The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:42 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Greece
Hi everyone, I'm so excited to be around you. My name is Stavros, I am 22 and I have a 3 year old mare, Aura. I've started with horses since 2009, a bit late unfortunately, but I'm trying to catch up. As you can imagine, I'm not that good of a rider and I have always been more interested on improving my horsemanship skills! I've studied many methods, but I mostly fit with Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship). He has many available series, I've just finished the Groundwork and since my mare is still a bit small for me I decided to stay on the ground for a little longer (Maybe longer than I have imagined after finding out about Natural Dressage!!!!) I am working with her at liberty, just very simple things for now. She is spending most of the day free in the countryside, some hours in the paddock and when it gets bad we have her stabled, always with other horse mates! Another thing I would like to say is that I have her barefoot since forever, following Pete Ramey's method of Natural Hoof Care. Since the equestrian level of my country is amazingly low, the last couple of months I've tried to share what I learn through a channel, so feel free to check it out! :)
Below is my little brother with Aura. Really nice to meet you all, thank you for the interest! :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8J1gVYkG84


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:06 pm 
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Welcome, Stavros and Aura! :)

So nice that you are here, and how exciting to have someone from Greece join our study group! :)

I hope that you will find some helpful info here on the forum, but most of all I am looking forward to reading more about your work with Aura. :f:

Best wishes,
Romy


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:30 pm 
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Welcome Stavros! :f:
That video is very sweet! What a nice mare!

I've started with horses when I was 31 so I'm also a late-comer to horses. I hope you find the forum here to your liking and we'll see and read more about you and lovely Aura.

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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:16 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Hi Stavros and welcome from me too. I love Greece, it's always been one of my favourite places to visit. Unfortuantely I now live in South Africa so it's a long way to go for a holiday!!!! Do you live on the mainland of one of the islands?
Your mare and brother are both very sweet!!!
I hope you will find a lot of useful information in the forum, I know when I first got here I could not believe all the things I found and the wonderful people here who were so willing to share their experiences.
I am looking forward to reading about your experiences.
Happy reading :D

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


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:46 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:21 pm
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Location: Greece
Hi again, thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, you can't imagine how much I like your forum and God... there's so many things to read! I don't know what to say about our work, I feel we're still in the beginning so it would be boring for you I guess. For example, today we were working on Side Pass, on a line, by the fence. I also try to work with her at liberty, but today I noticed how tense that makes me feel. I'm constantly worried that she will run off. Thanks again for your time!


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:03 am 
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Don't worry about being boring in your posts - it's very often the small and seemingly insignifant things that are most worthy of our attention. In my opinion it's also not so much about the exercise, but about the interaction process - and that is interesting no matter how simple the exercise is ;)

SVSilent wrote:
I also try to work with her at liberty, but today I noticed how tense that makes me feel. I'm constantly worried that she will run off.
Now that's interesting for example :funny: Can she really run off? Do you have a fenced off are where you can work? Often it's even more compelling to be with you when there IS the space to run off. Horses are so nosy, they will eventually check out what you are up to ;) And they are social and like to do things with a companion.

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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:33 am 
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Location: Greece
Houyhnhnm wrote:
Now that's interesting for example :funny: Can she really run off? Do you have a fenced off are where you can work? Often it's even more compelling to be with you when there IS the space to run off. Horses are so nosy, they will eventually check out what you are up to ;) And they are social and like to do things with a companion.


I usually pick her up from the mountain where she's grazing with her mates and bring her down. I ask her to follow me and we climb down to the ranch at liberty. This is the part that makes me tense, cause I'm trying to keep her mind focused on me. For example, the moment I feel that she is not by my shoulder, I make her stop, or back up, or move left or right. Yet again, a call from her mother will make her run back at once. That makes me feel that it's not trust that makes her follow, but respect or maybe fear that was build through training, (making the wrong thing difficult the right thing easy). Or if I can explain this differently I don't feel the spirit in this, I just see nicely performed exercises.
What is your opinion on that? Yes we have been working in fenced areas, first on the roundpen and later in the arena. We've never used treats for motivation or reward in training, it's always been pressure and release up to this day, do you think that could be the reason?


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:43 am 
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SVSilent wrote:
For example, the moment I feel that she is not by my shoulder, I make her stop, or back up, or move left or right. Yet again, a call from her mother will make her run back at once. That makes me feel that it's not trust that makes her follow, but respect or maybe fear that was build through training, (making the wrong thing difficult the right thing easy). Or if I can explain this differently I don't feel the spirit in this, I just see nicely performed exercises.


Oh, I can SO relate to this. That's exactly how I felt with Titum in 2007, after I had done pressure-based training with him for seven years. We were going for walks at liberty and I could let him graze and then whistle and he came cantering towards me, and it looked ever so amazing to other people. But actually it was nothing more than him knowing that if he does not react to my small cue, that cue will get bigger until he reacts, and that if he does not come to me, I will chase him off.

