The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:30 am 
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:love: :clap: hit there :D

hi Roa, it is so nice to read your post, it was lovely to read and just had me picturing these lovely scenes! i am sitting here with swine flu at the moment, so it is lovely to have such beautiful stories to read.

it is interesting that you said about how lessons make things technical, io totally agree. it is like the normal line of training ruins the horse. if you are to work with an unruined horse, and get onto a horse that has never had a rider on them, they are so very sensitive and complient, but if you get on one that has been "trained" they stop listning to the natural and quiet language between bottom and back!

i try not to instruct my children on riding, just guid them because i am afraid that i will stifel them. ;) they have a closer and finer tuned relationship with the horse than i have, and it is a wonder to watch. it is hard though, watching them mount a horse with no tack, and knowing that this is your little baby here! :ieks: can be a little scary!!! but like the little pony that went to the RDA, they seem to know, and they reward the childs trust in them with care and love! :love: :love: :love: children that expect complience because they DEMAND it, get a cranky little pony that will take them back to the gate FAST.... but when the child asks the hrose and just is with them because of a love and respect, it always goes well!!!

with children that i teach, i never get upset with my ponies for being a little bit horrid, because i know they are mirroring what the child has inside! so children learn quickly to treat the horse with the level of respect that they deserve. :funny: sometimes i smile quietly to myself when a spoiled little child turns up, i see christen look at me with that glance, and i know that she is going to teach a stern, but safe lesson! i tend to hand her the floore and watch her transform that child!!!! i simply translate her message into english for her! horses are fantastic teachers!!!!! :love: :cheers:

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Wonderful photo's, and I adored Dylan's Lamb video.
How fantastic to keep your memories in photo and video to share, and to show your children when they want to look back at their happy development.

Shannon, you have been blessed by a treasure in your girl.

4 pages already, lovely to read and the photo's I have to share are in the albums, they would need scanning and uploading. My sister's old horse Kooligan Kangaroo got a mention in Jonjo's autobiography for winning two races at Wincanton for his jockey. Kooli was a busy pawing horse at feedtimes and when my nephew was little my sister did try to keep him out of the way.
But being a small crawling thing in a nappy, my nephew managed to get in, and when we found him, there was Kooli babysitting, all gentle and snuggly nosing in a deep straw bed, he knew not to put his hooves on a squishy nappy clad baby.
Somewhere there is a photo of Duncan aged around one year being washed off in a horses drinking bucket after toddling onto wet concrete. He is 21 years next weekend, time flies. xx

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:29 am 
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As I am enjoying my work with the horses and children a lot and feel like I am learning ever so much from that, I want to collect some of these lessons in this thread. I will start by copying an older post from Titum's diary and will add more of our experiences later.

This one is about the Aylin lessons, describing how a young girl made me see how to inspire my horses to show more energy again.

Romy wrote:
I have had some weird days with the horses - or with my own behaviour actually, the horses were just very clear in pointing that out to me.

Titum had given up on me again one or two weeks ago already and often preferred eating fresh hay to training, but lately I had even managed to kill Pia's playdrive. In the first days I had still told myself that it was just the horses being busy with something else and thus not that interested in training per se. However, when even little rocket Pia started our sessions being very interested and playful in the beginning and then after some minutes decided that hay was more interesting than me, I could not deny anymore that something was wrong with me.

There's nothing new in this post, just the same thing we are having again and again: me handling our training like chores, being not motivated to put enough effort into it, not being flexible enough and not being interested in their offers enough, no matter if I had asked for them or not. Or in other words: I was asking either too difficult or too boring things, did not care enough if they did them and was not interested in hearing the horses shouting at me that something was wrong - or actually NOT shouting but shutting up more and more.

The tricky thing about those situations is that when they happen, again and again the little voice in my head starts nagging: "That's all because you don't train with pressure. Horses need some boundaries. Without them they will lose all their interest and energy. Many people who once started training in a completely free choice way, some among them who you really admired, have gone back to leadership ideas. Now that's what you get for being too stubborn to do the same."

One thing I replied to this voice within me was that with Pia I have never ever used pressure as a motivator to get a training result, so if the detrimental effects of this started showing now, 2.5 years after I got her, this was a bit late. But then Pia is at least as stubborn as me, so maybe it just takes longer with her.

Lucky as I am, I had many children visiting us on Saturday. One of them was Aylin, a girl you also see in last year's riding video with Summy. Aylin used to be completely hyperactive. Now that she has been living with my mother for about two years she is doing much better, but still she's a wild child. All my horses adore her. While I was preparing things for my birthday party, I watched her train with the horses out of the corner of my eye. And what I saw was a Titum (aka "He who is pretending to be an old man") canter up and down the pasture with her.

In the first instance I was happy to see they were having fun, but there also was some jealousy and disappointment: when has he cantered as happily as that with me the last time? Of course he canters with me on cue, but in such a happy and playful way? When I thought about this again tonight, I started feeling like an awful horse person, even being able to kill the motivation of great horses like the ones I am privileged to share my life with. I mean, how bad can you be if you even get a Pia to be uninterested?

