The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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 Post subject: 1: Playing - Role play
PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 8:01 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:20 am
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Location: Dresden, Germany
When the children and I play with the horses, lots of our games aren't the games usually played with animals (e.g. manipulating objects, navigating through obstacles) but resemble the games that children play with each other. That is, we often simulate real world tasks and interactions (e.g. school lessons, getting married, searching for gold, serving dinner to a king). When analyzing these games, there are a few key elements:

There is a purposeful task to be accomplished. The purpose is not so much in achieving a "useful" goal (e.g. strengthening particular muscles, getting something done) but in doing the things that are required by the particular setting. For example, when Nelly is "Super Nelly" who needs to collect treasures (i.e. clover) for Prince Pan, she is completely focused on that task and that task is the goal in itself. In that way, we do not run the risk of having half-motivated participants who do what they do just as a means to reach some end goal (e.g. getting Pan to be interested in our walks, and boy is that hard, with that ungrateful horse not playing along as he should ;)). In a way, this naturally shifts the focus onto the thing WE are doing, not on what the horse is supposed to do.

The task is clear but not rigid. A very nice feature of games that simulate real world interactions is that the situation defines particular activities (with the games building on real world knowledge and imagination of activities and interactions and thereby making it easier to determine what to do next), but there is no correct way of doing it on the level of the component activities. This allows for a good mix of knowing what to do but not having particular expectations, and in that way being flexible in reacting to the horse. For example, when getting married to Summy and he is starting to chew your jacket, this is not "wrong behaviour" (as it might be when you are set on an activity like stacking rings on a cone) but can simply be reinterpreted as a part of the ceremony. He simply wants to tell you that you have forgotten the rings and he is trying to fetch them from your jacket. In that way, any reaction of the horse can be integrated into the overall activity. No need for disappointment. :)

The tasks build on a joint definition of the activity. Thus, there is no insecurity that might arise when you know you should achieve a particular exercise goal but feel that you do not know the right method. The children can simply do what they would do if they were interacting with another human, and adjust that if the horse does not react, because with other humans it is ever so clear that there is no particular "procedure" but flexible interactions. If your human partner does not respond in the way you expected, you simply reformulate the question or find out what he actually had in mind. If your horse partner starts throwing down the furniture while you are trying to decorate his room with him, you can simply redefine your common ground, discussing whether your joint task was to renovate or decorate.

There are particular roles, which differ between the participants and situations. The children get immersed in their roles, so that they intuitively know what to do. For example, if you are Baca's grandpa and want to show him how to take a shower and that water isn't scary, your actions are completely different from a setting in which you are Titum's (i.e. Head of State's) assistant and want to offer a refreshment. Sometimes this means that I have to be a bit creative in selecting a setup and role definition that fits, but if I get it right, the interaction just flows.

Here are some pictures of our role play:

Pia celebrating her school entry

School lessons for Pia

Summy aka Poseidon reigning in his ocean

Summy taking a climbing lesson from Sports Master Azhar

Equine conquisitadors storming the Bastille of pizza eating children

If you do any role play with your horses, please add your experiences to this topic! :f:

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:01 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:00 am
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Location: Scotland
Oh great Romy :smile: Thank you :f:
I am sure we will soon be able to add our games :bounce:

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 1:32 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:42 am
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Location: Vienna, Austria
Great points, Romy. And great pictures, too!
I rarely invent a whole scenario to role play, just mental images of how to move. Like walking like a Welsh field commander with Lily, or sneaking like an indian.

We also did a set of animals at one of our clicker meetings with Lily:

Those things focus mostly on the mimcry of movement, while your way of role playing is much more. I really have to try this more. Not so easy when you don't have the children to remind you of the importance of NOT being earnest ;)


The horse owes us nothing.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:50 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:39 pm
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Location: Denmark
This sounds like so much fun. I need to think up games for us.

Then I started asking myself: "What can I do for my horse?"

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:57 pm
Posts: 149
Jana had a great idea for a new view on our walks with Nathan. As you may know we still have some problems in going for longer walks because Nathan often does not want to walk too far away but stays rather close to the stable while we would like to go for long walks in our beautiful forest that is just a little too far away.

But two walks ago Jana said: "From now on I'm going to call him Inspector Barnaby whenever we're outside". Back then I had now idea how extensively this would change my interpretation of Nathan's behaviour and thereby our interaction while going for walks. When he stops and stares at something in the distance we say "What do you see Inspector - is there a suspicious object?". And of course, the Inspector's assitants should better not interrupt him so we just wait quietly until Nathan has delivered his judgement. When he is about to walk into a front garden we say: "Excuse me, Inspector but we unfortunately have no search warrant for this place" and we just look through the windows into the house of the suspect 8). When Nathan searches for some grass we know that it's time to get some lunch for the Inspector.

This way we do not only go for a walk. We actually are searching for hints and evidence to get the offender. So when the Inspector decides to turn around to examine an object again or to have another look at the crime scene its no longer Nathan who is insecure and rather wants to go home again but we need to go back and forth another time in order not to miss an important sign - no need to get annoyed by this.

We had a great walk today. Industrial areas at sundays are just awesome - no cars, no people and soo much space and interesting things to examine :bounce: . And the Inspector even refused to go back home.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:23 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:42 pm
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Location: Israel
thank you for this inspiring tale
this is beautiful,
to many more adventures episodes :kiss:


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