The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: startle response
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 7:58 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 123
Location: the Minnesota prairie, USA
a slight spin off from the calming signals thread .....

Appy had a meltdown this morning .. I was leading him out of the barn to go to the indoor when the barn owner and her boys (teenage) started making a lot of racket with wheelbarrows and pitchforks and music .. poor Appy was shaking although he didn't move much (huge change!) .. it took 30 minutes for him to stop shivering -- his hindquarters were spasming very visibly.

My question is about startle response. I just now am listening to an online talk about neuroscience and meditation and startle response was brought up. I have been meditating for many years and realize that my startle response is minimal or absent -- but how does a horse read that lack of response? I've read that horses feel safer if you respond but don't make a big deal out of it ... like saying "yes, I heard that crash but it's only the wind knocking over a garbage can" or some such..

But having no response might say to the horse --- Oh! "Don't you know that there's a giant monster out of sight throwing garbage cans around? It'll be here next to eat me" or some such :smile: Let's get out of here -- it's not safe -- you DON"T hear it?????

What do you think????

(me staying calm helps Appy stay in place but obviously doesn't calm him in a short time as it would less sensitive horses )


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 Post subject: Re: startle response
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:12 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
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Location: Natal, South Africa
Hmmm ....

Freckles had very little self-confidence when I got him. I found the best thing was to "allow" myself to startle and then to laugh - like playing "Boo! Eeeck!" - it seemed to reassure him on 2 fronts at once. First, that it was acceptable to jerk and have that emotion, and second that I knew what it was and it was no big deal and wasn't a monster.

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Glen Grobler

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


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 Post subject: Re: startle response
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:04 pm
Posts: 1706
I noticed a while ago when I was walking with 'the leader of the herd' that as soon as I focus on something intensely, (I was checking something, I suppose cars) he started eating (extra detail: we were standing on a small zip of grass next to a road where in a walk I always take a small break to let them eat), when I unfocused, he stopped eating and focused...
I suppose he needed the fact that I was looking out for something, so he would not have to worry about it.
What helps with Ruphina is to 'see it' and discover it is not scary, occasionally 'kill it' by stepping on it fiercely, She'll really let go the fear then and looks interested. And she is quite a panicking horse I might say.
When riding outside and she would run away (in a place where possible, so no roads nearby) I'd let her run, and take her back, no immediate brake but a look back discover it is not scary, brake, and turn back (sometimes next to her)

Not telling her fearing something is silly, accept the fear think about the real scaryness of the object find out it is nothing and show her you don't think it's scary.
That really helped for me.

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kirsten
time is what you make of it


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 Post subject: Re: startle response
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:32 am 
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Location: Dresden, Germany
There is a wonderful post in Leigh´s diary where she is quoting Sue about something that might be of interest for you. It´s the 5th post on this page. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: startle response
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 3:23 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 123
Location: the Minnesota prairie, USA
Ahhhh! Thank you Romy -- that is definitely helpful. That might just be another piece of Appy's puzzle to place. Although right now the puzzle looks more like the underside of a tapestry ... all knots and frayed ends and loose strands! I can just hear that mare thinking "Okay, okay - I get it -- let's go..."

Listening to more of the neuroscience and meditation talks I wonder if horses' brains have the same neuroplasticity that we do. They mentioned the possibility but that no one has done studies. When a horse overcomes fear does his brain change? (I think so... but do you think a horse could be trained to lay in an MRI machine?? ;) ) Or measure a horse's mirror neurons - and ours- when we are working together .. sorry going off on a lovely tangent here ......

http://www.upaya.org/dharma/page/9/

if anyone else is interested -- the talks are Zen Brain (a series)

also interesting is the series (august 09) titled Neurobiology


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