The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:50 am 
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Birgit asked me to repost this biological motion demo in a place where it would be better to find than in a video topic and I thought it could be a nice start for a sticky about the human's movement and body language.

For a demonstration of different ways of moving you can experiment with a biological motion demo

http://www.biomotionlab.ca/Demos/BMLwalker.html

You can play with the parameters and in that way maybe get a good feel about what parameters affect the impression you get in what way. With the dots it is much more easy than with the complexity of watching a real person move, because you can pinpoint the differences between different movements. Which body part moves faster? Higher? With a more curved trajectory? With what accelaration?

Then, trying to see things from the perspective of the horse, you can try to imagine how you would move when your human moved in what way. Actually you can just play the demos and move along behind your computer screen. How does it feel when you are supposed to run while the dots move in a way that is incompatible with that? Probably you will notice that there are mainly two chances of getting over that incompatibility: if you want to move in an energetic and relaxed way, you have to disconnect yourself from the dots and learn to ignore them, or you have to forget about being energetic and adapt your own movements to those of the dots. You will see how it is just so much easier to mimic the movement of the dots - so now you can practise mimicry with your computer. ;)

Enjoy! 8)


Other threads dealing with body language

Feedback on my bodylanguage
Nepomuk in motion (first page)
Outlaw - Critique my body language?
Body language and intent


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:50 pm 
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Thats pretty amazing!

That with a series of dots you 'see' the person or type of person clearly.

Wow!

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:08 am 

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It is interesting how much more movement there is in a female figure than a male. Is it easier for them to move the entire body while riding so giving a softer feel to the horse??? Would that make the man's signals clearer as his body does not seem to move much at the shoulders at all? Interesting. I shall have to play with this a bit more. :huh:

Fascinating.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:00 am 

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I love that this applies equally to walking/groundwork and to riding, especially the different shape of hips, shoulder width between men and women and also of course the mood, level of relaxation and lightness. Beautiful! :clap: :clap: :clap:
I wish they did this with a horse and a rider from the perspective of looking down on them from above. Should look pretty similar.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:05 am 
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After I got the videos of Imperia, I thought we could revive this thread...

I made a little instructional video about body language. I tried to summarize the main points of what I am doing, but if something does not become clear, just ask. It would also be great to know what you are doing differently and how it works for you and your horse, and suggestions for improvement are very welcome, too! :smile:

And here is another instructional video showing the hip cues during more stationary exercises like asking the horse to move away from me, towards me or parallel to me. My body language is a bit distorted especially in the first part due to Pia's size, which turns the hip cues into knee cues. ;) When working with a bigger horse, you can simply adjust them accordingly.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:29 am 

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Romy, this is fascinating. I use quite a few of the same moves but, I think, mostly intuitively, definitely never thought about them much (beyond the basic Parelli-type signals) I assumed this was the same for everyone. But your explanations in the video suggest that you are using all your moves as conscious aides/signals, esp. your hip movements? Or were you analyzing what you did after the fact? Either way, I think we should all videotape ourselves doing groundwork more. I suspect the way we move around our horses depends in part on the temperament and energy level of the horse (as well as the training level). My quarter horse definitely has lazy days when I need to make very big movements to get her moving at all. :funny: :funny:


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:40 pm 
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Thank you, Birgit! :smile:

Birgit wrote:
But your explanations in the video suggest that you are using all your moves as conscious aides/signals, esp. your hip movements? Or were you analyzing what you did after the fact?


Generally I have very little awareness of what I am doing, so indeed I try to watch and analyze it afterwards. But then when I knew what I was doing, I tried to experiment with it and improve it. So now I do what just comes naturally but sometimes I do think of it consciously while I am doing it.

Quote:
I suspect the way we move around our horses depends in part on the temperament and energy level of the horse (as well as the training level).


Absolutely. I would most likely not do crazy jumps next to a very nervous horse and risk to frighten him much more. Or when I am training with wild excited Summy, my body language cues just have to be smaller, because otherwise he would explode.

I am not sure about the lazy horse and getting him to move, though. I try to influence the horse's responses more by changing the consequences of the behaviour: I don´t try to wake the lazy horse up by adding more energy to make him do something, but rather continue using small cues but the horse gets rewarded BIG TIME for a reaction. So I am changing what effects a behaviour has for the horse and what might make him want to repeat or improve it.

But of course I also make differences between horses, probably much more than I am consciously aware of.

Your idea about everyone posting groundwork videos sounds great, I would love to see a video of you and Blue.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:01 am 

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Quote:
Generally I have very little awareness of what I am doing, so indeed I try to watch and analyze it afterwards. But then when I knew what I was doing, I tried to experiment with it and improve it. So now I do what just comes naturally but sometimes I do think of it consciously while I am doing it.

