What we call “muscle memory” involves consciously performing a specific action in an exact way repetitively so that the motor task is committed to memory and does not involve a direct thought process to take place each time the action is performed. “Muscle memory” is the nearly automatic action that serves a purpose. The term itself is a misnomer, however, as it's not the muscle remembering the action, but the brain operating outside of conscious awareness, Dr. Robin Foster told The Horse.
Though we cannot know a horse's state of awareness, it is possible to monitor their attention and reaction time. A horse that is drilled on a movement or pattern repeatedly can get to the point where he knows the exact sequence of movements. While this can be helpful in training, changing or interrupting the routine the horse has learned can become difficult.
Equine and human muscle memories vary in their genetic potential to use quick and coordinated movements. Determining factors also include how strong and flexible their muscles are and their mental ability to learn new things. Horses may be faster than humans at creating muscle memories because they are physically stronger than humans.
Additionally, horses are prey animals and as such may be particularly aware of dangerous objects that are approaching and flee before they have thought through what is happening. Humans are also able to perceive such threats, detecting and paying attention to animals or objects that may cause harm.
Though no studies have been completed specifically on horses and memory of motor sequences, it's fair to think that equines may be able to make muscle memories more rapidly than humans in training situations.
Read more at The Horse.
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