The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2014 10:32 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:18 am
Posts: 16
Hi all - little intro first!

I've been to and from this forum for a long time with my wonderful little horse, who i work with using multiple systems, and just let him tell me what he likes - he loves many of the games and exercises from here, and they complement the other work we do well. He's wonderful to work with as he's very expressive, and shows outward joy when we stumble across a new game to play that he likes.

So the problem...

Because of my multi-system approach i have just been given a new horse who was at the end of the line before being rescued by a friend who doesnt have the time to work with him. Hes nothing like any other project horse i've had before. He has done a lot of mainstream work before, jumping & dressage. I know he was nappy as a baby, but very rideable. In the years that have passed his nappyness has become worse, and i know that he ended up at a yard where a lot of violence has been used. The end result is that he has learned to switch off. He expresses no fear. And the bit that i find painfully sad is that he also expresses no joy.

Ridden if you put your leg on, he stops, its like the emergency off switch. He's not outwardly afraid, or angry. He just puts on his concreate boots and his mind dissappears to another dimension. He's just sadly accepting the beating he expects to happen next. On the ground, any pressure causes a similar reaction. Just to get a handle on his behavipur from a mainstream perspective i've tried to put him out on the longe, with and without whip (of course wihout violence), and he drags himself along at a walk. Try and raise the energy he stops.

So i have made a few decisions - the most important of which is i want to completely change approach to that which hes been used to. I'm going to ditch te saddle and go bareback, ditch the bridle and try halter (working towards cordeo). Maybe i wont ditch these things forever, but i think at the moment i want to remove anything that touches the off button.

There is some hope - i've been 'playing' at liberty in the field and got to see him canter and buck, and his eyes sparkle. He liked playing chase, but was so quick to shut down if i *tried* to incite the energy. It needs to come from him. He needs to rediscover the joy of the partnership.

I've decided to work through the basic groundwork exercises in here, and there is a lot of instructive information here to keep me busy, plus i have my own experiences to draw from, but i thought i'd put the question out here if anyone has dealt with a horse like this, and how they worked to restore their interest in life. This will be no short term project - i'm not after quick fixes

I'd love to hear any success stories from this type of horse...

_________________
The exact steps of the dance have no importance - it is the joy in dancing that i strive for.


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 12:19 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:00 am
Posts: 564
Location: Scotland
I have had a few experiences with a horse a bit like you have described , a loan horse that came to us to be a companion for Charlie . She has sadly since left us and gone back t her owner
The first and the most important thing that they need to understand is that they can get you to go away when ever they want . I did this by watching for the signals of her disappearing into herself . It could be something small like a slight tense of the nostrils or even just a look in her eye . As soon as I saw this I would leg it :funny: , I mean really leg it to at least 20 metres from her . She was very bemused by this and found it great fun . It looked like madness , me standing next to the horse then suddenly for no apparent reason running away from it like the hounds of Baskerville were after me . Very soon she figured this out to be a great game and we slowly changed her cue to me to something different , so it didn't have anything to do with her shutting down .
With her she would just shut down the moment a human appeared on the horizon . You have to work very slowly , never getting to the point so they do shut down . I never thought of trying anything ' practical ' we never had a training session either . I wanted her to understand that I would listen to her at every point and that I was her friend . So we left all normal stuff behind and just did extremely mad and crazy stuff .I let my imagination loose and thought of things that would interest , intrigue and excite them . Playing tennis in the field , do gymnastics , bringing some old metal drums and showing her how to make a noise . using lots of treats and rewarding anything she offers or tries . Also I worked with her only occasionally and spent most of my time working with my king Charlie around her . So she could observe Charlie's reactions to me and my love and connection with him . Give up on any goals that you have and let the horse choose them for you . It was only after a good many months of madness before she completely stopped shutting down and in all that time I kept all ropes and ties away from her . She learnt that she had the freedom to choose what she wanted . We sadly had to give her back to her owner , so she is now gone


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 2:39 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:18 am
Posts: 16
Thats really helpful thank you.. Very sad that your mare went back to her owner, would have been lovely for you to see her continued improveent. i think you've backed up my plan of 'out with the old'. I hadnt thought of using my other horses with him to help though. Hes already very bonded to my little superstar, so i could definately use that.

I also think you're right about backing off quicker before the shutdown. I guess i'm inclined to work on finding the on switch too quickly. I'll definately try to back down faster if i think i can see it coming, and wait for him to come back to me. He's very open to my company if i'm not doing anything that resembles sending him forwards, so at least i have a head start there.

Thanks again for the reply.

_________________
The exact steps of the dance have no importance - it is the joy in dancing that i strive for.


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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 6:34 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:20 am
Posts: 6036
Location: Dresden, Germany
Do you know the Dealing with scared horses sticky? I know this is a slightly different situation, but my approach would be rather similar to what I have described in one of the posts there: be passive and go with any initiative of the horse. I want them to understand that they are the ones in control, that they can be in control but also that they need to be in control, because only then an interaction will happen. Works wonders with horses who switch themselves off as soon as they feel any kind of pressure or fear. Good luck! :)


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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 9:59 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:18 am
Posts: 16
I'll have a read of that thank you. As I've just rambled in another post I've had a great evening with the herd. Project horse actually demanded my interaction, which is a first. I found asking very very lightly to move his shoulder helped to unlock his feet and his mind. This is the first time I've found something that really brings him back to reality. I'm definaty going to very quietly work with what touch I can use, especially lateral touch as I know he's been bullied to go forwards, but unlikely to have suffered being asked to move laterally. A very good day. Just must remember not to set high expectations for tomorrow. !

_________________
The exact steps of the dance have no importance - it is the joy in dancing that i strive for.


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