Wow, I took some time to observe myself to find out what cues I give Blue to move and I can definitely say that I also have very little awareness of what all I'm doing, even much less than I thought. :funny: It is definitely a combination of body language, verbal/sound cues, food as a lure and modeling. I tried to use body language only, but of course Blue knew that I had cookies in my pocket. I always lean slightly forward when I walk next to her to increase speed and lean slightly back to decrease speed. But I often use a cluck in addition. I definitely use a lot of big movements, for instance running away quickly to get her to move faster. For sideways movements I use mostly my hands moving towards her, but sometimes one hand pushing the hind end away, while waving her shoulders towards me. I'll take a video when someone can help me and the weather isn't quite so freezing cold (we had 5 degrees F tonight when I fed). Sometimes I'm thinking about having a verbal and a body movement cue for everything I'm doing because than it would be so easy to transfer that to riding. I guess I'd have to spend much more time than I have been to get consistent results. Right now I have so much fun just hanging out with Blue without any structure. 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:37 pm 

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Very interesting video!
Now I understand why naamloos won't trot when I'm trying to ask it from her.
Thank you. :applause:


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:57 am 
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On my trip to Belgium I read a very interesting article reviewing the literature on directing attention to your movements versus their effects. It said that in different kinds of tasks like golf, volleyball, skiing or balancing on a board it had been found that instruction and feedback that make you attend to your own movement decreased performance. In contrast, attending to the effects those movements have in the environment made it much better. This was the case both in terms of current performance and also in terms of the more longterm learning progress. Thus, being very focused on yourself did not just hamper performance but also made it harder to learn how to do it right.

Sometimes these effects arose even when there were only very subtle differences in the experimental setup, for example when people had to balance on a board and were instructed to attend to their feet versus to the board directly under their feet, or to visual markers that were placed right in front of their feet. They attributed these differences to the fact that when not attending to the movements themselves but their effects, you can still make sure the goal is being reached, while the online control is left to the (mostly unconscious) low-level systems that work much more directly on the incoming information from the environment.

Reading this reminded me of horses a lot. Indeed the times when I feel that my groundwork works best are the times when I don't think that much about the moves I make but just make them and adjust on a moment-by-moment basis, depending on how the horse is contracting his muscles or moving. I also feel that I am doing it worse after having experienced how several horses reacted to a certain movement of mine and then in consequence I hardly focus on the horse anymore but just do the hip thing in a rather ballistic way, as if it was a single move and not several tiny ones. Kind of "I know how it's done" thing, which hardly ever seems to be beneficial for me. By the way, it's funny that yesterday at the AND meeting I made the same "complaint" ;) about Impie, telling Bianca that when Impie still was very unexperienced in groundwork, she reacted to me way more instantly and precisely, whereas now she often tries to do the move or sequence of movements that she thinks I am asking of her - which is precisely what I am guilty of myself, so I guess we will do something to change that next time. :)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:10 pm 
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That's really interesting. I wonder if that is the reason Zoe and I find it so hard to play with each others horses. Because we have a collection of cues that our own horses understand (and expect), when we try each others horses we don't get very far. When I try to imitate Zoe or do what she does it doesn't really work and while I am concentrating on what I am doing - I find it much harder to react to what BJ is doing. Then on days when he is more excited we communicate much better. Same with Zoe and pops. I am still unable to explain to her how to get her enthusiastic, I think I must just be reacting a certain way to what Pops is doing and it is without even thinking about it. I was wondering this afternoon actually, if instead of trying to get BJ to do what Zoe gets him to do, to try and just do something different with him instead.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:26 pm 
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Very interesting. I think everybody is familiar with the phenomenon that when you focus on how you move your feet you easily stumble, yet walking otherwise comes naturally. Centered riding, with it's mental images, is using the very fact that effect based instructions work far better than micro-managing your posture for example. It is especially apparent when doing balance related exercises.
I think it's got to do with the way balanced movements are maintained by a shortcut between proprio-receptors and cerebellum. Using the cortex (or higher brain functions) to maintain/adjust the movement just interferes with already established pathways. At least that's how I imagine how it works ;)

I also think that the way horses react to our body language is a different topic though. It has more to do with learning theory, in my opinion.
When I work with an untrained horse and reward him for reactions to my body language, he will do so in a very intuitive way. He will probably also react to every little thing he believes to be a cue.
Later, when cues reappear and are reinforced in a predictable pattern and others do not, he will in a way habituate to some degree of body language noise and filter out the most salient cues. The motivation to identify new cues will decrease in proportion to the amount of acquired vocabulary and to the ratio of new versus established cues. So in a sense, the training and usage of cues decreases the ability to learn new ones.

When a horse has been trained a set of body language cues, he will of course try to identify those cues in any other human interacting with him. If the dialect of that human is too far off the original, there are bound to be translation errors :).
Imitating the body language of another is very hard and thus will probably only further confuse the horse. All the more, because the same phenomenon kicks in as in the balance example. Trying to consciously modify something as unconscious as body language is very prone to error.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:10 am 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
I also think that the way horses react to our body language is a different topic though. It has more to do with learning theory, in my opinion.


