The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:30 am 
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Thats such a great outcome iidala :)

Zoe and I are needing some ideas for Bear at the moment.
We have being introducing him to our horses by putting them together in the arena. They are slowly getting used to him and they are sorting eachother out. Poppy and Marlee are beginning to interact a little more. Bear has quite a high play drive though and I think he intimidates them a little. Anyway he and Bj run around together and play biting games with eachother. Which is great fun for them but now he has started trying it with us.

We started by just ignoring him when he did it and asking him to turn his head away, which does get him to stop, but then he'll start up again. Letting him bang into my elbow didn't help much either. What really seems to trigger it is us touching him (especially his head and neck) and he is getting quite bad with this. He has stopped backing up when I tickle his chest as he takes it as an invitation to start a biting game. He has always tended towards being quite muggy and he will walk infront of us to block us if we let him. We reward him for turning his head away, for walking and stopping next to us and for walking a circle away but he needs to be reminded all the time (although he usually responds when you ask).

Our ideas at the moment are: to work on all the above exersizes, get him better at stepping under on the circle, walking away when he won't keep his head away and rewarding him with play when he is polite and lets us touch him.
I think we just need to make it super clear that biting games=no attention.

Any other thoughts/ideas??


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:46 pm 
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A few ideas that may (or may not) help.

1. I wouldn't tickle his chest anymore but simply press on his chest to back up.
2. When I don't want my horses to enter my space (barge into me), I have taught them an arm single (which is to place my hand in front of me as if I'm cutting the air with my hand and I use a hard look and say "stop" and then I rewarded (now I don't anymore because they know what it means).
3. as for touching, Magik was super sensitive. I think you have to play "approach - retreat" and after awhile they get it. I would click when I touched him and then immediately remove my hand. It takes time but after awhile you won't even notice you had a problem.

Anyways, just a few suggestions.
Jocelyne

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Jocelyne
[Hug your animals everyday. You never know!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Marina wrote:
Thats such a great outcome iidala :)

[...]

Any other thoughts/ideas??


Study how horses in herd behave toward each other to fight, play, boss.

Then don't do those things. Don't act like a herd buddy. (Very tough not to if you are following AND)

Study what Mother Mares(TM) do when foals are small. Beware those things the mare does that are the same as the bossy, playful, and aggressive. Watch her softer communication.

I was going to suggest that you raise your hand and arm and wave it in an arc, as that is the boss posture, but it is also, as always with "boss," postures, an invitation to challenge the users' authority. In other words, a fight behavior.

I happen to use it, but my horses understand we are not to aggress and I in fact AM the boss horse. Not AND but practical in I believe both will outlive me and move on to other owners. I AND when I can, otherwise I condition and Rituals (but only as I know them, not like Jocelyne who is becoming so much more proficient in them.

I know though that approach retreat is often very effective. It's quite operant conditioning in concept and execution when done correctly. My horse wants to approach, and in a manner I do not want, such as mugging my pockets and hands. I move away and the instant he or she complies by showing they are stopping, I move toward them again. I initiate contact.

Not police, not good manners, but the horse started it first. :funny:

We have lots of ways of talking about these things, and while the connection might not seem obvious between them (approach retreat, and some say "go away from the horse") it's still the same concept.

I think we stress too that one study and respond to the individual horse. Some are so sensitive that going away would depress them. So I, if I owned such a horse, (my dog is like this) I would very quickly return and reward, hug, trade breath, scratch, etc. when they complied. I get nervous when I read about someone working with a horse over some problem and the horse goes off in the distance and stands and sulks.

I firmly believe, for instance, that the horse needs to be close enough, if we are interacting as in a relationship, to smell me, and in crises to have my breath if he needs it. So I offer it even when I'm not sure.

Bonnie usually is very excited to get out of her stall. I ask her not to come roaring out of her stall (I worry she will bang a hip on the steel frame, or trample my dog or me), so I offer her my breath, (well, :blush: I ask her for a little soft nostril kiss) and while I breath close to her nostril I think about calmness and walking quietly out of the stall.

I had not meant it to "train," but then in good relationships we learn to manage our behaviors so that we don't upset and offend our partner/friend/companion/loved one. Bonnie now waits quietly and comes out slowly and softly.

