The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:05 am 
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Location: UK
Someone hs asked me if I would be willing to go take a look at a throughbred who has had electric shock treatment to his legs to make him jump :ieks:

Is this done!!!!!! I know I still consider myself new to horses even though I've had mine for 10 yrs, it's becuase I know so little of traditional methods.Some of it defies the imagination.

He needs his feet seeing to, but nobody can get near his legs, this may be a bit beyond me, I know I could help this horse if he were mine and we had all the time in the world to become trusting buddies, but just going to someones yard and doing miracles is something else. He's been very abused for sport but I'm told he's very well bred, how odd, nd he is scared of everything, why do these poor souls always find there way to me?

Any ideas????

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:26 pm 
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AnnieB wrote:
Someone hs asked me if I would be willing to go take a look at a throughbred who has had electric shock treatment to his legs to make him jump :ieks:

Is this done!!!!!! I know I still consider myself new to horses even though I've had mine for 10 yrs, it's becuase I know so little of traditional methods.Some of it defies the imagination.

He needs his feet seeing to, but nobody can get near his legs, this may be a bit beyond me, I know I could help this horse if he were mine and we had all the time in the world to become trusting buddies, but just going to someones yard and doing miracles is something else. He's been very abused for sport but I'm told he's very well bred, how odd, nd he is scared of everything, why do these poor souls always find there way to me?

Any ideas????


As to why they find their way to you? Because they must.

As for the problems with abused horses (I used to train jumpers. I would have horsewhipped anyone that used electro shock to train) this horse will need you to repeatedly, and likely for a very long time, or at least when you see he is anxious and afraid on occasion, reassure him of your intentions, your good intentions.

To accomplish this you will have to do what I did not for years in the horse business but finally learned: that is to be clear MYSELF what my intentions are.

I learned to be a "talker," and that is the "secret," of the successful "horse whisperers."

By talking, thereby externalizing your inner state of being, you stabilize and steady yourself and then, and only then, give off the clear communication to the horse what your intentions are.

When we remain silent the "monkey in our head," jabbers away and spends so much time sorting thoughts that intentions don't become clear to one's self. But externalizing by speaking helps to settle all that down, and we become, for the horse, congruent. More of our cues the horse reads match and support each other in a unified way for the horse.

We smell like we mean no harm, we sound like we mean no harm, we move like we mean no harm, our body posture communicates we mean no harm. All this is very important to a prey animal, and so much more so when they have experienced others of our genera (human omnivore and more often than not mean souled) bringing pain and fear to them.

I'm sure, since they keep coming to you, I need not even go into things like patience and tolerance for their sometimes difficult behaviors. They will learn new behaviors in time with you, obviously.

I am so glad for this horse that he's come into your life and you into his.

As for the congruent communication I've spoken of, nothing quite expresses good intentions than politeness. I frequently say "please," when I ask something of the horse, and "thank you," when she responds. I tell them out loud how very happy I am that they have done something I like, such as be independent and choose to stop watching me too carefully, and just go ahead and play about and do things they want to do with me present.

I don't, for instance, tell my horse to "move over," but "yield please," for lateral movement. I ask them to come and touch me, if they will. "Touch shoulder to hand, please," etc.

I've already established what my hand is, by naming it for them, and what their shoulder is by the same method, naming it.

When I began this I was quite surprised at how complex a request could be and yet the horse understood it. And oddly enough, how much more willing they were when I stopped saying things like, "hoof," and instead said, "Please give me your right front hoof."

In other words I don't think the horse understands the words so much as my whole body communication when I am polite, and clear in my request. They want to play with me then, not just comply.

Finally, admittedly I still struggle to remember to do this. It's too easy to be demanding and controlling. But the payoff for being kind and gentle and generous in ways that make me congruent to the horse is a horse that feels safer with me. And that is reward enough.

Donald, Nettlepatch Farm

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:06 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:24 pm
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Location: Southampton, UK
Quote:
why do these poor souls always find there way to me?

Any ideas????


Because they need you!

In an area with a hell of a lot of "traditional" horse people you are one of the minority who does things differently so people have heard of you. So....when all else fails you are the next logical step.

I do hope you can help this poor horse....you'll have to make sure to let us know how it goes and how you get on.

Hugs xx

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:22 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Hi Annie,
You have a tough job there. In my limited experience you have two options:
Find one person only who wants to learn how to form a bond with him and work wih them over time.
Or...get the vet to sedate him.

We have two horses who were previously abused. The first is also blind in one eye and under no circumstances will he let you get his back legs. We trim the front (no problem) and leave the back to self trim making sure he gets worked over rocky mountain. He is in need now (after coming out of a rest period) where we need to sedate him to do the back feet (only because he has a vertical crack that is getting worse). I don't believe this horse will ever trust humans 100%.
The other horse has not had his feet touched for months. I have been working with the farrier every two weeks taking a little here and there and not asking too much. He has been beaten badly by a farrier (the rasp sends him over the edge!). He is good somedays, sometimes not in which case we come back the next day and the next until he lets us. I do believe he will eventually get over this when he has been having his feet trimmed long enough without anyone shouting or holding and realising that he won't be hit again.

It's a difficult situation you find yourself in and I hope you can help them. It seems it is not the horse that needs help but the owners!!!!!
I can believe that they would use electric shock, after all they use nails and poles in the same way. It's sickening.

