The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:55 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:10 am
Posts: 3688
Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Can't think of a more appropriate place to put this little story of my work with a new horse today.

A bit of background first.

The owner is a lady of 74, my age. Ridden since she was a child. Owns four or five horses, keeps a couple of others for family. Recently bought a Tennesee Walker, heretofore referred to as a TW. Gelden, black, about 10. She guessed 12, the veterinarian I asked her to take him to for his teeth said about 10.

Probably 15 or 15.1 hands. Very high headed. And rather snorty and frisky. He was tongue lolling very badly when I saw him the other day and insisted that before I evaluate and ride him that he visit the vet. Those almost always, I think, are caused by either points on the molars or a damaged mouth. He doesn't do it now.

I've decided that my decision to train, teach, coach, advise, etc. was the correct thing to do. Though I most often have to use the equipment I know the owner will use, some have let me use my own. This horse, reportedly, had been ridden in both a German hackamore, and La Jaquima with Bosal. My own familiar tool. You can guess what I choose to test him in.

The question was, could this horse be ridden by this older and a bit frail lady with arthritus and a bad hip, or was he too hard to handle.

I began with circle work on a 20ft soft lunge line in a tape enclosure rather unround but sufficient.

He came out of his paddock snorty, in fact he was snorty at my approach and fastening the lead. Crowded me quite badly a few times on the way to the work ring.

Very interesting. In the work area he was still dashing about and nervous, but settled soon enough as I tested what style of training he'd been given. (She didn't know). He's a PNH trained horse with incomplete level one, and very put off by humans. He looks away, moves away, etc. But did respond to both bending to address the hindquarters and moved them away, coming to a halt, and coming to the handler with a soft word of encouragement.

We spent some time with breath exchange. My soft wuffling, him not so sure but more than willing to let me catch his breath and he to collect mine quietly. It helped calm him when he read that I had no harm in mind for him, that I liked him, and that I would be patient and forbearing as he learned who I was and what I wanted.

I practiced three point lunging (what he knew) softly with him, a few reverses of direction, some soft tugs as his inside shoulder was about to come forward, and could bring him to a walk a number of times. Fiften or twenty minutes of this and his constant nervous fidgeting was more or less over. He would not look directly at me but I proved that he was watching me by teaching to move off in the direction I pointed and to reverse if I pointed the othe direction. Thus I knew he was watching though still in survival mode.

He proved to have been carelessly whipped rather than encouragingly touched with crop or whip. So we played at desensitization. Quite responsive and quick to learn really. Much less difficult than what I thought when I just led him about a few days back to get introduced.

The owner wants to trail ride and be able to walk up and down the highway verge safely.

She is not a loose, or looped, rein rider. I demonstrated to her that he will run through your hands if you hold a tight rein on him, and he will calm and respond if all hand cues come through and return to a loose rein.

I took the opportunity, as I demonstrated how he would with only a few soft touches, yield his neck, and give his nose and hold it there without any pressure, to talk about how she rode and played with her horses when she was a child (sly devil that I am), and discussed how to play and be fun for the horse, gentle and joyful with them. Given what she saw happening I'm sure she took my comments as credible.

Very shortly he was moving off my leg and giving his hindquarters to disrupt his overly enthusiastic forward rushes, and in short order began to drop his head (which she had never seen him do before apparently) and amble along softly. TWs do have a lovely rolling yummy feeling walk. And it substitutes for a trot, which she, because of her hip and back, cannot tolerate as non-gaited horses trot.

My objective, ostensibly, was to evaluate this horse and determine if he could be safely ridden by her. Of course you and I know I had more in mind than just that. But the evaluation was pretty much up and I had dismounted and she said she was very curious if he could be ridden out beside the road. I had intended not to do that unless she wanted to engage me to either train him, or preferably, take instruction from me while I trained both of them.

But what the heck. I had the feel of him, he trusted me, and so I mounted back up and road away from the paddocks. He balked, which she said he was likely to do. She had had some kids riding him about so she knew his behavior patterns a bit.

I did a few calming exercises and asked for my little bat, having already figured out he'd been ridden with a whip, and possibly harshly. All I did was hold it and wave it pointed to the rear very gently and away we went down her private road to the highway.

Which he proceeded to go up and down alongside with at first some nervous energy, and then very shortly with head down, a long looped rein and my frequently dropping it on his neck and riding no hands.

That went on for about 20 minutes and I ended our session. I could tell by her expression when she first saw me drop the reins riding along the highway and the horse just became calmer (and I explained the real intended use of pressure release to produce calmness and lightness - and how I got him in just a few minutes of handling and riding to do it) she'd never seen him (or possibly any other "spritied" horse ridden that way become calm so quickly),

He's a good boy, and tried hard. And had a lot of "training," that made meeting me something of a mystery to him. I could DO things he'd had done to him before, but I could do other things that were far more gentle, even fun, and repeatedly told him he was more and more free as we worked together.

