The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:02 pm 
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Merging two movements into one: the Sandwich

Well, that's what I call it anyway. ;) But a sandwich actually explains the concept really well: two layers of bread with one layer of filling in between. The same principle you can use when merging two different movements into one. For example:

Shoulder-in at walk + trot = shoulder in at trot
Ramener + piaffe = a better neck posture during the piaffe
Spanish walk + trot = spanish trot
Touch your hand to the side of the head + sideways towards you = travers
Walk + backwards = piaffe
Etc etc etc...

The prinicple really is quite simple. Last week for example when playing with Speedy I was curious to see if we could try the travers in trot. We had come as far as travers in walk, but of course I felt a need for speed. 8)
So I decided to make a sandwich: we went to the fence where we had practiced the travers the most, and I asked him to stop there. The sandwich really was quite simple: I asked him for a couple of steps in walk-travers, then ask for a couple of steps of regular trot, and then ask for the walk-travers again - and then rewarded. It took Speedy two repetitions of the sandwich and then he decided that it was much easier for him to just keep the same travers-bend in his body during the few steps in trot between the two travers. And we had travers in trot! :cheers:


The reward
The element that keeps the three layers together and merges them into one, is of course the reward. I'm a big fan of rewarding very often and in a normal setting I would have rewarded Speedy three times already (Yay, travers in walk! Yay, trot! Yay, travers in walk! :yes: ) but the thing is that when you're making a sandwich, the (click plus) reward should come at the end of the series, not in between. Your horse wants to reach that reward as soon as possible and when you start repeating the sandwich, he will start merging the movements together in order to get rewarded sooner.
If you reward in between, they just stay three seperate exercises. It might feel a bit unnatural to clickertrainers at first, but it's the series that you want to emphasise, not the seperate parts. Of course, once you get that first step op trot-travers in between, of course you abort the series immediately and give your horse the jackpot.


The ingredients: what goes where
Probably the exercises you want to combine have a different meaning for the horse: he might find the ramener very easy and the piaffe exhausting. Or the other way round: he might find the piaffe the superbest thing in the world and the ramener quite boring. The thing is to decide which exercise is going to be the bread and which exercise is going to be the filling.

I often take the most essential part of the final movement as bread, because the repetition of that element as first and last movement causes it to get even more emphasis. So in the Speedy-travers example I wanted him to realise that he could hold the travers in trot as well. From Speedys point of view maintaing the travers-bend in trot was just logical as it was locked in between the two slices of travers.
A reason to choose one of the movements for the filling could be that it otherwise would become too dominant, especially if that movement exites the horse easily (high speeds), or if he is really set in doing that movement exactly as he has always done so. In those cases, I often place that movement into the middle.


Examples
So, going back to the examples, these are some of the sandwich recipes I've tried: ;)
- Shoulder in at trot: Shoulder-in at walk + trot + Shoulder in at walk.
This is what worked with Speedy and Sjors, who both tend to get too exited in trot to think about bending etc, so the trot should be encased in travers. With Blacky, who isn't that keen on trot, I turned it around: trot-shoulder in at walk-trot, because for him maintaining the speed of the trot was the key element.

- Better neck posture during the piaffe: Ramener + piaffe + ramener
The time it takes to create a reasonable piaffe that you want to refine, also means that the less perfect neck-posture (too high or hollow etc.) has been rewarded for quite a long time. In order to give the new posture extra attention, you let the ramener embrace the piaffe.

- Spanish trot: Spanish walk + trot + Spanish walk
If you lock the trot between the walks, then you automatically collect the trot more, which makes it easier for the horse to lift his frontlegs in a Spanish trot..

- Travers: Target your hand + sideways towards you + Target your hand
Most horses when learning the travers, first do so with the wrong bend: they bend away from the direction that they're going. You can use targetting (with a hand or object) in order to ask his head towards you, in the right direction if you're asking him to do travers towards you. I place the sideways movement between the targetting, als I really want to emphasize that flexion, and because the travers can have a similar issue as the piaffe: when you're getting to the point where you can start perfecting the movement, the less perfect movement has been rewarded for so long that it has become a habit. Stick that to the outsides and the horse might just do them on autopilot because the filling is refreshing enough. ;)

Piaffe: backwards + walk + backwards
This is just one of the many ways to teach the piaffe at liberty, but with Speedy I chose for this pattern with the walk in the middle as the backwards has the element of collection in it, while walk often is done on the autopilot and plain on the forehand. And collection is what I wanted to emphasise most - so that became the bread. Also, as Speedy lives up to his name 8) , his walk tends to be a bit too quick, as forwards and fast is fun!
With Blacky I ended up with an entirely different method for piaffe, but sometimes I still sandwich it in order to get it more forwards: walk + piaffe + walk, as he tends to get too collected and then get stuck in one place, so with him I want to emphasise the forwards movement more that the collecting and then the walk becomes the bread.


There are millions of ways to sandwich exercises - and a zillion ways to develop the same exercise without using any sandwich at all, so don't feel held back by the examples I gave here. I just wanted to write this down as often I get questions like how to get the right flexing in the sideways, how to turn Spanish walk in trot etc and even though these questions seem very different, the principle is the same: the sandwich, and once you know that principle, you can use it for just about anything.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:33 pm 
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This is soooOOO valuable Miriam! I love it! Thank you!

Quote:
you let the ramener embrace the piaffe.


I like how you put that :love: :funny:

...and I :l: sandwiches!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:44 pm 
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Well, my absolutely top favorite is the club sandwich, I start drooling when just thinking about it, but I'm afraid that one has too many layers for poor Speedy. He would die of malnourishment if he had to do five exercises after another without refueling in between! :funny:
So when training I'm keeping it simple and visualise one of those super-English whitebread triangles with cucumber slices in the middle, very simple yet elegant. ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:52 pm 
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:funny: :funny: :funny:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 12:31 am 
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Quote:
walk + piaffe + walk, as he tends to get too collected and then get stuck in one place, so with him I want to emphasise the forwards movement more that the collecting and then the walk becomes the bread.


That described Tam as well. We had to go back and completely rebuild the sandwich. :D It's better now. Not so engaged that he gets stuck and his balance is better (better bending of the haunches) and his forelegs are more vertical. Still have a long way to go on the rhythm and expressiveness of it, but that will just take time. The stronger he gets, the prettier everything gets!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:12 pm 
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I love this :)

It makes it all so clear (thinking in food terms really helps me in general ;) )

Hmm I have been thinking about how to get to the piaff... because her trot next to me is way to excited...
since she seems to enjoy backing up... this might be a real solution...

Oh and it is so easy to use for many other exercises as well...

:yeah:

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 3:51 pm 
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A culinary masterpiece Miriam! I'm drooling for a sandwich. Your treating advice is really pertinent. We've been working on the Spanish walk -trot - Spanish walk to get to passage, and I realize now we could progress much faster if I refine the way I'm thinking about the reward timing. Very cool!

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