The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:33 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:56 am
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Hello Everyone,
I am very experienced training horses with pressure/release “natural horsemanship”. But I have only been “awakened,” if you will, to positive reenforcement training in the last 6 months so I am really excited to find this group of like-minded people with much more experience than me! I own a great little BLM Mustang gelding who is a lot of fun and a big character!
Anyway, just wanted to say hello and that I’ll be seeing you around! I look foreword to swapping ideas, stories, and theories with you all! Thanks for having this wonderful outlet!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:49 am 
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Location: Dresden, Germany
Welcome! :)

I am looking forward to reading more about your and you Mustang. I am also curious how you will blend the positive reinforcement training into your horsemanship work and how these two will work together. :f:

Best wishes,
Romy


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:11 pm 
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Welcome! :f:
I wonder, what happened that made you look for positive reinforcement?

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:58 pm 
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Well I actually work with a lot of wild mustangs. Over the past few years I have encountered a handful that simply did not progress well using pressure and release/negative reenforcement. It seemed like for these horses the pressure made them so fearful or anxious that they couldn't even recognize, let alone learn from, the release of pressure. Working with these horses left me feel like I was hitting my head against a brick wall until a friend introduced me to clicker training. I had used it before a little bit with dogs and was familiar with using it for trick training with horses, but never really grasped how it could be used for every aspect of the horse-human relationship. This spring I had a really fearful and highly aggressive mustang mare that was my first guinea pig for clicker training and I had such amazing results with her that I haven't looked back. It really humbled me to realize that after almost 20 years of horse experience I had never realized how truly intelligent they are, or given them the freedom to show me.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:39 pm 
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Now that sounds so interesting! I would love to hear the story of that mustang mare and how you approached her with clicker training. If you want to share...

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:21 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:01 pm
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Location: Quebec, Canada
Welcome from a Canadian member. I too would love to hear about your mustang mare and how she is today. (I love stories with happy endings :applause: :applause: )
Jocelyne

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:40 am 
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Well I started with her using traditional methods (she ended up being my first real venture into positive reenforcement) and I made good progress with her until I started introducing her to the saddle blanket. I was using traditional desensitizing methods touching a navajo blanket to her and then removing it, so on and so forth and she was pretty tense about it but I pushed through anyway. After a few minutes I accidentally dropped it off her back onto the ground and that was when all hell broke loose. She brutally mauled my navajo blanket into about 1,000 tiny pieces in the matter of seconds with her front feet and teeth. From that point on she would attack it even if it was just laying on the ground on the other side of the pen. Anytime I was around her there was a volcano sitting just below the surface waiting to blow. She wasn’t aggressive at me but I was very close to being hurt by proximity to an object that struck the wrong chord with her. Traditional desensitizing made her worse and she never stopped to realize that something wasn’t hurting her because she was way too caught up in defending herself.
I had done a little bit of targeting and clicker training with another horse, so for lack of any other ideas I decided to try that. I started out having her target my lead rope since it was something I knew she was ok with and from there worked up until she would target a navajo blanket folded up into a small lump and gradually made it bigger. Once she was ok with that we moved on to me touching items to her and progressed from there.
I worked with her for about 3 months (started her under saddle even) and then I decided to move back to the west coast (I was in Texas at the time) and a friend (also a clicker trainer) adopted her. She was probably the biggest turning point in my journey towards positive reenforcement because she forced me to stop using pressure and opened the window for me to really see how well positive reenforcement works. The unfortunate thing about pressure is that it works just enough for people to keep doing it. I think that without that mare to guide me I would have reverted back to pressure a lot more and not had the patience to stick with the clicker training and see the amazing results I got from it.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:33 pm 
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Wow, what an amazing transformation! I started my mare with pressure/release, and she seemed to be more fearful than anything with it, so that's why I began my journey to look for something more positive for her.

I have experimented with clicker training in the past, and hope to do more with it. I am also hoping to get into a bit of horse agility with her...as long as she's okay with it :smile:


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:06 pm 
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Very interesting story, Cyndi!

With my horse I also had the impression that when I started with pressure/release, I was soon confronted with the decision: either "work" through his resistance and thus break him, or try to understand his needs and wants and work with him cooperatively. Whereas I had him standing on two feet before trying to fight his way away from me, he does it now only in play and I can tell him anytime that I don't want to play wild and he respects that. I definitely feel more safe around him now, like with a friend :love:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:25 am 
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I think that is the biggest problem with using pressure to train. What happens when you apply X amount of pressure and it doesn’t work? Do you increase pressure to XX? What happens when XX isn’t enough either? How many times can you increase the pressure before you no longer feel good about it, and your horse has long since stopped feeling good about it? I have seen pressure based training escalate WAY beyond what the trainer/handler wanted and expected because the horse didn’t respond “correctly” and they didn’t know what else to do but continue increasing pressure.
Pretty soon working with your horse becomes a nightmare that you dread instead of a fun and rewarding experience you can both enjoy!


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 4:06 pm 
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Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Excellent description of the major challenge of pressure release work.

One of the workarounds is found frequently in AND stories. An attitude shift by the human. Letting go of the training goal and focusing on the relationship ... and most often this ends up with either quality time being the focus, and or play. I tend to lean in fact toward the play. LOL

My path to it now happens to be behavioral analysis based with my major attention being paid to positive reinforcement and distinctly marking behavior events. Clicker Training.

My focus is not on the horse performing some behavior (except for safety and manners) so much as opening up a dialogue with the horse that I've found no other way to so far.

Sometimes I show up, treat bag and clicker and I, and just ask the horse what she want's to do.

And sometimes when I am working on teaching a behavior I will change direction of the horse tells me she wants to.

All about attitude change for me that allows for choices by the horse.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:34 am 
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Welcome Nice to see you here :)


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