The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:19 pm 
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In her introduction Ania posted this video of Hempfling speaking about a video clip that shows a woman playing with the horse. In the end the horse kicks the woman.

Ania wrote:
Quote:
But I would like to say that not everybody is able to interact with thats dominant horse, and many people (like me at the past) made a lot of misteakes. Very offen anger is interpret as good fun


I'm not this much interested in the aspect of dominance but this really made me think about how we interpret the behaviour of our horse, how we notice its feelings and needs?
How can we prevent misinterpretation and misunterstanding?

I think that we can hardly ever be completely sure that we evaluate the horses behaviour right. Even though there are some common signals, these signals can be the result of many different reasons and there may be different meanings one signal can communicate. For example, when the horse flattens its ears this can result from pain, anger or fear, it can mean that the horse wants the human to go away, to give a treat, to stop what the human does, it may be only a habit the horse does in different situations and so on...

My main goal is to make the horse feel good. But how can I reach this goal if I'm never sure when the horse feels good? I can only assume that I get it right what my horse wants to tell me. So I need to find a way to be as sure as I can that I got it right. Until now I have found three aspects that may be useful:

Observe the horse with other horses
I may get a better understanding for the meanings of the the horses behaviour when I see how other horses react to it. That premises that other horses are better in reading the body language than I am but I as they are a members of the same species, I think this is very probable. Maybe this can be helpful in learning to see the difference between play and fight, fun and aggression.

Try to see smaller signs and details
I want to react to the information the horse gives me before it has to become louder. On the one hand, I think this is important to stay safe because if the horse sees the only option in doing what it did before more emphatically than it may hurt me sometime because of the lack of other options. On the other hand, I think that this reason isn't necessarily given, as long as the horse has the option to step out of the interaction or we have agreed about signals that always get a special reaction from the human and therefore it is easy for the horse to change the situation.
Nevertheless, I want to be able to see the details the facial expression and the body of the horse shows me so that we don't need static signals all the time.

Develop your own language and show the horse safe ways to express its needs
As I wrote before I see a chance in interpreting the horses behaviour right by establishing signals the horse gives the human that always chause the same reaction of the human. Ali described how she introduced a signal that shows her to get off from the horses back, this seems to be a useful way. I think this could be done with many other behaviours too, for example going away or stopping to touch the horse. A disadvantage is that the communication gets less diverse and the body language does not come so naturally from horse and human anymore. Nevertheless, I think that it is usefull if we want to make sure that the horse can tell us something special in a safe way and that the horse knows that we will react to it.
But still these signals cannot give information about what causes the horse to want the human to stop what he does.

So, these are my first thoughts about the topic. I am very interested in how you interpret the behaviour of the horse especially when it comes to the safety aspect?

:f:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:07 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:55 am
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Location: Bavaria, Germany
I think that this idea of signals that work across species-specific cues is very important. As for me a big goal it is to create a (body) language together, I don't see any disadvantage in losing variety. Because for every behaviour a horse shows or demands from the human we can estblish another cue or signal, that leads to something else. Like if Nathan wants a treat, he can lick or flap his lips. When he wants to play, he can show me by shaking his head. If he prefers grooming, he can turn his body towards me. Maybe those signals are not the ones a horse uses naturally, but if it contributes to get what it wants and to trust in me to give it to him, why shouldn't it be this somewhat artificial signal? This is in fact what fascinates me, that every horse-human couple can estblish totally different signals for the same behaviour, depending on the human or horse they interact with.
In order to get the horses behaviour right, I akso think that on the one hand liberty and on the other hand the rewarding of every attempt are essential. Because if we reward the horses attempt to deal with us humans, they soon can find out what they have to do in order to get something they want. Maybe I imagine it like being a ball the horse can play with. He can turn me into one or another direction. Push me faster or slower. If the horse understood that he is allowed and even wanted to do this, I think it is unlikely to do something the horse does not like, as it is him who decides.
If I am in an situation where it is better to decide things myself, pre-established signals may be a good way to assure that the horse clearly knows what I propose.
Concerning the safety aspect, I think the ball-method also can be something good. For example, when a horse gets excited (of course I should be able to notice that and I'm not sure what to do if I'm not... Interesting to hear what could be done then!) it can push me, the ball, also faster and it doesn't feel like the human doesn't notive anything anyway and so it may regain security after having experienced its excitment. So maybe behaiours like kicking or agression could also be prevented in this way, because the ball always rolls WITH the horse and is not standing in the way and blocking it, which may would provoque dangerous behaviour.

These are only my thoughts by now, let me know what you think about it and I'm interested to read more thoughts. :f:


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:51 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:57 pm
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Thanks for your reply, Jana :kiss: !

Quote:
As for me a big goal it is to create a (body) language together, I don't see any disadvantage in losing variety. Because for every behaviour a horse shows or demands from the human we can estblish another cue or signal, that leads to something else. Like if Nathan wants a treat, he can lick or flap his lips. When he wants to play, he can show me by shaking his head. If he prefers grooming, he can turn his body towards me. Maybe those signals are not the ones a horse uses naturally, but if it contributes to get what it wants and to trust in me to give it to him, why shouldn't it be this somewhat artificial signal?


I don't think that the artifical signal is a problem. Instead I suppose that they are very useful because neither horse nor human can learn the language of the other one perfectly. But when there is a certain signal for everything than I think that there is less place to express yourself. I think it is a little bit too easy if the same action of the horse leads to the same action of the human in every case because it excludes all the other variables like the emotions, the reasons for the behaviour, if you like it in that certain moment or not and so on.

But than again this is no problem at all because we can include these variables into our reaction and vary how we perform the signal. For example, when Nathan shakes his head and almost jumps in the air at the same time I can react with more energy and speed to it that when he only shakes his head a little. And when I don't want to play wildly at that moment I can introduce a signal for this as well.

Maybe an artificial signal can be used for communicating a big variety of information and does this anyway because we (horse and human) cannot really exclude our intention only because we have agreed that a certain action causes a certain reaction.

Quote:
Because if we reward the horses attempt to deal with us humans, they soon can find out what they have to do in order to get something they want. Maybe I imagine it like being a ball the horse can play with. He can turn me into one or another direction. Push me faster or slower. If the horse understood that he is allowed and even wanted to do this, I think it is unlikely to do something the horse does not like, as it is him who decides.


That is a very good point to let the horse decide what I should do and this is possible in many situations, I suppose :thumleft: .


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