The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:08 pm 
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I wonder if anybody would like to elaborate here on the subject of ordinary gaits? How to keep them "clean", rhythmic? How not to loose them while experimenting with collecting, elevation, wild games etc.? How not end up with disunited walk/trot/canter?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:49 pm 
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These are all thing that occur when a horse is forced.
Within AND a horse is never forced, so you could almost never go to far as too demolish your horses pure gaits.

The whole concept of keeping the horse pure is not only for his mind, also or more so for his body and therefore natural ability including his gaits.

If you see the gaits go unrythmic for a glance, make sure to ask the horse to go forward again in his own free way of walk, trot or canter.

I hope this answers you question.
If not, just ask :)

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:18 pm 
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Answers - but only partly. And I partly agree ;-)

Forcing may lead to loosing pure gaits. But not only forcing in my opinion. For example the horse may start doing "strange" things trying to find his way through collection, "funny stuff" etc. Especially when he/she is not yet strong enough to carry him/herself.

I asked this question because I've noticed something about my horse's canter (watching photos). For some time we played with frequent trot/canter transitions, on rather small circle. I used clicker, not force. And still found out that he sometimes goes into 4 beat canter. I think my mistake was asking for collection he couldn't give (and doing frequent trot/canter transitions and cantering on the small circle requires some - or even a lot - of it). It made me think. And reminded that basics are something not to forget.

So I made one mistake - and learned something. But I don't want to make more mistakes than I have to ;-) That's why I ask about your experiences and thoughts on the subject.



I think this may be a point to start:

Quote:
make sure to ask the horse to go forward again in his own free way of walk, trot or canter


Do you practice longer "just" walking, trotting with your horses? To get feel of the rhythm? How not to be boring but let you both find what is the basic, natural and relaxed? Could walking outside (trail walking?) be a good idea? If you use clicker (I know some does) do you use it for improving basic gates?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:57 pm 
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Indeed!

'Forcing' horses is only one cause of problems, being overenthusiastic, hyperactive or insecure about what a movement should look like can cause gaits to differ too.

And yes, I do reward the regular gaits too, especially because of all those reasons (and because all those reasons exept the first of course seem to live in Sjors' brains... ). For example, if I ask for a passage-like movement three times after another and reward those, Sjors tends to replace all regular trot by this gait. And walk and halt and canter too, by the way, if you let him. :roll: So instead of following that road, I ask for one or two passage attempts, and then as for a regular trot and reward that too, so that Sjors realises that passage isn't better than trot and that the first should replace the latter.

And of course the regular gaits are the basis of Haute Ecole dressage too, so if 1/5 of our training exists of special exercises, the rest exists of walk, trot, canter, and sideways movements in these gaits (well, only in walk and trot still ;) ). By the way, these sideways movements, especially shoulder-in are very good at loosening your horses' body too when he tenses, over-collects or chances his gaits for the worse.

Another very good thing to 'restore' gaits that have changed due to too much thinking or overcollection (offered at liberty by your horse of course) out of enthusiasm, is ask the horse to lower his head and neck again during that gait. That loosens the back and turns the gaits back to normal again. Sjors sometimes turns his walk into a kind of pace when asked to collect in walk. When he does that, I ask him to stretch his neck again and if he responds, I reward him.

The last thing is: put everything on cue as soon as possible to avoid confusion and with that confued gaits. That is quite hard if you have a very smart and expressive pony who really likes to show off everything that he just thought of (like Sjors again), but especially in those cases very important.


By the way: a four-beat canter is not seen as bad in classical dressage - it's only forbidden in the modern, FEI dressage competitions.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:00 pm 
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Indeed, asking for collection when it is to soon can ruin a horse's gait.

I never use the clicker for that sort of training, scared that the horse would indeed lose natural ability (they seem to pluck out their own ears for a treat...).

I never make them trot or canter long, mostly everything is in walk, but I ask a lot of transitions and also walking back wards.

If they want to canter, I let them for it builds up muscle.
Also canter and then halt makes them move under. If they can starting canter from walk and back to walk etc.

It is indeed always about the basics, shoulder in, circles etc. That will make collection come.
you can not actually train collection itself.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:14 pm 
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@ Klara; great question by the way! I'm going to make a sticky out of it as it indeed is a very good thing to realise when starting with collecting exercises. Thanks for reminding us! :D


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:09 am 

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Miriam wrote:
'Forcing' horses is only one cause of problems, being overenthusiastic, hyperactive or insecure about what a movement should look like can cause gaits to differ too.


I'm glad to see this posted, and I think it's a great reminder for anyone that's frustrated with gait issues. Finding the root of the problem will get you a lot further in the long run. Looking forward to reading more tips!

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:26 am 

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I'm hoping someone can help me with Morgan's walk. He has a fantastic trot both in hand and under saddle but doesn't seem to have any kind of active walk. At rest, at liberty in the herd and elsewhere he will amble along no matter what the rest of the herd is doing. If he wants to catch up he will break into a trot. He has no pace inbetween. This is of course hugely frustrating under saddle and when I trail I just have to suggest he trot and he will willingly do so but will simply not increase his pace of walk. I can nag and will get a few paces before he resorts back to just slumping along :sad:
The only time he gives me an active "proper" walk is when he is about 200 meters from home and he can see the finish line!!!! then he will pick his head up and walk out like a show pony!!!!!!!
I have kind of resigned myself to the fact that this is his natural pace for walk (trot and canter are both fab and can be lengthened and shortened easily), but wonder if there is a way to get him to walk out properly under saddle without using -R :ieks: At the very beginning of training I used to ride with a stick in my hand and the very presence of the stick would elicit a decent walk, but I don't want him walking out through pressure, but because it feels good.
So all ideas welcome?????
and yes I have tried asking for a few paces and rewarding but as soon as I stop rewarding and asking he plods again. :roll:

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:52 am 
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What might help is doing the opposite of 'prodding' ;) him on: holding him back: if you ask for shortened, more collected steps in any gait, horses will often automatically relax and lengthen their strid when you allow them to go back to a normal walk.
Another thing that can help is teaching him to lower his head during the walk. Some horses feel it helps releasing tension in their backs - but others will respond to it by going extreeeeeeeemely slow. 8) So I guess you'll just have to go and see what works!

