The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 1:42 am 
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Every once in a while, someone asks about Ramener and how to teach the horse to carry it forward in movement. I wrote this a while back to help someone, and I can share it here!
:D

Body Language is Everything

This first part assumes you have ramener at a standstill:

First of all, play with the ramener the way you normally do. Take careful note of ALL of your body language associated with cuing the horse. Take note of how you are standing, where you are standing, what all of your body is doing when you reach out to cue the horse.

Then...once you have it locked in your head, try doing all of the other body language first, present that to the horse....in other words, take up the stance, the posture the FEEL, and present that before you actually reach out your hand and cue the horse. Give the horse a chance to answer. If you get the slightest attempt to answer the question before you do the full cue, REWARD. The horse should be able to anticipate what you are about to ask, before you fully ask it. Your body language, always, gives more information to the horse than you might realize.

If body language alone isn't quite doing it, then reach out your hand (see "luring" below), with your body language already in place, but keep your hand motion further away from the horse. Rather than reaching out to touch the base of the neck (or the chin, or under the head), stop short of it and point at it. Hold the point...let the horse think about how he/she might answer. Again...reward tiny attempts. A little dip of the nose...anything that vaguely tells you the horse is trying to answer. Even if the answer is wrong - maybe they turn the head slightly, or drop the head slightly. They are thinking, reward them for thinking. Once you get several little answers that you reward for, then withhold the reward they may try a bigger, different, possibly better answer.

Always be aware of your body language so you can repeat it, or improve on it. Try some body language that you can do either at a standstill or while walking forward. So the key body language will be in your upper body, from your core up. It's not uncommon to go into a human version of the pose you are asking the horse to do. So this would be to arch your neck (stretching the back of your neck upward while keeping your chin in...and feel your own back lifting at the shoulders and rounding - horses can see and read this!).

Each time you ask, start with body language first, pause, point, pause, then go for a touch or lure if you need to.

If you can elicit it by pointing alone, then gradually, you can point from farther and farther away. Or you can stay close, and gradually fade the point by always displaying consistent body language first. Eventually, a hint of the body language should elicit it.

If the horse, ever, EVER offers it when you aren't expecting it, REWARD HUGE.

Develop a Verbal Cue

Pick a word...any word. I use, "Pretty", but it can be anything that makes sense to you. Use it always. No matter how you choose to elicit ramener, use the word first, then the cue. Always have a slight pause between the word and the cue. I think actual words have limited value to a horse (that is not to say they don't understand or respond to verbal cue only), but what a cue word does, is it causes US to elicit body language the horse can read. So really, a cue word is more for us than the horse. But it works. Some people think they have certain things on verbal cue. They rarely do. How to test it? Turn your back to the horse and say the word. If the horse does it, you have a verbal cue. If he doesn't, he's reading your body language. Nevertheless, humans are verbal creatures, and the words help us. So use it!

Transferring Cues

Use a new cue first, pause, then give the established, reliable cue.

Say you are standing on the horse's left side, facing the horse. In your right hand, take up the cordeo (hold the cordeo above the withers as if you were riding) and hold it gently up. Then offer the body language to the horse (as best you can with one hand up in the air). Pause. If the horse doesn't answer with a try, then point. If the horse doesn't answer with a try, then touch or lure. Remember always, to reward the tiniest of tiny tries.

With a cue transfer, you can have multiple cues for the same behavior.

If your horse is really soft on a halter and line, and you can easily get them to do ramener in a halter, you can ask first with the cordeo cue, then back it up with the halter/line. I would keep this option for the very last, because for some reason, a halter cue seems the hardest to transfer to something else because they seem to then always be reliant on feeling the cue through the line or rein. I do have a halter cue with Tam (it's a lift of the line), but it was added later on as one of many cues.