Although I do not think it needs to be a different topic, I guess I was a bit confusing when bringing up Impie. Actually the point of my post was not meant to be "What makes a horse react to bodylanguage?" but "When are my signals good and when aren't they?" At least for me my cues do work the more effectively and bring about more subtle results the more they take the horse's reaction into account - that is, when they themselves get modified according to the effects they create - instead of being just predetermined cues.

I'll try to make it a bit clearer with an example: Last Saturday I asked Unico to turn his hindquarters away from me by directing my hip there (while standing next to his belly, facing him). If I saw him moving sideways with his whole body and thus the frontquarters moved as well, I counteracted this by adjusting my posture in terms of taking the hip that was closer to his head backwards away from him. Consequently, I created a slight tendency to draw his frontquarters towards me which made it impossible for them to move away from me at the same time.

However, this can only work if I do attend to the effects of my movements (i.e., the horse's way of moving) in real-time, instead of just giving the "right" cue (just attending to my own movements). Perhaps that's also the reason why we differ in our views on this, because I try NOT to train my horses to react to a certain set of cues. It's more like if the horse perceives something to be a cue, then it becomes a cue or part of a cue for me - namely for the response the horse just gave. That's basically what I tried to explain in the R+ for humans video and text. So I do not have a certain, fixed sideways cue for example but a general idea of what could make the horse go sideways, which is defined and constantly redefined as our interaction changes, depending on what effects it produces. If in response to my current sideways cue the horse moves forward more than I want, I reward just as much but adjust my position the next time I ask. So I guess there is not very much need for the horse to filter out things. :smile:

It's only that I tend to forget to work in this way when I get lazy, and then I just perform the move that worked for the last few horses or what worked the last few times with the same horse. And then it is that my horses become less sensitive. Otherwise I have not seen much of a change in their sensitivity to body language as they grew older.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:01 am 
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Romy wrote:
Perhaps that's also the reason why we differ in our views on this, because I try NOT to train my horses to react to a certain set of cues. It's more like if the horse perceives something to be a cue, then it becomes a cue or part of a cue for me - namely for the response the horse just gave. That's basically what I tried to explain in the "R+ for humans" video and text.
The way I see it, it's basically the same thing, only the roles are reversed. The principles of operant conditioning apply all the time - on both sides. Also cues are always given and received.
When you first interact with an unfamiliar horse I assume you use the cues which you are most familiar with. You wait for an answer and then modify your cue according to the answer you got. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Usually it's the horse who will have to modify according to the reinforcing taking place, but the result is basically the same I think. It's a training process where behaviour is modified to reflect the individual aspects of the communication process between a specific horse and a specific human. Every time one participant of this process changes, the re-training will start again. Re-training might take longer, if the learned cues differ greatly from the new cues.

I guess in the end it's the one who has to modify the own behaviour, who may run into problems, because a trained and unconsciously performed behaviour has to be consciously altered. That leads us back to the study you were referring to in the beginning of our discussion ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:34 pm 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
I guess in the end it's the one who has to modify the own behaviour, who may run into problems, because a trained and unconsciously performed behaviour has to be consciously altered. That leads us back to the study you were referring to in the beginning of our discussion ;)


I guess that's what I don't really believe, that adaptation to the situation at hand is highly likely to be problematic or conscious (at least when we are speaking about simple movement). For me it is not hard to change my moves according to what I see or expect the horse to do, and in the same way I guess it is not hard for him to change his moves according to mine. But I need to add that I am only speaking about situations where the behaviours, for example the cues or the actions of the horse, are congruent (i.e. share a number of features) with the effects they are supposed to create. It's a whole different story if you have to perform arbitrary reactions to arbitrary cues, then a change of a learned association is indeed rather difficult.

But I guess I should explain a bit why I don't see it as problematic and necessarily conscious. First, individuals tend to get their movements - or actually the perceivable effects of their movements - into synchrony, with no conscious effort to make that happen. Usually it costs way more effort to prevent that. So if the change I need to make is one that fits with the horse's behaviour, it should be ever so easy. Of course the studies were not done with horses but rather simple things like the frequencies and phase of rocking chairs, pendulums or walking in synchrony. But I don't see why it should be fundamentally different with horses.

Second, actions are largely controlled by their sensory effects (ideomotor principle): Thinking of that effect automatically activates the representation of the corresponding action. Now if a stimulus I see (e.g. the not quite expected movement of the horse in our example) is very similar to the effect of some movement in my movement repertoire in terms of the features they share (e.g. leftward, fast), it is very easy for me to perform the action that fits, due to the spread of activation to the corresponding motor codes.

Ultimately, I guess you are right in that a change of learned associations is hard. I only think that if you see associations not as something that is restricted to the horse-human interaction but to the whole of an individual's experiences with his environment, the few horse-human specific associations will hardly outweigh the number of associations that the individual has made throughout his life. Or to say it very simply: if in the past I had worked with horses who make a hop when I step to the left, this left-hop link would hardly outweigh all the left-left associations I have made during my learning history with all kinds of objects. So for me adapting to the horse is easy when I can adapt in a way that mimics the laws of physics I have experienced in my life.


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