The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:29 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
I'm Molly, from Topanga, California. I have two horses, a PMU 5 year old mare, Nudge, that I adopted when she was 1 1/2 and her pal, Levi, a 21 year old QA gelding. Because I was not an experienced horse person, I was never drawn to the traditional ways, although I know I jumped into the fire by bringing these two horses home with me and my husband. I learned the natural ways from a Native American for 2 years and have travelled to Denmark for a course with Klaus F Hempfling (Hi Diane!). Over our years of living together, I've fractured a bone in my face and recently had a concussion while I was learning to ride and Nudge was learning to be ridden. I'm currently at a loss as to what to do. I have a great relationship with both my horses because I've focused mostly on hanging out with them, kindness, respect, etc. I have not learned to be the leader - or so I'm told - and have so much ambivalence about exactly what that means. I'm not working with anyone now and I find myself lost as to what I need to "do" and who to turn to for helping us. Yesterday someone came over - a very experienced and traditional horse woman - and filled my head with all sorts of alarming stories about my horse, my life and both our futures if I don't do the right thing. I showed her how willing Nudge is to be with me and follow me and play at liberty - but she said that any horse can do that. "It's when they're pushed that you find out who they really are. And then you send her to someone who can deal with that. They'll bring her back to you trained." I was so scared and undone last night, I couldn't sleep. And now here I am back on this forum, looking for......company? I wish I knew.

I do find the forums valuable. Thanks, all, Molly

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"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:54 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:20 am
Posts: 6076
Location: Dresden, Germany
Welcome, Molly!! :)

Great that you are here and I wonder why your name sounds so familiar to me. :blonde:

Here is a collection of links to threads that might be of interest and there is a part with leadership threads as well. Maybe it will help you to organize your thoughts?

Warm Regards,
Romy


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:15 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
Thanks, Romy. I will definitely check out those links. My name might be familiar because I found my way to you all through NHE years ago. It's been a long time since I visited the website. Nice to be back,
Molly

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"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:29 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Oh Molly,
I am so happy you posted here. This is exactly where I am now with Morgan. I did back him and school him with NH type methods (and I was his "alpha") although never to the point of being abusive. If he got rattled or too pressured I would come back later and try again or with a different angle. I had him light and responsive on a line with the slack in it.
After finding NHE and AND and doing lots of other reading, I backed off completely and got off his back and took liberty walks giving him as much free choice as I could possible come up with. This brought on a whole new relationship. Today I can walk him on an open beach or mountain away from the herd at liberty and he stays with me, always. However I have given him so much free choice that he has no respect for me at all. Being that he has never been abused and he has a sweet nature I do not feel fearful that I will be hurt but he will show me in no uncertain terms if I he doesn't want to do something. The question I was asked this week was "what would happen if I pushed for more and he didn't want to comply", my answer was, I don't do that, I back off at that point. So what is keeping me safe at the moment is the fact that I know his body language so well that I keep myself safe, not that he has learnt that it is not acceptable. It was explained to me that trust has to come first and then respect. We have the trust, but no respect. It is okay to push a little harder (I still can't even believe I am saying this!!!!), and to insist that the request is followed, and I can keep the relationship by treating for compliance and therefore motivating him to keep wanting to work with me. I am assured our relationship will become even better once the respect is there as well.
So I have gone from dominating (in a pressure mental way), to letting him dominate me and decide to only do what he wants and now I am trying to find some middle ground. As Glen pointed out to me a relationship is a two way street and he knows he can trust me and can ask things from me and he must lean that he must honour my requests too. By pushing him just a little out of his comfort zone and allowing his stress to go up a bit, he is learning his bounderies of what is acceptable and what is not.
As I said I don't feel intimidated or worried for my safety, but I do want to do more with him than just hang out and let him decide what to do and if I intend asking more from the ground or the saddle this respect has to be in place or one day he might just loose it and really hurt me becuase he just doesn't want to do it.
Does that make any sense at all.
This has been a really hard thing for me to understand and beneath it all I would never ride him again if I thought I would loose what he have, but i do think it is possible. I have also not been consistnat with him as he has had so much free choice that I really have to insist when I need to do something with him that is necessary. Then I have become all bossy and he has been very confused as to why the "alpha" is back. I don't want to be the alpha but do have to be consistant and would not need to be if he co=operated more with things he didn't want to do. So i have created this myself.