Weird though. As Altea becomes more healthy she is turning into a "Bonnie," all energy and rushing about. It's so wonderful to see I don't do anything with it other than to stay out of her way when she's excited. I've plenty of time to do calming work with her later - for now her behavior is so welcome I could hug her for it (I do, of course). Besides, as a socialized adult she is pretty careful not to run into me or trample the dog.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
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So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 7:13 pm 
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horsefever wrote:
A few ideas that may (or may not) help.

1. I wouldn't tickle his chest anymore but simply press on his chest to back up.

Boy howdy, do I ever agree and concur. Tickling is a "let's play nip fight," among horses.
horsefever wrote:
2. When I don't want my horses to enter my space (barge into me), I have taught them an arm single (which is to place my hand in front of me as if I'm cutting the air with my hand and I use a hard look and say "stop" and then I rewarded (now I don't anymore because they know what it means).

Hmmm....I've got to try that. It's like my "take a break," gesture with Rio, my dog. When he's fetching he gets too excited for his age and bad knees. I do a baseball umpire 'safe,' gesture and say time out.

What I think I like about yours is that it doesn't seem to mimic much of any horse behavior that is an invitation to aggress. But it does look like some lead mare gestures I've seen.
horsefever wrote:
3. as for touching, Magik was super sensitive. I think you have to play "approach - retreat" and after awhile they get it. I would click when I touched him and then immediately remove my hand. It takes time but after awhile you won't even notice you had a problem.

While it's good manners, as Josepha recently reminded me, to let a new horse invite you into it's space, with a friend it's nice to initiate touch and closeness. Some humans, and some horses though, want to be approached with a clear pre signal. I think I can see how C/T would be useful to demonstrate that to the horse.

I'm about to show Bonnie that I want boundary respect and that she and I will stop on approach, even if asked for, and ask again if it's okay before coming up real close up to contact range out in the open. I think it will help with various behavior problems she's presenting.
horsefever wrote:
Anyways, just a few suggestions.
Jocelyne


Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 7:17 pm 
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Quote:
I was going to suggest that you raise your hand and arm and wave it in an arc, as that is the boss posture, but it is also, as always with "boss," postures, an invitation to challenge the users' authority. In other words, a fight behavior.


I had no idea! I believe someone on this forum (or maybe when I started with Parelli) suggested we never hit the horse but rather immitate a wall using our hand. Anyways, good thing I didn't know, I probably wouldn't have tried it.

As for "approach & retreat", maybe you misunderstood what I meant. I was thinking that if her horse has trouble being touched, I would do the "approach - retreat" with my hand touching him, not move my feet.
So, I would touch the horse where he least has a problem (for example neck), touch, click, retreat, treat. If the horse knows clicker training, then he shouldn't have a problem when he is touched where he has a problem. But my body would stay where it is (unless the horse is going to trample all over you).

Again, I assume it depends on the horse you're dealing with. I don't have agressive horses by nature, only horses who were not "educated".
Jocelyne

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[Hug your animals everyday. You never know!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:18 pm 
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horsefever wrote:
Quote:
I was going to suggest that you raise your hand and arm and wave it in an arc, as that is the boss posture, but it is also, as always with "boss," postures, an invitation to challenge the users' authority. In other words, a fight behavior.


I had no idea! I believe someone on this forum (or maybe when I started with Parelli) suggested we never hit the horse but rather immitate a wall using our hand. Anyways, good thing I didn't know, I probably wouldn't have tried it.

I try hard to be clear with the horse when I am communicating in horse mode, and too when I'm in human mode. I'm trying to remember when I've seen a horse make a similar gesture as you describe. Can't. But then I'm probably just not making the connection somehow.

The over the head arm swing duplicates a gesture done by the horse with head and neck, that is reaching a superior level, higher than the other horse, and is seen in Mother Mare(tm), battling stallions, lead mare, and in friendly but energetic play. It's a boundary signal, if I'm not mistaken, asking for or attempting to force a boundary respect and to me it says, "move back out of my space."