Now I would rather have him on a line (if I am not sure he wants to stay anyway) than that I would try to make sure he stays with me by punishing him for not doing that. As a consequence, now that he knows that he can freely express himself, I am getting the most valuable feedback on my actions from him. Whenever I am not doing something well, he tells me at once, and with that he has become one of my very best teachers. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:29 pm 
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I try to be consistent in employing two modes of interaction. One is where I want Mucki to do something and where I basically want him to comply. That would be for example if I want him to follow me out of the pasture, I try to be clear to him and I would use a lead rope for that (and also pressure and release if needed). In my experience it's OK to use pressure for certain situations, if the overall interaction is positive and reward based.
The second mode would be Mucki at liberty, with me making suggestions and him having the option to say no without having to fear repercussions. For example sometimes I try if I can make him follow me at liberty if he wants to. If he decides to return to the herd then it's OK.

In your case I think I would not usually lead the horse at liberty, but just take a lead rope. I would then do some liberty stuff in the arena for example. Or I would just try to play in the pasture.
It is natural for the her mother to call for her and natural for her to want to return when being called. I can image it takes a lot of trust and bond to follow a human alone away from the herd. I can do a lot of great things with my horse, but leading him away from the herd still is a great challenge.

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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:07 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:21 pm
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Location: Greece
Hi again and thank you very much for the comments! What you describe reminds me of the "waterhole rituals" approach. I can see that there is already a topic in the forum about it, so I am not going to open the subject again. I'm going to try it and find out. It's a positive method and my horse is already very light and respectful, she can't get on the other side, being dull and pushy, so I don't see any harm on trying it. Thanks, I ll keep you posted!


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:25 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Just to throw in something completely different and make you think!!!!
What about making the goal different and the way there more interesting? So instead of trying to get her down the mountain and to a work area/paddock, why not just try and have her stay with you because she wants to and not because she feels like she should. A great way to do this is to make yourself a rewarder of something she likes. It may be a ceratin scratching spot or some type of grazing. Try going just a few paces ahead and offering her some grass you have picked, or when she comes towards you meet her halfway and stop to scratch her butt/under her chin/back of her legs or whatever she really likes.
That way her perception of you changes to 'I want to follow and stay with him as nice things happen when I do".

I often find people desperate to have a relationship with their horse yet they put up their own boundaries of what is correct around horses. Most horses really enjoy being touched all over (after all they seek out other horses for mutual grooming).
Just spending a few minutes exploring the horse with your hands and seeing what they like and enjoy will have that horse following you for more :D It's not long before they get good at showing you the bits they want scratched and this is something only a human can do :D

If I look at what you wrote, she leaves her mother who gives her no requests to do anything. She comes with you but is not rewarded for doing so, hesitates and is made to "work". Make yourself the reward for staying with you and which do you think she would choose? Mother who is not interacting or human who is giving tactile reward and grass along the way?

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


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:06 pm 
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Location: Greece
Thanks Annete, I think that has been my problem in general but with the horse it became very clear. I have to give something more special for a reward. In training, I believed too much in the idea that the release is the reward because naturally, a dominant horse does not give treats to other horses, he simply gives clear signs of pressure and release. I could not think out of the box and change my methods. I don't know why the call it Natural Horsemanship anyway, there is nothing natural with a human on the horses back. What matters is the relationship-communication and that's what I'm trying to improve. I know that Natural Horsemanship as they call it belongs to "Negative Reinforcing" and what you propose belongs to "Positive". But how about a disrespectful/spoiled horse, I've seen some that have almost turned into a predator, how could you alter that with just "Positive Reinforcing" (clicker training, treats/rubbing)?


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:19 pm 
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SVSilent wrote:
But how about a disrespectful/spoiled horse, I've seen some that have almost turned into a predator, how could you alter that with just "Positive Reinforcing" (clicker training, treats/rubbing)?


We have lots of discussions about that in the Links to threads. Just scroll down a bit to "Control" and then the second half of them are about dealing with aggression. Funny that this comes up now, because I am also rereading some of these discussions right at the moment. :smile:

For the rest, I guess I yet have to meet a disrespectful or spoiled horse. Most aggressive horses that I got to know had either fear issues or problems originating from their living conditions, or they had been (unintentionally) taught by humans that aggression was a good way to get what you want, or some simply had not learned that it was a problem for the human to be treated in that way. Luckily, many of these problems can be solved by behaving better as a human and showing the horse a better way to communicate. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:37 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I know this is a very hard concept to understand. I too was at that place a few years ago. I had spent many years around horses believing that if I wasn't in charge the horse would do something terrible to me. After all it's a very large animal.
If and when you can let go of this concept a whole new world will open up to you. I do believe you will get this as you have already come so far on your path and learnt so much on your own. In order for the horse to trust you, you need to trust him and let go of any fear.....
If he feels threatened he will leave. The only time you will have a horse fight with you is if he can't leave and feels very threatened. So if you are moving around at liberty he is free to go...
I am not suggesting you start clicker training with treats straight away and when and if you do you need to know your horse well and introduce treats properly. Taking treats into a herd will cause chaos as it's a resource but you can use the grass in the field and pick it for your horse as a handful of grass is so much quicker than having to graze for it!!!
Romy has given you some great links.

I am interested to see how you progress with this :D

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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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 Post subject: Re: Aura from Greece!
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:58 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I came across this today and thought you may enjoy reading the articles:
http://thecognitivehorse.com

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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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