By the way, the traditional way of lengthening the stride is actually by using the trot: you urge the horse on in walk untill he starts a trot, then you hold him back because trot isn't the answer, but when he gets down to a walk again you urge him on right up to (or into) trot and correct that again; that way you teach the horse that there's 'another gait' in between the regular walk and trot. So if he drops into trot, that doesn't have to be a problem. It can actually be part of the solution.
What might be the problem though is the amount of energy you need to get him into trot in the first place. If getting him to trot is a light squeeze with your leg, and getting him to walk faster is a squeeze-squeeze-squeeze-pant-pant-pant, 8) then you might want to reconsider what 'extended walk' is in your own mind if compared to walk and trot.

Maybe it helps to see the extended walk from a different angle: instead of 'walk bigger/faster/with more flashy energy!' think 'don't let him trot!'. Might do the trick. :smile:

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:51 am 
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Titum used to have such a slow and uninspired walk as well. For him it changed when we started R+ in 2007. It's not that I rewarded for walking per se, but the fact that our interaction was rewarding seemed to give him a feeling of purpose and being enthusiastic about our activities. Suddenly he wanted to go out with me, so he went with more energy.

Perhaps something similar could be used on a more microscopic level as well. If for example you practise walking not by arbitrarily walking along somewhere, but by heading towards a specific goal, could this make him more eager to walk? One way would be to put food in specific places (in a way that it is predictable for him) and then walk there with him. Once his walk is more engaged in these situations, you could perhaps combine this with a certain cue (e.g. your body language being more engaged), and later this might be usable as a cue for an engaged walk in other situations as well.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:33 pm 

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Thank you both! :f:
Miriam, If I hold him back he will stop! he is barely moving.... :funny: It did occur to me today to do exactly what you describe and ask for trot but catch the walk. His upward transitions are so smooth and instant that I ended up with leaping foward, almost stopping, leaping forward :funny: That clearly wasn't going to work...
His head travels as low as possible (my fault as I allowed him in the past to munch on route and as he hasn't been a while out on the trail under saddle, the temptation to graze was high). I'm sure he is preoccupied with seeing/smelling what grazing he is missing! I asked him to pick his head up and this seems to help with a combination of nudging him alternatively with my heels but it feels like such hard work :ieks: I did make some progress though and he seemed to connect the lifting of his head with moving his feet a tiny bit faster. It is actually nice to ride behind a trail as it gives me a good gage of how fast/slow he is actually walking :)
Romy, I am glad I am not the only one!!! I get so frustrated with his plod!
I tried getting a more energetic walk on the ground and also tried rewarding for quickening the pace between two treat buckets etc. I've tried lunging him loosely but when he does get enthusiastic he shortens his frame and prances or jogs. In fact the only time I have seen him do a really meaningful walk is when he is escaping something he doesn't like and is cross :funny:
I guess the key lies in catching the moment of impulsion and keeping it.....lots more trot to walk then......
Thank you.... :D

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:37 pm 

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Come to think of it perhaps I should concentrate on how he starts his walk from a standstill as there is no impulsion to begin with. He creates the impulsion for trot by almost jumping forward yet he drags into walk???? mmmmm?????

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:44 pm 
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Romy makes some very good point as well! With Speedy I also use targets a lot if he thinks something is stupid, like turning corners when long reining, so if I want to turn away from the rail I make sure that I pick a spot that will land him next to a target if he follows my cue for the turn.

And how about Chase the Tiger? Once they learn they can chase it, most horses jump right on top of it, chasing it to death ;) but you can also teach them (and should, in my opinion) that a tiger doesn't automatically mean a frantic chase: you can teach your horse to stand still even though you flutter a tiger in front of him, 8) but also to chase it in the gait you want - like walk. I know that when chasing a tiger in walk Speedy, Blacky and Sjors all develop a very interesting kind of speedwalking. :funny:

I totally agree with you that if your cues start feeling like a lot of work, you should try something else as they might feel like a lot of nagging to your horse as well. And that his cues are that light that he jumps straight from halt to trot is actually wonderful! Because then an approach could be for you to minimize your cues even more! :yes:

Maybe another help can be to introduce a seperate (voice) cue for speeding up/lengthening strides, like 'forward', just lie you can have a slow-down cue 'slow' that you can use for all gaits and movements once the horse know that it means 'stay in this gait, but go slower/faster'. That can help you seperate this speed-exercise even more from the regular walk/trot cues.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:54 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I'm inspired finally to work on this! Thank you
I do think I have probably poisoned a lot of cues once in the saddle so will go back to playing with riding (which is when I do see some enthusiasm) as opposed to "making" him trail which clearly he hates.....
Chase the tiger is something he has never really got...doesn't see the point. He will follow a target (at a plod!)
Lots to work with.......

On a good note, he had a major spook yesterday when a very rattling trailer came past. He responded to my cues to stop and turn and face it where he froze :ieks: and let it pass and didn't leave :applause:

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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 Sep 06, 2012 8:53 am 
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So cool!
I had a similar moment with B, she was really stressed but remained at halt!
just great to find out how your horse can refrain from their initial response to just run...

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