hence, they can be slow learners, however they can be quick learners – either way… it is hard to put a time barrier against their ability to remember something.

That said, there is one corner in the indoor arena at the yard Oscar lives at, that he spooks at, every single time we go past it – by the end of the lesson, or training we have cracked it – and if I am on the ball about it, we can crack it earlier- but mainly we spook at least 3 times. And I go back around towards the corner in about 10 seconds from the first spook time… this example goes with the idea that the memory is only 4 seconds. But is it that simple?

I struggle to comprehend, or keep this as a 100% correct thought pattern. It would be good to other arguments for it…

I remain unconvinced either way! 



  1. January 16, 2018 / 7:59 am

    I find that hard to believe I would be interested to read what study /evidence they have to back that up. An example is going on a hack Eva could take me round the whole hack herself yet she can only remember 4 seconds of it ….?

    • January 16, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      I agree but I think it is more of the first time they do something. Or at least that’s what I understand! It’s such a mind field!