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


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:51 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:38 pm
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Hi Annie, you have your work cut out and it could get dangerous so make sure you stay safe. Sedation might be the best option short term.

This horse has been conditioned that every time his legs are touched he feels pain so no matter how honourable your intentions he may well be focused on the idea of pain and not able to see beyond that.

I wonder if CAT training might help not just with his leg problem but generally. CAT training is new to horses but I have been doing this with G it is about keeping the horse in a calm state of mind. It works very well for abused horses both fearful and aggressive, helps them to heal from the inside out.

Since my SK had a serious tendon injury a couple of years ago he dislikes having his opposite front foot trimmed , the CAT approach worked wonders with him. If you want to have a go let me know but whatever you decide I wish you all the best.

Eileen

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:15 pm 
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Hey Annie:

Take my response with a grain of salt, as I'm feeling pretty fatalistic about what can be done with an emotionally damaged horse since Stardust threw me, but I would be absolutely sure of looking to your safety first.

I think Annette and Eileen are right -- if it's a question of just getting in to do his feet, I would have him sedated (assuming that the feet are absolutely in need of work, which isn't always totally true). I believe that sedating an animal who's been traumatized to work on him does carry some emotional risk -- taking away his ability to fight back can further traumatize him -- but in the long run, if he kills someone or hurts himself or develops horrible hoof problems because no one can touch him, sedating him is by far the lesser evil. And not all animals, in my experience, respond that way to sedation, either, so it isn't a given that it will be worse for him. And it certainly wouldn't be worse than a horrible fight where he gets bashed into submission.

In that setting, having Annie energy right by him could help make the experience less horrifying for him. But if the goal is to get him feeling safe enough to let people handle his feet, this could take months, if not years, (if ever!) and would need someone who was willing to take him on long term -- I don't think (as marvelous as you are!) it's fair to assume that you can wave your magic wand and blow through years of pain and fear the first time you meet him.

Eileen, what is CAT training? I looked on your diary and found your mention of the Zenhorsemanship site but couldn't find anything on her site, either...would love to know more. Thanks!

Good luck, Annie!

xo
Leigh

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:38 pm
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Leigh wrote:
In that setting, having Annie energy right by him could help make the experience less horrifying for him. But if the goal is to get him feeling safe enough to let people handle his feet, this could take months, if not years, (if ever!) and would need someone who was willing to take him on long term -- I don't think (as marvelous as you are!) it's fair to assume that you can wave your magic wand and blow through years of pain and fear the first time you meet him.

Eileen, what is CAT training? I looked on your diary and found your mention of the Zenhorsemanship site but couldn't find anything on her site, either...would love to know more. Thanks!

Good luck, Annie!

xo
Leigh


Hi Leigh, the quote below was written by a very well known and gifted clicker trainer of dogs, Kay Laurence. She states what we CAT trainers are beginning to understand about our horses when we reward a behaviour we are also rewarding the emotion that goes with it. Because of the reward the horse repeats both the emotion and the behaviour. Our traumatised horses who are desperately trying to understand what we are asking and also trying to work through their own emotions often feel anxious and frustrated. So without meaning to we are training them to become anxious and frustrated, on the surface they can seem calm and accepting and then as we all know the blow out happens.

http://www.learningaboutdogs.co.uk/

Quote:
It is with thrills and chills that I see her topic of presentation at next
year's clicker expo has to do with the emotions of the dogs.
She writes:
>>Your dog's mind should be compatible with his or her behavior. A
>>controlled "sit" position may be seen as satisfactory and a silent dog may
>>be regarded as a "good" dog, but the sit or the silence can fool you into
>>believing that self-control is at work. It may not be. What you click is
>>what you get, however, so if the mind is still in a high state of arousal
>>or anxiety, that will get reinforced. This is a natural behavior. It is
>>not about removing fun or avoiding exposure to distractions, but about
>>developing a natural skill.<<


http://www.behaviorlogic.com/id167.html

The above link describes the use of CAT with dogs, this is were it originated. With horses we think of CAT as Constructional Approach Training, Treatment or Therapy. It works with both aggressive and fearful horses, the idea is to reward the relaxed and calm state of mind, so we are working with the emotion and not the behaviour. We begin with our horses in a relaxed and calm state and at liberty, possibly in the arena or a place of similar size. As we approach it is important that we recognise the exact moment they show any sign of tension, mark this place and retreat. On the next approach we stop several feet from the spot we marked , wait for the horse to show signs of calm , licking , yawning, blinking of eyes etc and then retreat. Between each retreat and approach we should wait approx 15 secs , exactly why this time works is not known but it does. By retreating while they remain calm it shows them that calm gives them what they want and it seems most traumatised horses need and want space. When they are ready to interact they come in to you and move away when they feel they need space.

I have been using this method with G for a few months and his emotional stability is much improved he is also releasing the old unhealthy emotions. I have begun to adapt this to use with our training and he loves it quite simply because he controls the training. Yes, some may say it is dangerous to allow a stallion to control but we have one rule and one rule only he must remain calm and friendly, he is learning to show me the exercises that he enjoys and is comfortable with and I am very pleased . Also he is learning to offer behaviours and that is something he has found difficult to do. It may not work for all horses but it certainly works for him and there is much further we can go with this stepping into unchartered territory.

I am quite excited about the levels of trust and communication I am experiencing with him and one time I would not have believed it to be possible.

Eileen

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