The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:31 am 
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Building duration in exercises

When you start teaching your horse an exercise, your first goal is to make him understand the movement you're asking from him. For example the flexing the poll. Then you want to place that movement on command; the horse (only) flexes his poll when you ask for it, because then you can ask for different head movements too. When that all works out good, you will need to start working on the duration of the movement: your horse needs to realise that it's not about flexing his poll once, but about keeping his head and neck in this position for a longer time. The question is how to teach a your horse that it isn't just the movement you're looking for, but most of all the duration of the movement. Of course building up duration in a movement means that you have to be patient, your horse should like both you and your training and if that's all right, then the duration of the movement will come in itself...

But you have to teach him that you're looking for this duration too! 8) With Blacky and Sjors I realised that building up duration is something that they can understand really good by just counting out loud. When I ask Sjors for stretching his head/neck down, first I teach him to do so. Then when he responds to mycue (srtoking his neck) I start counting out loud the moment he responds. My goal is to be able to count two seconds before I reward - or two tries before I reward. So Sjors' actions can be this:

- Sjors holds his head down a second longer (because after one second there still isn't a reward) and when I hear myself say 'two' I click and reward
- Sjors puts his head down on my cue, but when I say 'one', his head goes up again. Now I will reward whenever he puts his head down the second time.

So Sjors can take two learning paths: right from the start that he should put his head down longer, or he starts to put his head up and down. As the latter is much more tiring, soon he will switch to holding his head down longer and that's what I would want to see.

Then it's just a question of add one second every time and again untill Sjors has realised that actually it's not about hodling his head down for as long as I count out loud, but for as long as I give him the cue to hold his head down (with us it's me stroking his neck).

But the overall key is to be patient and not to expect to be able to count to 60 the first day. Start with one in order to give him the idea: when he puts his head down, you just reward like you usually do. Then you set as your goal that you will now reward when you have come to 'two' or have had two head down attempts. Then three, four etc. But do try to be fair in your counting: don't make the numbers longer as you go, just hold the rythm of the seconds. Because the smaller the steps you ask from your horse, the faster he will understand.

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Last edited by admin on Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:54 pm 
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Counting loud is really good idea, someone told this to me when we were teaching one horse to lift his legs on cue. However, counting must become your habit; for example I didn't do it when teaching my own horse, and maybe that's why I have a problem with building duration ;) but I promise that next time I will count! :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:24 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Hello ,

any suggestions in differentiating from "hold this pose longer" and "do more of the same"?

For example in the school halt - the more fiery horses tend to offer more and more "sit" when all I am looking for is for them to stay longer in the same position. I do it by maintaining the cue - light touch on cordeo with whip placed behind the horse as a "barrier". It's difficult not to reward the increase of effort! :)

I pay a lot of attention to my cue and try hard to just "hold the cordeo in one place" - as the horse moves back from the light touch and gets to the place I would like to maintain, I make sure my hand is stationary - so what usually happens is the horse begins to return to the normal halt stance - then "runs into" the cordeo and bounces back to an exaggerated sit.

Same with other exercises, like in piaffe I get more and more engagement instead of maintaining the steps. And like I said - it's hard not to reward this.... so as I write this, maybe the problem is becoming clearer to me... :)

Thanks for any input!

Zuzana


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:39 pm 
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For my horses it helps to use my body language to express what I want. Therefore, in the schoolhalt example I could differentiate between asking for more duration versus effort like this: For more effort, I would gradually increase my own tension, crouch a bit more and perhaps also rhythmically lift my hands with more and more effort. Instead, for duration I can just stand there more softly and without changing my posture very much, a bit like a statue. :smile:


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:53 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thank you Romy,
that makes a lot of sense. I suppose I need to clearly differentiate in my mind what I am working on - and perhaps not reward the increased effort when I am going for duration?
I really like your "statue" simile. That also means lowered energy, doesn't it? I will think: "soft, maintain" and do so in my body.
Thank you!
Zu


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:55 am 
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In the particular case of the school halt I think you can achieve most with body language, like Romy already discussed.
In other cases it might be harder to differentiate. In clicker training there is the technique of a 'keep going' signal. It basically is a marker like the click, just the meaning is not 'this is it, you've got it', but instead 'this is it, keep going'. Only after a while you would click and reward as usual.
The keep going signal is usually a repeated signal like: 'good, good, good, ...', or 'yes, yes, yes, ...'.

This signal has to be trained first of course with simple, clear tasks like walk towards a cone on the ground. There you can use the keep going signal to guide the horse to the cone and gradually increase the distance. That way the signal becomes clear quite quickly.
The benefit of this signal is that you mark a behaviour and ask more of the same at the same time. So you can also use it to increase duration. For example when using it to learn free lunging.

Another simple tool would be to just count while the behaviour is shown. Lot of horses integrate counting quickly as a keep going signal.

Even with such a signal, it is important to modulate your body tension and the tone of your voice to fit to the energy level that you want to be shown. So I guess fine-tuning the body language is the most important part of it...

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Last edited by Volker on Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:56 am 
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Zuzana wrote:
and perhaps not reward the increased effort when I am going for duration?


I would still reward that. Or actually it's not so much the effort that I would reward but the horse's willingness to work with me and try to figure out what I am asking. I somehow couldn't make myself ignore that, knowing that I wouldn't feel good either if I was doing my best for someone and he was ignoring me in response, because he would have prefered me to do something else.

Unless my horses ignore me, I prefer to see their reactions as always perfect, relative to what my cue was suggesting to them. Therefore, if that reaction isn't what I had in mind, I change my cue accordingly, until they find it more easily understandable. :smile:


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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2013 3:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Houyhnhnm wrote:
The keep going signal is usually a repeated signal like: 'good, good, good, ...', or 'yes, yes, yes, ...'.
.


What would be the frequency of this signal? is it a continuous "noise" to which the horse performs?

Thank you for all the hints - I played with my two "maintenance challenged" movements yesterday and found one of the key pieces was not to ask for the maximum effort before expecting the horse to hold... ex: school halt: ask for about 1/3 sit then hold! Yay!

Zuzana


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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2013 8:51 am 
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Zuzana wrote:
What would be the frequency of this signal? is it a continuous "noise" to which the horse performs?
I would definitely not use it as noise ;). When I use it, I modulate the frequency as well as the pitch and expression to the task at hand.
For example when I ask for a well known exercise, like lunging, and I just want to convey the idea of a longer duration, I would choose longer intervals and a calm and steady tone. When I try a new thing, like freely walking from cone to cone away from me, I would use a higher frequency and give him direction through my tone of the voice. Like the hot and cold game we played as children.

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PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 11:19 pm 

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Thanks! :)


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