Luring and targeting

About luring. If at all possible, lure with something other than your hand if the horse is grabbing for the treat, or is ONLY bringing the nose into the chest to get the treat. Lure with a target, then reward the horse for following the target. A nice target is a nerf ball on the end of a riding crop. Go purchase the floppiest, most bendy crop you can find. Cut most (but not all!) of the whacking part at the end - just trim it down. Go buy a nerf basket ball (or some other small spongy ball) at your local toy store. Give the hoop to someone or recycle it. With a knife, poke into the nerf ball. Keep the incision as small as can at the surface, but you can work the knife tip back and forth a little inside the nerf ball to make the hole bigger inside (but not outside...does that make sense?). Find a glue that works on various surfaces, and inject some into the hole in the ball. Then stick the tip of the crop into the ball. Let it cure. It is a marvelous little target for working in close to the horse. If you build this, besides a handy short target, you also have a pretty good endo tapping stick for helping to relax horses (or people). The rhythmic soft tapping of the this ball on the body feels really good. Have someone tap you when your back is tired, tense or sore, and you'll see why your horse might enjoy it too.

If targeting isn't your horse's favorite thing, but luring is, then do use it, but make sure you have some rules. The rule should be, if the hand is closed in a fist, the horse should not try to take food (or bite you). They can only take the food if your hand is open and facing up. If you have established this as a good First Rule to using food rewards, then your closed fist, with the hand facing down can be used as a lure/target. If at all possible though, don't do this for long and change as quickly as you can to a pointing finger with your food in the OTHER hand.

With Tam, we work pretty hard (oh he is the muggiest horse you will ever meet...I'm so pathetic in this) on having a rule about hand luring. If I present the back of my hand, it is a lure and he is not being handed a reward. If the hand is turned up, there is a food in it and he can take it. This is most certainly not perfect, probably because I'm a little inconsistent, and since Tam reads body language, a hand moving toward his nose MUST have food in it. So it's hit or miss if he'll read it right or not. BUT...that down turned hand, if the horse reads it as a cue to do ramener, you can present your hand in the same way, farther and farther away from the horse. Just like pointing. But I find that it's most effective if I use the body language to back it up.

Once you are in motion, a pointing finger, or a nice nerf target is a great way to ask for ramener while walking.

I should also mention, that Cisco offers it easier at the trot than at the walk. So you can always try it in a jog....and if you do, you'll probably be moving in a circle anyway, and that leads me to the next point:

Bending to Release of the Poll

Horses DO offer to release the poll, at liberty or on line, much easier if they have a nice relaxing bend throughout the body! It's something to try, and if it works, keep doing it. Just keep an eye on the head, and the more you reward the ramener (reward tiny tries!), the more your horse will offer it.

If the bend alone doesn't do it, watch what happens to the horse's head when you ask for a little shoulder in. It's almost automatic and almost guaranteed the horse will drop it's nose. If you can do a step or two of shoulder in, in liberty, USE IT. If you focus on the horse's head in this case, and reward for the head movement rather then the leg movement, then the horse will eventually figure out that you're rewarding the head. If you want to later reward for footwork, change your body language and focus past the horse on something in the direction you want him to move, or look at his feet or his ribcage. They figure out pretty quick what we're focusing on.

I think, above all, the body language cue, without a touch (but with pointing if you need it) is the strongest and best cue of all of them because it is then infinitely more useful when you add distance from, or change your position in relation to, the horse.

So the sequence would be to establish a cue that is reliable that the horse can read from some distance...even if that is only a foot away from his head. Then walk forward and present the cue, making sure your body language is consistent (same as standing still). Or ask for the ramener, then ask for a step forward. Reward even if the horse loses the ramener in that one step. If you need to, reward the ramener when the horse is just seeing or hearing the cue to walk on. Reward them for holding the ramener while considering the additional cue. The faster you reward, the faster they figure out the answer. Always!

If you are luring by holding a down-turned hand behind the horse's chin, work at it until the horse will hold it steady for a count of six or eight before rewarding. Once you are at that point, you have enough time to lure, hold, then while holding, give a cue to walk forward and be prepared to move with the horse while holding your luring hand in the same place. At this point, you will see why being able to cue or lure from about a foot away is quite useful. But we all come to this from different places and the idea here is to present loads of possibilities that you can play with. Whatever you do will be unique to each horse.