I use it to establish I want them further away when doing things such as feeding or pushing the muck cart to an open stall door and they want to rush by me and go back in. That sort of thing. Sometimes just to get by them in paddock or out on walkies. It's reserved, unless I want a fight with a horse (I don't), for horses familiar with me.

I've a student's horse I'll have to use it with now that he knows me. He disrespects my space as a way of responding to her less than elegant cuing. In other words, he'll run over me in the lesson arena or hall if I do not move aside. Not a good habit in a school horse, which for now he is. I think I'll try your "imitation wall," as an experiment. I might come to prefer it, who knows.

horsefever wrote:
As for "approach & retreat", maybe you misunderstood what I meant. I was thinking that if her horse has trouble being touched, I would do the "approach - retreat" with my hand touching him, not move my feet.

I understood, and I think moved to use it as metaphor for something else. Clumsy of me.
horsefever wrote:
So, I would touch the horse where he least has a problem (for example neck), touch, click, retreat, treat. If the horse knows clicker training, then he shouldn't have a problem when he is touched where he has a problem. But my body would stay where it is (unless the horse is going to trample all over you).

Makes sense.
horsefever wrote:
Again, I assume it depends on the horse you're dealing with. I don't have agressive horses by nature, only horses who were not "educated".
Jocelyne


Most aren't by nature. They learn it. Or they are a stallion. Though now and then we see a pushy aggressive mare knocking humans about. But likely she's learned it, or has an hormonal problem.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:30 pm 
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Possibly I should explain. In the prior post I mention but do not discuss, being in horse mode or human mode of communication.

A typical horse mode I refer to often is using an arm and hand to communicate. Such as my suggestion to ask for or even rudely demand more space, for the horse to back up away from me. That's horse mode.

My arm and hand replace the head and neck of a horse. It's all in the gesture and pattern, the outline of my hand and arm reminds the horse of the head and neck of another horse. In fact of their mother way back when she used it with them.

Now if I were to raise both arms and hands my communication would change, for the horse, to non-horse mode. Horses don't have two heads on two necks. So it's a very human gesture.

However, two arms raised, now becoming two front limbs raised IS a signal and a very strong one to a horse. It is used ONLY by stallions in combat, or as a challenge --- but, it is also the gesture common in some predators; especially in their closing leap.

Thus I don't recommend two arms raised high except in the most extreme circumstances. I might use it with shouts and yells if a horse were to be about to run me down, or I might use it when a sassy and excitable yearling filly (who shall remain nameless) kicks and hits me with her kick.

I think of it as an orangutan communication mode. :funny:

Bonnie seems to think (oopps! There I went and gave it away) it's one of the most outrageous behaviors possible from her human caretaker and is much offended by it, and even frightened. I don't do it often. But then she's not tried to run me down and has only kicked twice, connecting.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:28 pm 
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This subject is quite interesting!
Question for you.
Quote:
However, two arms raised, now becoming two front limbs raised IS a signal and a very strong one to a horse. It is used ONLY by stallions in combat, or as a challenge --- but, it is also the gesture common in some predators; especially in their closing leap


Horses must know we are humans. Therefore, if we lift both arms in the air to move them away and talk to them asking them to "back up", I would assume they know we are humans and won't rear (if we have a dominant horse, for example). Carolyn Resnick does this move alot to back her horses quickly.

I will do this gesture when I ask for a back up and don't get one. Then I'll put more energy into my request until they leave my space. Meaning, both my arms will move in the air in front of me. For example, when doing the rituals, there's one ritual where you ask your horse to go trot and come back. When asking your horse to leave, he should be able to leave your space like a lead mare would ask (I'm still working on that one since my energy level is not as high as it should). Corado does leave my space and then kicks out and then he'll turn and face me when I stop walking. Then I ask him to come to me and he always does. Magik on the other hand, I need to really put alot of energy and it doesn't always work. I use both arms and swish them around me with alot of noise. Just recently, he trotted out of my space and then rolled ( :D ) Do I ever have alot of influence!! :funny:

However, if they are just being nibbly and I sense they are trying to move me, then I'll use one arm and make a wall in front of me. That usually works.

