The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 9:17 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
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Location: Natal, South Africa
I have been observing a certain attitude slowly develop in my little herd - if they were human I would say they are developing a belief in the ultimate benign nature of the universe and their ability to cope regardless of what challenges face them.

I find it difficult to fully express this, so please bear with me.

When I got Freckles he had very little confidence - in himself, in others or in the nature of new things, situations and tasks. He also "blamed himself" for everything he thought he did wrong and displayed an "Oh crap, what are you going to do to me because I made that go bad" attitude. If my emotions were off he believed it was somehow his fault. I somehow managed to fumble my way through getting him to understand that failure to achieve something I asked was not a big deal, and failure in general was not something to be particularly concerned about - tomorrow is another day and we can try again.

Over time he has become very capable of calmly trying new things without feeling any performance-anxiety or fear of failure. His anxiety about the consequences of his choices and actions has reduced drastically. The other horses in the herd do have obvious concerns about the consequences of their behavior and what the humans are going to do about it. I am seeing them slowly lose that anxiety.

One of the major areas where this has become obvious involves the sugar-cane that we give them every night. The cane is difficult to eat after it has been cut down, because they can't pull against it's roots anymore. They can pick it up and swing it around but that doesn't break off a piece that they can eat, so they often don't manage to eat much of the actual stem of the plant. I spent a LOT of time with Freckles showing him how I could break off pieces, and over about 3 months he developed a horsey equivalent of that technique which allows him to eat a lot more of the plant than he could previously. He deliberately plants one hoof on the hardest end of the cane, and rips bites off the other end. :funny: Sometimes he delicately nips the bamboo-like "bark" of the plant and peels a length of cane for himself.

He is obviously proud that he no longer "needs" my help with it, although he still does welcome my assistance when I choose to give it. The other 3 horses have observed Freckles and learned "his" technique and are managing much better with the eating of the cane.

The interesting story is little old Rocket. Now, the pony has weak teeth due to age (he squeaks when chewing grass, for example, and frequently spits out well-chewed mouthfuls because he just can't get it soft enough to swallow) and often struggles to eat things the other horses manage well. Rocket can't bit an apple in half - he needs it cut. He struggles to bite through a big carrot. When the other horses are eating cane he often tells us he can't do that and he wants some grass or some help with the cane. He's been getting both :twisted: but last night he said "You know - I don't want that grass you brought for me because I have figured out my own way to eat this cane" and he was SO proud of himself. It was so obvious that he was thrilled that he no longer NEEDS human assistance because he CAN DO it himself. He searches out the thinner stalks and copies Freckle's ways.

So this makes me wonder - is feeling capable and competent and self-sufficient as important to horses as it is to most humans? Do horses feel a kind of optimism based on their own ability to take care of themselves? Does it affect the buoyancy with which they view their future? Is independence as important factor on their path to self-esteem as it is to humans?

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Glen Grobler

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon


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 Post subject: Re: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:04 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:40 pm
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Location: Belgium
Quote:
So this makes me wonder - is feeling capable and competent and self-sufficient as important to horses as it is to most humans?


I thought that was what we AND-ers tried to accomplish in the first place :)

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Do horses feel a kind of optimism based on their own ability to take care of themselves?

Why yes, most certainly so! For probably every specie. It's what makes us all move on the samen path while experiencing succes (and choose an other when failing). That would probably even be what 'surviving' is all about. :)
In any case, your mentioned ability is an ability seen in alphas, or produces higher ranked horses :)

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 Post subject: Re: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 4:49 pm 
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Glen, I think this is fabulous -- both the experiences watching your guys process and your insights about what that means.

This is a great thought to keep in my head specifically about Stardust (and Circe, too, in different ways) -- but the idea of challenging myself to think about how I can increase his confidence, which is, I think, a step beyond trust, could open up some wonderful new ways to engage with each other.

Thanks for this!
:yes: :giveflower:
Leigh

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 Post subject: Re: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:09 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Quote:
o this makes me wonder - is feeling capable and competent and self-sufficient as important to horses as it is to most humans? Yes in the sense that the better equipped they are, the more likely they are to survive. So it's important they get enough food and stay healthy and form the right bonds with other horses.Do horses feel a kind of optimism based on their own ability to take care of themselves? I don't know if horses feel optomisitic. I do know they get depressed when unhealthy, isolated or hungry. So by being self-sufficient they are at ease and restful so in effect COMFORTDoes it affect the buoyancy with which they view their future? Again the same thing. I don't believe horses have a sense of tomorrow only the past and the present. (but that is just what I think :blush: )Is independence as important factor on their path to self-esteem as it is to humans?
I don't believe they think about it that way. Some horses are just plain lazy, others more clever/ others more calm in the same settings and circumstances. I do believe those that do make the herd leaders are proud of their status and exhibit more confidence than the others. I also believe that if the horses feels good about it's environment and it's handler (AND style) it will be more confident within the herd and not be pushed around as much maybe even choosing to take their own mini herd of underdogs away from the boss!

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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 Post subject: Re: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:12 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
sorry....that was really messy.......

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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 Post subject: Re: The Can-Do Attitude
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:41 pm 
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makes perfect sense to me, Annette :)

@ and Glen, it is so wonderful for you to experience this... adds more dimension to our lives yet again, doesn't it?


:kiss:

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