Finally, If you ask for ramener while the horse is moving, consider asking the horse to move in a way that is conducive to acheiveing ramener most easily...on a bend, or in shoulder in. At a walk, or at a trot...it's up to the horse which is the easiest.

Oh yes, I almost forgot! Train it from both sides!

So I know this is a bit of a mish mash of ideas and thoughts, but I hope it's helpful!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 5:01 am 
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:kiss: :kiss: :kiss: :kiss: :kiss: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :cheers: :cheers: :cheers: :cheers: thankyou Karen. this is great information. i will go over and over it. does anyone have any videos to add to this thread for those of us that learn best visually????? :pray: :pray: :pray:

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 5:21 am 
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We SHOULD get some video! But I don't know that there is any step by step...yet.

And I forgot to add (I think) that if one establishes the cordeo itself as a cue (lifting it lightly, or "tickling" it), then that too, is a good cue to use when you are in movement, but only for work in hand. If liberty is the goal, then body language and or verbal should be the primary cue.

Thank you Jess! When my head is clearer, I may clean that post up a bit. This would probably make better sense if it was more organized. I have similar ideas scattered everywhere...but I'm too tired to fix it. I will try later! :f:

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:09 am 
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:funny:

Freckles learned ramener out of a muscle-building Pilates-type exercise I taught him as he COULD NOT do ramener as he had no neck muscles when I got him.

Then I "changed" it a little to get that Pilates exercise as well as a ramener cue, and then I changed it again so I could get it from next to him, then I added a cordeo cue, and now I am adding another cue that should work from a distance. :pray:

:D He still does it all, so maybe I can try and make a composite video of the progression he and I went through to get a ramener? I will see what I can do about that. :yes:

Oh dear. :roll: Time, time, time, time, time. :funny:

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:42 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:15 pm
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Hi anyone,I have started of with the cordeo in the hand, and are trying to get my Aregon to ramener ( lift his head and bend his neck), and he does, he get the hang of it standing still. Even when I'll stand beside him behind his front leg, facing forward, But then I'll bareback sit up on him and lift the cordeo. Give him verbal command And now he is NOT getting it! We gave been doing this for a few days, does anybody have any tip? I'll have loads of threats for him...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:57 pm 
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Do you have someone who can give him the visual/body language cues from the ground while you sit on him? Then he can transition his understanding from the ground cues he knows to the ridden ones he's not sure of yet. Otherwise, show him from the ground, get on, try it there. Get off, show him from the ground then get on and try it again. He will get it in time! The thing is that he will learn at his own pace. Have faith!

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:11 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:15 pm
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Thanks Karen yep tryed get on and off, show him, Will do more of that give him more time,
At the weekend ill might find Someone to help me, until then ill keep
Doing on off method ;)


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:36 am 
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Don't forget that the point about Ramener is to collect to some degree. The position of head and neck should be more or less a symptom of the shortened topline. The back will be raised as a result as well - and that is where it might become quite difficult for your horse with a rider on, compared to before ;).
Be sure that you look out for the tiniest sign of engagement of the topline and reward heavily for that. Don't wait for the full Ramener stance yet.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:41 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:15 pm
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Thanks volker for your information:)
Today was a good training day, he could hold his ramener for a tiny bit longer, few seconds or so, I'm so delighted , even when he trots (lunging) he tend to ramener his head/neck...few steps, at that point I'll click and stop praise, aswell I'll started training school halt, aswell he seem to get the point with put weight on hinds, and work his back, so that's good. It could be something in what y saying, he has not so much muscle yet, so it is very hard for him, my weight on his back make it harder on him, but it probably will take some time to get there, anyhow he is a pleasure to work with, and he is trying so hard, I'll will try to get someone over the weekend to help me from the ground, then we se :applause: thanks for y help


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