So you can see why your post hit me right on the head!
You may want to look at the recent entries in my diary..........
I am keen to see where you go next.
Best
Annette

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:03 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
Thanks, Annette, for writing. Yes, what you're saying does make sense, although I do have a question. What does "pushing him a little more" look like? And then what do you do to establish the respect if Morgan refuses? I definitely need to learn to be consistent and I also need to learn to read the nuances of Nudge's communication. I know I miss a lot of what she's telling me so my response could be confrontational or even rude and I wouldn't know. And then maybe she has to get louder in her communication to make sure I hear her.

I guess my biggest challenge right now is that I would like for her to be rideable but I want her to learn in a way that feels fair. I'm just not sure what that looks like. I'm hoping that by putting it out there, someone will make their way into lives.

We live near some great trails and my husband carries a lot of disappointment because he's a great rider and we've had horses for 5 years now and don't ride them because I refuse to do it in the traditional, bits and spurs kind of way.

I am going to read more of your posts. Thanks again, Molly

_________________
"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:27 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Well I guess you know your horses well enough to know when something is really bothering them, or whether they are just trying it on?
So in a situation where you ask for something and they ignore you, or try to walk off or avoid by offering something else, you have to ignore or correct that response. So for example with Morgan, the halter and lunge line are going back on. At liberty he can just walk off. On a line he can't. If the reaction from him is looking like he might be about to evade something I have asked, I will try and catch it before it happens, so more pressure by waving motion from my hand and body position to get him moving forward again, or blocking him with the line if he wants to go out or in. Of course he is often quicker than I am, so I put him back to where he was and ask again. No punishment but no praise either As soon as he responds correctly, quick to praise and treat and then on to asking again. Once he anticpates the required move, he has got it and time to move on to the next move.
For the time being I am doing this at a safe distance with the line as he will warn me occasionally with a back leg, so out of his kick zone, a reprimand with my voice, stronger body language and as soon as he obliges nicely, yeild the hindquarters and treat.
If she is not going to honour your request on the ground, you are not going to be safe under saddle, unless of course you just want to sit in a paddock! :funny:
Not just when she feels like it and then "bugger you" when she has had enough, every time all the time. If she really doesn't like something and trys then take baby steps with that thing and build her fondness of it by giving it a point and making it more fun or treat motivated. The bottom line is if she is capable of doing it and is not then she is dominating you!

This is still a new concept for me too. After having Morgan for 2 years, this was the first lesson I have had with him. Luckily I have a great instructor who gets the whole AND thing and is fair and kind and rides bitless herself.

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:42 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
Oh how I wish there was a trainer in my area who understood taught like AND. I've been doing some serious snooping around, talking to people I know and basically trying to find that person, but for now it's just me and Nudge. Two green creatures trying to figure it out together. I think what I'll do is look for members on AND that are in my area and see if they know of someone. It's a great community.

What I get from your last post is how tuned it I need to be to her responses. I really like the idea of developing my intuition and my senses with her and then learning to trust them. That way she gets to know me too. I - like you with Morgan - have her trust but not her respect. I do notice that when I do reprimand and actually mean it instead of offer it up half heartedly, she instantly gets it and accepts it. It's almost as if she takes comfort in it.

We live in a fire area and because I need to be able to get my 2 horses out in a hurry if we need to, I still have to a) teach her to load and unload and b) figure out how to drive the trailer on the windy mountain roads we live on. This is a great challenge for me but something I'm preparing myself for.

I feel encouraged by your replies and look forward to trying some of these things out this weekend. Thanks so much, Annette.

_________________
"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:54 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:30 am
Posts: 289
Location: Australia
Hi Molly,

Welcome!