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Jocelyne
[Hug your animals everyday. You never know!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:04 pm 
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Quote:
Just recently, he trotted out of my space and then rolled ( ) Do I ever have alot of influence!!


You made me laugh, Jocelyne! :funny:

Very funny. You are a goddess!

Leigh

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:36 am 
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Thanks for the suggestions. :)

He was a bit better yesterday and we tried to be more consistant. He was also backing up again when I asked.
He is good to touch normally - its once we start playing/giving treats that he starts viewing any touch on our behalf as an invitation to play. He doesn't usually bite, he just nibbles or bangs into you with an open mouth.
His cue for moving his head away is us holding our arms in close to our chest, which he does when you ask, but sometimes even giving him the treat gets him started again (dropping the treat on the ground instead seems to help with this).
He doesn't really respond to body language or pressure as a signal to to move away and I think he might interpret anything like that as either more encouragment to play or just make him more pushy.
I think the hardest thing is trying to explain to him the difference between running around and playing, doing more sedate things and understanding how to play appropriately with people. He is impatient and he doesn't leave when he has had enough and he doesn't want us to leave.

Thats interesting what you said about raising both arms Donald. We have always used two arms reaching for the sky as a "stop and stand still" signal as I find it helps me ground my feet. Though I suppose I am not using it at them but as a specific signal.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:34 am 
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Alexandra Kurland, in her books, as well as other C/T authors/instructors make moving away for a treat the number one thing they do after charging the clicker. I presume you know what "charging the clicker," means, but I'll say anyway.

It's done to introduce the horse to the clicker sound producing a treat. This is done with a solid barrier between horse and handler to curtail the horse rushing and mugging.

Kurland et al quickly move to teaching the horse to turn it's head away at the sound of the clicker. Yes, away. Later when the horse is very responsive it can be done so that they hold still, and not reach for the treat. I'm personally very adamant with anyone I teach or discuss C/T with that they do NOT allow the horse to come to the treat but the wait for the treat to come to them.

I even, with more difficult horses, will leap to push the treat in the horse's mouth to cut off that urge they have to reach, grab, and gobble. I like to keep my fingers attached to my hand. Just a habit, I guess.

Most will settle down when they learn that the treat will arrive if they wait for it. This of course lays the groundwork for later removal of the treat as the motive to comply with a request.

This is not, to my mind, stricktly AND, but it can certainly be used in a therapeutic sense, to begin to move to an AND relationship. I can quickly help the horse to want to be with me, moving right on to showing them there are fun things to do with me that later will be their own motivation. C/T is very pressure oriented to my mind. And I really prefer a relationship based on mutual acceptance and friendship, even love as I think of how love is manifested between creatures, human or otherwise.

C/T is a very seductive practice. I'm not above starting a relationship by doing things that are "attractive," to the other, but I do not want a long term relationship that is based on this model.

Where C/T excels though is in corrective work. Just what you are doing.

Shape the horse to stop and turn away and stand still upon hearing the cue, followed quickly by the click and then quickly by the treat.

Some horses, possibly yours, will, if you move rapidly toward them without being scary about it, will come to a halt - there's your moment. Say your cue, click, give the treat, in very quick succession.

I have various little tricks to get halt and stand, and they are whatever works, of course, but my favorite because it has so many applications and depends on the natural instinct of the horse is to toss a short length of line on the ground, or if lunging, the lunge line. Most horses wild drop their head and halt, or sometimes raise their head - horses are afraid of snakes.

They will stop, and I will of course maybe have said whoa, even if they don't know it, so as to add it to our repertoire of requests. And I then click and then move very quickly to their head and thrust the treat in their mouth.

It very much changes the interplay between us when I rush the treat to them.

I'll not guarantee this, or any technique in particular, will work but these have worked for me and are worth a try.

Learn to be quick with rewards. Be quick too with the click on the instant of compliance, or just before as the horse telegraphs his next action.

Get creative. What does your horse normally respond to by stopping and standing? If it's a whinny, then whinny. If it's a dropping bucket, take a bucket to your training area. If it's the water hose, work where the hose is.

Work, pick your method, off the horse you know, not my horse or anyone elses' horse except to experiment, and you'll progress much faster.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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