In her Newsweek cover story “Buff Your Brain,” Sharon Begley describes 31 ways to increase your IQ. (1) Begley writes, “…one discovery from 2011 … stood out above all the others: that IQ, long thought to be largely unchangeable after early childhood, can in fact be raised.” The researchers believe the results hold for everyone, regardless of age. Within the thirty one ways to increase your IQ, I found ten that relate to equines, at least in my life, and another three that make sense for any equestrian. I’m always looking for ways to justify my passion!
Number 3 states, “Look for an activity that raises your heart rate and requires a lot of coordination.” Horseback riding (at a trot or above especially), skidding logs, or moving manure all meet this one in my opinion. Number ten is “Learn a language,” and I admit this one’s more of a stretch. But for me, learning to understand how horses communicate so as to communicate more effectively with them requires me to make decisions differently and evaluate emotions more honestly, two things that learning a language require.
Numbers 19 and 21 are related from my perspective. Nineteen says “Refine your thinking:” use both fast-and-automatic and slow-and-more-effortful thinking modes. Twenty-one is about taking academic classes. I am enrolled in regular horsemanship study. When I’m engaged with my ponies directly, I often act quickly and automatically, and when I’m studying new material, I slow down and spend more concentrated effort.
Number 22 says, “…viewing art reduces stress and lets you focus on what really matters.” I consider my ponies to be works of art, and taking time to watch them interact with each other or with their world can be very relaxing. There’s nothing more peaceful for me, for instance, than the sound of hay being chewed. I’ve been known to collapse on a hay bale after feeding at the end of a long day and just listen to that sound.
Number 24 instructs, “Write by hand.” This is one of the easiest for me since I’ve been keeping diaries since I was a child. I have four journals by my bed; I write in at least one and usually three of them each night before I go to sleep. One of the journals is about my ponies where I record breedings or farrier work or training sessions or moving them between paddocks or treating them for some health concern.
Number 28 is “Delay gratification.” Waiting eleven months for a foal comes to mind as does waiting for a Fell Pony to mature! Training of any type is an exercise in patience and being rewarded down the road for effort put in consistently.
Number 29 recommends, “Become an expert.” Our brains perform better when we are doing something we know well and enjoy. Equines give us so many opportunities to become experts, whether in caring for tack or grooming or performance or breed conservation.
Number 30 advises typing out your opinion about something because it helps you understand your own thinking. The internet makes this so easy now, with social networks and blogs and chat rooms and the ability to write on-line reviews.
Number 31 is entitled, “Get out of town.” It goes on to say, “Getting in touch with nature helps the brain to recover… Spending just a few minutes on a crowded street impairs memory and self-control as your brain processes all the stimuli.” What a great reason to spend more time with our equines!
The three ways to increase your IQ that I think are important to any equestrian are #6. Sleep a lot, #16. Eat yogurt (probiotics), and #20. Hydrate. Because being an equestrian is an athletic endeavor, these particular brain boosters seem especially pertinent to the overall health of an athlete.
In Begley’s article, Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor says, “No gimmicks. If you want to get a lot out of reading, read a lot; if you want to get better at remembering errands or birthdays, practice remembering errands or birthdays. No shortcuts, no cross-training – no Sudoku.” I guess I’ll just have to spend more time with my ponies to improve my IQ. I can think of worse ways to nourish my brain, like #14: play violent videogames!
1) Begley, Sharon. “Buff Your Brain,” Newsweek, January 9 & 16, 2012, p. 28.