Quote:
Yesterday someone came over - a very experienced and traditional horse woman - and filled my head with all sorts of alarming stories about my horse, my life and both our futures if I don't do the right thing. I showed her how willing Nudge is to be with me and follow me and play at liberty - but she said that any horse can do that. "It's when they're pushed that you find out who they really are. And then you send her to someone who can deal with that. They'll bring her back to you trained." I was so scared and undone last night, I couldn't sleep.

Oh, I know this feeling. I'm sure many others on this forum do too. So many times people have told me things like that, that letting my horses "get away with" things (i.e., communicate with me) is so dangerous and I will end up with uncontrollable menaces (in fact no, they have become easier and easier to live with over the years - for almost 7 years now I have been doing things in this "letting the horses have a say" way, apart from a small unfortunate detour to NH which I now regret, and for about 4 years my training has been positive reinforcement based only), or sometimes I could even scare myself by just reading training articles, many sleepless nights... especially as I have a stallion, and of course stallions are dangerous and unpredictable killers, right? ( :funny: If you have a look in my diary you can see Billy, my dangerous killer stallion :love:)

Do you WANT to be in charge and dominate your horses? I guess that's the question - do you want to resort to force? It will have an impact on that great relationship you presently have. I have no use whatsoever for the theory of "leadership" between human-horse -- I don't believe in it.

Quote:
Over our years of living together, I've fractured a bone in my face and recently had a concussion while I was learning to ride and Nudge was learning to be ridden.

When I have been injured by my horses, I ask myself why, why when we do have such a great relationship, have they felt the need to do something so drastic that it resulted in my being hurt badly? (Only twice in these years I've been working this way - only one damaging bite and only one kick that actually connected - and I have had some very dangerous and aggressive horses.) Always it is the case that there is something wrong, for example they are in pain or feel too worried/pressured by whatever I was doing, or I have been extremely rude - this is not them dominating me - it's them taking care of themselves. Even when my horses say no to something because "they just don't want to" well, that's okay... they are living beings with minds of their own, sometimes I really don't want to do things either. We've had a few situations lately where they really HAD to listen to me, because I knew best in that situation no matter what they thought of it, or what they thought of what I was asking (major flood, had to move everyone to safety, geldings had been moved by float - one of these used to be impossible to load - to agistment a few weeks before, the mares I moved to yards in the middle of the night in pouring rain and wind, then to a flood mound where they did not want to go or be, and stallion and mare in the carport next to the house where he had to behave for a couple of days and not take advantage of the fact that he had her effectively trapped there in a small space with him) and they DID all listen and do as I said and were wonderful. That was most definitely 'pushing' them, as I don't usually say "yes, sorry, you really DO have to go here or do this" but, they did. And that's with all the letting them have a say in almost all our training, letting them say no and walk away, etc. etc. It's had a positive effect rather tahn a negative one, because some of these horses are ones who used to just say "no" to everything no matter how much pressure and force was used to try and make them.

For riding, which, sorry for going off-track, is what you are talking about, I do clicker training (I do it for all training, not just riding) - don't know if you know about that or would be willing to use it, but it's worked so well for me. If I'm riding off the property, on the road, I do also use some "pressure", of a web halter or bitless bridle (but responses to this are also taught with clicker training), so I CAN be "in charge" (as much as one can ever be really in charge of such a large animal... look how many people are killed riding traditionally) when riding out, if I need to be - but that doesn't mean I'm not still taking notice of their opinions and feelings.

Quote:
I guess my biggest challenge right now is that I would like for her to be rideable but I want her to learn in a way that feels fair.

This was my challenge too, and while I *don't* ride much at the moment, I found that positive reinforcement (clicker training) was just what I needed here. I have "restarted" one of my horses who just hated to be ridden (obviously ruling out pain etc is important first) in this way, and when I got on Willow for the very first time, she just thought it was a great game! Just another chance to earn a C/T. I just had a flat, soft webbing halter on her, and we went up the road on our third ride ever, she was wonderful. I've also been on Bonnie and am starting Billy, I do this by first teaching them to line up at the mounting block, then leaning over them, then leaning with weight, then putting my leg over, the usual gradual thing, but with lots of rewards along the way for each small step. Same with riding, I make a request (turn, stop, go etc), C/T when they do it. I think that even if I did not use treats much usually, I would for riding, at least for the initial training, because being ridden is so much something that is unnatural for the horse and that many just don't really like... so rewards are a way of making it much nicer for them, as well as training them to do as I ask without any force or much pressure at all (if any). Also for scary things like loading onto transport. Don't know if this is at all helpful for you, again, they're your horses and it boils down to what you want to do and whether you want to change your relationship by adding force and pressure to it, but thought I would write what I do as something for you to think about.