I was already preparing to go home, bathing myself in self-pity and telling myself that maybe I was just a bit overworked and needed some rest, when another voice within me started speaking up. It was the gift I had gotten from my mother when I was a child, the "Pull yourself together and stop whining, you can do everything you really want to do." So I started asking myself what Aylin had done to make all three horses, especially Titum, that interested in playing wild stuff.

First, she loves the horses. She is happy about whatever they offer. Second, and this might sound contradictory to the first point but I think it really isn't, she just doesn't have the patience to sit and wait for the 500th repetition of an exercise. Once something got done, she needs a new task. Third, she never uses pressure with the horses. She just never learned about interacting with animals in a pressure-based way (and after watching her I can say with absolute certainty that she also hasn't taught herself to do so ;)). Fourth, she LOVES movement. She doesn't run with the horses because she wants them to run with her, but because she wants to run with them. The difference might sound very negligible, but I think that's basically what it all boils down to, and it makes a whole world of a difference to my horses.

I decided to do an experiment: if I could not get the rather uninterested Tit to be interested again, I could still go home and complain, but maybe I could... So I went towards him, gave him a treat and then started imagining that I was Aylin, with everything I just described. To cut a long story short, within less than two minutes he was chasing me over the pasture in canter.

Sometimes I think it's just good to have children visiting me who remind me to become normal again. :funny:


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:14 pm 
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Oh, this is tough a nice thread, whom I've not seen yet...

Well, my children e. g. love every kind of animals: horses, dogs (we have also an 10 years old Labrador), cats, spiders, frogs, fish, birds and flies. My son e. g. be very interested in spiders since he was 7 or 8 years old. Since that time each summer our garden will be an garden full of variant types of spiders (thankfully here lives only nontoxic ones ;) ) and than he built with twigs, lumbers and grasses an "paradise" for all the spiders that he founds. To see how the spiders are built their tenuous webs, how they catch the flies or other insects and how they are battle together has always fascinated him very much and also even to look and watch them all the time. And although I never don't like spiders I have to say that they are so beautiful creatures. Never thought that I'd say that, but my beloved son has showed me that it's possible. :f: :love:

His sister, Nelly, is 10 years old and she likes especially our cute dog and - of course - Pan and horses and... - horses. ;) In all what she is doing with them she is very careful and considerate, sometimes slightly fearful. Nelly beguns with learn to ride in a riding school if she was 7 years old. Unfortunately was the tone in the riding school most rough and unfriendly - towards the children and towards the horses too. :sad: Learn to ride was known as "hold ahead, urge at back" and this with all kind of means like switch-claps and rein-tucks and if this not helps than it would be piled the pressure. :evil:
I am glad that this time passed by. And after all she has stayed so how she is and preserves her carefully behaviour towards animals.

The most kids at these age are authentic in that what they do. And eminently then, if they think they're unobserved.
They ever know instinctively how they shall behave things in a right way and namely that the animals being well or better. We can learn so much from them! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:49 pm 
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TakeItEasy wrote:
And after all she has stayed so how she is and preserves her carefully behaviour towards animals.


That is also what I like so much about her interaction with Titum. I have no Nelly videos and probably won't have them in the future either, but she interacts with Titum a bit like my half-sister Eli does. So carefully, like a little angel.

For me it's also very interesting to see how different children prefer different horses. You might think they all love Pia most because she is so cute and playful, but that really isn't the case, or at least not for more than the first few times. After that, the children that stick with Pia usually are the really wild ones who at the same time are rather light and easy-going. They often are more interested in playing games and doing tricks than focusing on the communication itself. Summy lovers often are wild as well, but most of all they have a very strong presence and in their movements you can see a lot of determination and own initiative. In contrast, the prototypical Titum children are those careful little angels who like to spend a lot of time on quietly experimenting with their moves and figuring out how to ask Titum for different exercises. They usually also listen very carefully to what he wants to do, much more than the Summy children do.

And then there are the children that change. Azhar for example has been a Pia child in his first years and only later started liking Titum most of all. Interestingly, that went along with a parallel change in his own behaviour towards the horses and us, changing from hyperactive and bold to the careful and considerate person that he is now. I don't know if there is any causal link and if yes, what direction it goes. It's just very obvious that my different horses all have their own type of children. And it's also interesting for me that I cannot see such a clear differentiation anymore with adults, for whom I can hardly ever predict which horse they will like most.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:30 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:42 am
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Well, he's not exactly a child anymore, being aged 20, but I was quite amazed at how smoothly my brother's introduction to Funky went last December. He's not a typical animal type, in fact, I'm the odd one in the family as I'm the only one who wants anything to do with animals apart from petting them and giving them back to their owners. My brother has never been near a horse, at least, no closer than two meters with one exception. And then I took him to the barn to take photos of Funky and me, and he went into the pasture with me like it was the most natural thing to do, and later, I took these pictures of the two:

Image
Image

That was during the phase where Funky actually scared me. And then to see those two... Now my brother is the calmly confident type Funky seems to lean toward. That should have taught me a lesson, if I'd had the sense to see it. I see it now :kiss:

OT

I haven't seen much child-to-animal interaction, and what I did see was of pushy, demanding children gripping animals in a way designed to hurt them, trying to make them do things the animals didn't want to do. I'm afraid I'll see much more of it in the zoo (Romy, help, what's the English word for Streichelzoo? :funny: ) A colleague told me that the pony they keep there actually bit a child once. I think I can hazard a safe guess, why...