I charge for these "evaluations" about the same as I do for a training session or for instruction, or my combination sessions for one person with one horse.

She came to pay me and handed me double my usual fee and asked if I would come back and ride out with her on another horse (much older calmer horse) with her on a trail ride so she could watch. And I presume, learn. I accepted.

He's very much like Dakota but with far more potential strength. When he wanted his head, he took it away, and when he wanted to walk into me he did (That was a Dakota trick by the way). But then he learned very fast so I accepted her request for a "lesson,": though she didn't want to call it that.

How far toward a more AND frame of reference and philosophy can I move the horse, and her?

I guess we'll see, won't we?

Let's call him "Nugent," for now, to preserve her and his privacy. It's not his real name.

And see together where this is going. I know she can't really afford a full course of training and instruction, but I suppose much can be done in the time I'll have.

Donald

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


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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:28 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
How lovely for you Donald, to enjoy the thrill of helping the lady whilst having fun riding out.
I have never taken on already damaged horses, if there are problems, they will be my own creation having bred my horses or bought them at weaning.
I understand what you say about loose reins, I expect my horses to carry themselves, having had Thoroughbreds that I did cross-country racing and National Hunt with, to take a contact meant I would be standing over the withers and allowing them to breeze. Yet babies could ride my horses as long as they did not use the reins in contact. Although my last TB did some very nice dressage with a friend who enjoyed that sport at County level, he did understand the difference between his outline for demi-volte and for on the gallops or race course.
He was also ridden in his home field with the in-season mare he was covering and he was great with the foal she had at foot by a cob stallion.
You would have liked my old man, he was by a USA stallion named Brotherley, who was by The Minstrel out of a racemare named Politely. His Mum, my gorgeous girl was bred through Straight Deal, Double Deal, Pinza, Silly Season, Tom Fool and Beeline amongst others. I was very lucky and had fabulous Thoroughbreds who were brilliant all rounders.
But there is a big difference between bringing on your own unspoilt youngstock and sorting out someone else's mistakes. Good on you. Hope you have a great time.
Love Susie xx

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Susie xx
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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:24 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:10 am
Posts: 3688
Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Thank you, Susie.

Yes, I think I know what you mean about the contrast between bring up one's own and working with the fallout from others. Now and then, of course, I've run across the most lovely horses from other folks. Inevitably it's been horses raised by a more feminine hand, (not always female persons, but the gentle hand nonetheless).

Because I came from more working class folks with little resource for finer horses, even though my very first own horse was an old OTTB, I've only personally owned a few horses, and most with the imprint of others on them.

Two of the most interesting, most satisfying in fact, were exactly what you say. Horses that I either am currently bringing myself, (Bonnie - Bonalaria the part Andalusian filly from my mare) and Koko, my QH stallion that I had the good fortune to acquire when he was four but virtually unhandled - a pasture bred colt that had no use at an Appaloosa breeding farm, so he was part of my wage for taking on their breeding stock care.

I did not discover what I had at first, but he taught me himself. Good humored, patient with me, wildly playful, gentle as a kitten with my daughter, and with myself for that matter.

I regret to this day that I let him go to return to the U.S. mainland and go back to college. But he had a good life after me, I'm sure.

But now I have Bonnie, or I should say we do, as my wife is quite in love with her. I suggested this during our after dinner social time together that one day we might well have to consider selling Bonnie, and think about getting a horse rideable now instead of waiting 4 years to back her, and Kate's reply was along the lines of, "Yes, let's sell our four children and get all new ones, right?" She's not very subtle my Kate. :D

Donald

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


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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:04 am 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:40 pm
Posts: 4733
Location: Belgium
That is an excellent story Donald! It was like I was watching the both of you from the fence line.
Wow! I so hope that this lady will not let some people talk her out of the 'fuzzy-wozzy, be to sweet to horses and it seems to work at first but they will kill you as soon as they get the chance' by this mantra which seems to be going on lately.
Probably not. :) I'll guess I'll meet him too next year :cheers:

I have been having that lately. They see it work, are really happy, the horse even happyer, and then some one who really knows about horses 'talks to them'.
They yield, go back to that person and... after a few weeks are back with me.
All my work is then gone, the only thing that is left is that the horse never wants to leave my side again... We had one not going in to the trailer (which he always did without problems)except when I walked in first. But when I walked out, he ran out after me :ieks:
I need to win the lotery and buy them all...