Anyway, I'll stop there, I have a habit of writing very long posts, sorry about that :blush:

Kate

Oh, you've just posted again while I was writing - now I'm having doubts about posting this. Oh well, as I've written it out I will anyway, and you can take or leave it. :smile:


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 2:27 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
I'm glad you wrote, Kate. I've heard of C/T but haven't used it myself. I did want to say - relative to the point of examining what's going on with the horse when something bad happens (like breaking bones or concussions as in my case) - that both times, I had an intuition to get off of her before it happened and I didn't listen to it. I've been taking a really good look at that deficiency in myself and finding some gratitude to Nudge for showing me the area where I need to grow. For me, so much of this adventure with horses is about trust - whether it's trusting myself or them. And what's really interesting is the people who said, "So you're gonna get rid of the horse now, right?" or something to that effect.

You ask an interesting question: do you want to be in charge? Maybe if being in charge means trusting myself. I want to feel confident about my ability to relate to my horse in a way that keeps us both safe. It's a good question for me to ponder.

What's nice about being back on this forum is that it's reminding me that it's the relationship that's most important to me.
Thanks, Kate, for sending me back to that reality

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"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:18 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
Posts: 2888
Location: Natal, South Africa
Hi, Molly.

Not sure if this will help you at all, but maybe if you ponder the following questions you might be able to get more clarity inside yourself - they certainly helped me a lot when I was muddling my way through this. :D

What do you need from your horse/s?
What do your horse/s need from you?
What do you want from your horse/s?
What do your horse/s want from you?
Why do you have a horse? What is it about them that "grabs" you? How best to preserve that?
When you close your eyes and dream about you and your horse, what do you actually see? Do you see fantastic and adventurous trail-rides? Competition? Personal "dancing with your horse" on the ground and/or in the saddle? Love? Trust? Compliance? Safety? All of these? None of these?
What is/are the single most important thing/s you wish to achieve with your horse, and why is that the most important?

If you can visualise your "goal" like this, then you can sort through the many potential "training systems" out there and select the one (or three) that is most likely to get you to you goal in a manner that you are comfortable with.

I wish to say that there are few "training systems" that I personally consider "bad" or "wrong" - there are many that I consider "inadequate for MY purpose" :D I personally am using a combination of 3 or 4 "training methods" with my horse/s. I find also that a different horse+human combination requires a different "feel" in any interactions.

Hope this helps. :f:

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Glen Grobler

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 5:08 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:31 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Topanga, California
Hi Glen,
Your questions are really thought provoking and I need some time to sit with them. That's exactly what I'm going to do too because I have the sense that discovering the answers will be really helpful. The "why do you have a horse" is an easy one to answer. I've always loved them but never really rode or knew them well. I went to a PMU sanctuary and was "nudged" by a baby horse that had never been touched by humans. She came up and nudged me in the back and I knew (as did the friend I was with and the owner of the sanctuary) that this little horse had just picked me. I place a lot of value on those moments that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up and so even though I didn't know what the heck I was doing, I made the commitment to go wherever the path led with her. It was one of those giant "congratulations and condolences" moments in my life. Those are the best kind, right? The kind that push you past every limit you were convinced you had and then they grow you into somebody brand new. The thing is you have to get dismantled before you become the new you. I think I'm still in the dismantling. I wish I could hear Nudge tell her version.

Anyway, thanks for the questions. I'm off to ponder.
Molly

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"Somewhere out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there." (Rumi, I think)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:43 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:44 pm
Posts: 1937
Location: The Hague, Netherlands
Hi Molly,

Welcome over here! :D

Kind regards

Bianca

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