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:22 am 
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Such lovely pictures of your brother and Funky. I have seen it so often that for non-horse-experienced people it seems so much easier to behave normally around my horses, and therefore they can connect with them much easier. Perhaps because they don't have that whole repertoire of methods they could apply, so communicating naturally is all they can do. :smile:

waycooljr. wrote:
I haven't seen much child-to-animal interaction, and what I did see was of pushy, demanding children gripping animals in a way designed to hurt them, trying to make them do things the animals didn't want to do. I'm afraid I'll see much more of it in the zoo (Romy, help, what's the English word for Streichelzoo? :funny: ) A colleague told me that the pony they keep there actually bit a child once. I think I can hazard a safe guess, why...


The Streichelzoo is a petting zoo, according to the online dictionary. And I think you are bringing up a very interesting point. Personally, I do not believe that children will treat animals in a good way automatically, if you just let them do their thing. Actually I experience children a lot who are quite pushy and demanding when they first come here, and they do need some general clarification on how things are being done with our horses. However, the main difference I see in comparison with adults is that once they have been introduced to that general framework, they usually don't need much instruction on the specific actions because these actions simply result from it.

It seems like for example in Azhar's case, redefining Pia as his little sister (instead of the trick training pony object) made him intuitively know how to treat her. Of course it still needed some shaping that happened during his interaction with the horses, but the general mental model of what things can be done and what cannot was set. With some adults I sometimes get the impression that words are just words: Yes, they have heard that the horses are family or close friends and just normal members of our little group, but it seems as if they still don't feel it that way. It usually gets better the longer they know us, but it takes some time and lots of interaction with the horses.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:41 am 
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What an interesting topic and I only now have gotten around to commenting on it. I do share your observations... of children behaving in either a demanding or careful way and also adults getting along with horses so well, even (or because) they never had any contact before.

They way I see it, it seems to be a matter of mental images. Like Romy said, when a child has the mental image of a horse as a younger brother or sister it switches to the interaction mode of a caring family member (if that is what it has experienced before).
An adult, who never had any contact with horses may initiate interaction in a totally unbiased way. If that person is also sufficiently self confident, he may just think moving a horse is a piece of cake like he may have seen before and the chances are good that it really works very easily. The same thing happens when horse people work with other horses, which they don't regularly work with. Often then the interaction is very nice and easy - often to the astonishment (and envy ;)) of the owner.

So I think the point is the mental image one has in mind when interacting with a horse. For one part the horse mirrors and reacts to that mental state and secondly the mental images very much influence the human actions.
It's not long since I experienced such a phenomenon myself in a very disturbing form. I was afraid of Mucki's actions when he was in a agitated mood, so I anticipated certain movements and reactions and stored them as mental images. Even though none of those scenarios had happened yet, my body language was prepared for that event. You can certainly imagine the chain reaction it caused in our interaction :roll:.

Since adults generally behave less impulsive, more restrained and evaluate more before acting, the interaction becomes more sluggish (less direct reactions), less authentic (a lot more filtering) and generally less playful.
Another changing of interaction happens the longer the history of interaction becomes. Like in a long term relationship where some interactions grow smoother and smoother over time, others, if not constantly re-evaluated and worked on, may become increasingly difficult.

For me the same rules as in a long term human-human relationship apply. First I will strive to feed the "inner child" in me, so I can be open for change and see things from an unbiased, fresh and forgiving perspective. And secondly, I will try to constantly work on the relationship and on myself, keeping the focus on the interaction and not just on outcomes. It's quite the impossible task, but the journey is the destination - isn't it? 8)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:16 pm 

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Houyhnhnm wrote:
An adult, who never had any contact with horses may initiate interaction in a totally unbiased way. If that person is also sufficiently self confident, he may just think moving a horse is a piece of cake like he may have seen before and the chances are good that it really works very easily. The same thing happens when horse people work with other horses, which they don't regularly work with. Often then the interaction is very nice and easy - often to the astonishment (and envy ;)) of the owner.


Hehe, yes, that's definitely what happened between my brother and Funky^^ But I had a similar experience with another horse once, who let herself be tethered to a ring in a wall without a problem by me, where I later learned that this same horse couldn't be tethered on that spot by her owners because a ladder had fallen over next to her there once, so she was scared of that spot. She wasn't with me o.ô

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