Anyway, I still think it is mighty brave of you to ride him next to a busy road without knowing him that well. :ieks:
I never do that, wow! I always take a lot of time in a secluded area.
Now don't you go Evel Knievel on me 8) :rambo: :green:
But you're my hero anyway :green:

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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:52 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Great story Donald and I look forward to more episodes!!!!!

I hope for you she will pay attention and be willing to change.

I had a similar thing recently with a girl next door who has a saddler type mare that was previously very abused. She is so scared of this horse running away she literally leans forward and grips and hangs on this poor mares mouth. I got her sitting up and back and on a loose rein with a short shank hackamore. The horse became quiet and relaxed and we had a great hour ride with her horse literally plodding, very relaxed. I see her today riding again forward with a hot seat and now hanging on the hackamore. What changed is she is riding with friends that tell her to "control" her horse.
I almost want to climb over the fence and get on this mare with no bridle to show her how she is creating this monster beneath her.
It makes me sooo frustrated.
This horse is sooo hot because she gives her no room at all to think/move and she is in a constant state of panic and then has a rider that is hanging on as well. :huh: :sad:

Let's hope that your "client" being older and wiser will make the connection between what her horse does when you ride him and what her horse does when she rides him........that's all she has to figure out in order to want to change what she is currently doing.

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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: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:30 pm 

Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:38 am
Posts: 59
Location: Middlesex UK
Go Donald go :applause:
Go make that pony whole again :yes:
and let him know that NOT all humans are bad. :f:

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Freedom where thou art freedom...my saying


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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:15 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:40 pm
Posts: 4733
Location: Belgium
And I forgot to say, the title made me very hungry... tought it was about US southern food :green:

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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:55 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:10 am
Posts: 3688
Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Oh dear Josepha, :kiss: , no, I would not ride next to the highway if I did not feel confident in my ability to control the situation. I practiced for years emergency dismounts very like trick riders do. I can get off horses safely even at speed in many ways.

But more importantly, I had ridden this horse for about an hour before I went to the highway. Had I not seen him make a distinct even dramatic change under my handling I wouldn't have gone there without much more training, and some horses I would never take along a busy highway.

This all happened, by the way, less than a quarter mile from where I trained Dakota, the Morgan gelding that was my first professional training since I came back to the horseworld. You remember him.

The two owners know each other and Dakota's owner referred this lady to me.

This horse is actually easier than Dakota in some ways. He has known humans of all kinds I'd think. He began to, as I worked with him, recognize the kind of human I am and felt safer and safer. He is snorty but he does not bolt over things. Even a big dog barking at him from behind the bushes didn't upset him. He's had good horse handlers around him as well as not so good.

When I'm working with a horse I'm often inspired by you and others here at AND, Josepha. When I slip into old habits, though not cruel, still pressure and control and demanding of the horse, it helps that you inspire me. I think of what you might do with the same horse and draws me toward the more gentle way.

As for "Cajun?"

I love the food too, but even more their music. These were the Arcadians. Those driven out of a land in the Northeast of this continent, Canada in fact, and resettled in the Louisiana swamplands. And of course with their spirit and energy built a wonderful life all over again. The heritage is French and there is something in the music ... well, hard to describe. But it's full of energy and virve.

I believe I may have family ties to these people, though no direct living connections I know of. I ask often of my family where my mother chose my middle name from, it is so French, though anglisized my mother always wrote it in the French form and called me by it often.

And my family smiles secret little smiles and looks away.

I think my mother, bohemian and adventuress that she was, may have had a bit wilder life than she admitted to me, and that was plenty.

I do know that that branch of my family, my mother's, certainly came from all over the Deep South U.S.A. And my grandmother, mother's mother, had a bit of an accent both southern and something slightly french sounding and she loved the food herself and cooked it too for me.

Excuse my descent into reminiscences. As I age more and more these things come to mind that I had not thought of for decades. It's both annoying and yet still engaging and entertaining in some ways.

Maybe I'll get to, in my more vivid memory that comes with age, get to ride and be with my childhood horses and those of my youth: Buzz the very first, Sheba the dainty little patient mare, Poncho the strong wild white horse only slightly less stubborn than I, and Koko who taught me playfulness and tolerance for the differences between horse and man that made me see the sameness too.

Donald

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


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 Post subject: Re: Who is Cajun
PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:56 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
Posts: 2888
Location: Natal, South Africa
Wow, this is a great story.

:funny: So when are you going to come work with my Laska? :funny: :funny: :funny:

I get a lump in my throat every time I read about "recovering" horses that are being harshly judged by humans, and it seems to me that simply being king to them and allowing them a measure of self-determination works wonders.

You go, Donald. Every horse you interact with changes the overall picture for all horses everywhere. We have a slow and quiet revolution in the making here and it deserves to continue.

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


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