The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:17 pm 
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The past few months I felt I needed some new inspiration for our groundwork, and then I remembered the old groundwork topic on Carolyn Resnick and the Waterhole Rituals (WHR) - and the fact that I had her dvd's for a long time already. I never understood them, thought they were too meditational/spiritual/impractical for me.
Now, on the other hand, I decided that it might be just what I needed, so I enrolled in an online course (starts in a week) and I thought it would be nice to turn it into a research topic.

How the rituals work
Up until now it always was extremely unclear to me what the method existed of and why it worked (no visible really visible rewards/punishments, no real foodrewards with timing), but now the fog is finally lifting ;) and I guess that I now see how the method works and why she's able to work right through it at liberty.
By the way; the Waterhorse Rituals are almost exactly the same as the 7 Rituals by Cynthia Royal, and the comparison really helped me getting the philosophy.
Apparently; the reason why they can work right from the start at liberty, is that the first rituals are so called Friendship Rituals in which the horse learns he can be in charge of the human, and the human is polite and doesn't demand anything from him. I guess this is especially important when 'deprogramming' traditonal (nh- or not) trained horses.
Only after that the human can start asking questions, and become a trainer - but of course only for as long as the horse chooses to stay with him. If the horse leaves, it's back to the Friendship Rituals.
At the start of the training you simply do hours of Sharing Territory, but all the rituals are settled, the idea is that you do 10-15 minutes of friendship rituals at the start of each session, to set the mood for your regular training session (groundwork, riding, AND, whatever) or to turn all the other rituals in a dance.

Carolyn Resnick & Cynthia Royal versions
By the way: about the foodrewards: Carolyn Resnick has actually crossed over to the food-reward-camp the past few years, :) and even more amazing is that Cynthia Royal has turned her rituals into a completely clickertraining-method! :cheer:
I've also discovered why I didn't like the Carolyn Resnick dvd's before: the old ones had quite a few discrepancies between the text and the pictures (the dvd told that you should never use a round pen, but was taped... in a roundpen ;)) and wasn't that practical and the horses looked quite stressed. The new dvd's are much more informative, really present a method instead of loose thoughts.
Carolyn Resnick now has three dvd's: the Introduction to the Waterhole Rituals (which for me was most informative), Panadero's Journey, and Meditations (forgot the title).
Cynthia Royal still has her two old dvd's, Relationship and Bridleless, but has added 10 hours of footage (haven't seen those) so that it's a complete package. However, because she has crossed over to clickertraining, she will produce an entirely new method next year because she isnt satisfied with the pressure/corrections in her old system anymore.
I love it when people dare to change! :applause:

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:23 pm 
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The 7 Rituals
As the methods of Carolyn and Cynthia are very much alike, it's a bit mixed in my head probably, but these are the rituals as I remember them - please add then you miss something!

All the rituals are done in a large paddock/pasture with food (hay) and water available for the horse, and at liberty.
The trainer has a reed/whip, but the horse isn't touched with it (though it can be used to make yourself annoying by swishing it in the air while clucking/etc if you want your horse to move away).
Foodrewards are used throughout (but without real clicker-like timing) and the piles of hay also act as big jackpot-breaks where horse+human can relax for a while.
O, and every training session always starts with 10 minutes Sharing Territory at least, and whenever the horse walks away and/or starts eating hay during the training, you let him eat for a couple of minutes, then walk back to the front, re-introduce yourself with the Saying Hello ritual and then take him with you again for the rest of the training. And if he sticks to the hay, then that will be the next step in the training. ;)

Ritual 1&2 are what Cynthia Royal calls the Friendship Rituals, with the others you establish the training relationship.

1. Sharing Territory
The idea: you show the horse that you don't mean 'work' every time he sees you and that you can be undemanding and polite too.
Two versions: in the old one you walk around the paddock, look at the grass, the water, the sky, browse around just like the horse does, which will attract the attention. The new version is where you take a chair and a book and sit in the paddock and simply ignore the horse, which will eventually spike his interest as well. The goal actually is that he will start pushing your comfortzone so that you show him your new problem solving skills: simply move to a different spot if the horse is rather shy, or wave with the whip if he is more persistent. Because you don't want to touch him or shoo him away forever, just make clear that you have a comfort zone that you can only open up for him if he walks up to you in a polite manner, but for the rest he's completely free to do anything you want.

2. Saying Hello
The idea: horses touch noses when they greet, but only when they look straight at each other. If you copy that (an outstretched arm mimicking the neck-head of the other horse) you show that you are polite and considerate of his feelings becauseyou enter him from the front (so he doesn't have to turn to you) and whenever he looks away from you, you back off untill he looks back at you again.
It's used throughout the entire training as a way of reconnecting, apologizing (when the trainer has done something wrong) and relieving stress.

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The above are the Friendship exercises and tell the horse *and human* 8) that the horse is free to move when-/wherever he wants, and that also makes you more interesting for him to be with. Actually in between you are allowed to reward/cuddle him, but the main idea is not to respond very much during the first ritual and also to simply walk away again after nose-touches in order not to overwhelm the horse with attention again. (can feel like pressure)
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3. Taking Territory
Actually this rituals is only for pushy/food aggressive horses
The idea: It's kind of the other half of the relationship: the horse can leave you whenever he wants (and you will not follow/chase him, which is wat you promised him through rituals 1&2) but also has learned that he wants to be with you. So now you have to be able to move him out of your space when you want to. That way you can both create distance to the other (if your horse gets clingy and you walk away he will simply follow ;) )
The idea is that your horse eats his pile of hay and if you ask for his attention (by making a sound, snapping a finger) and he completely ignorse you,you slowly move to his hindquarters and if he still doesn't move, you chase him off the hay by making a big fuss (never touching) by hissing, clucking waving your hands/whip to suprise him and run him off his hay. Then you take position next to the hay and don't let the horse barge in again. Only when he stands still at a certain distance and doesn't seem to be focused on the food anymore, you ask him to come in (go towards him, rub him and bring him in, or draw him in by walking back).
Predator or not? The theory is that by this ritual you actually show your horse you're not a predator, as predators go for the horse, not for the grass, ;) and it also shows you're not trying to act dominant either as dominant horses would chase the other horse as well. You simply have your own territory/comfort zone when you move around, your horse forgot to respect that and so you make way. You don't chase, but instead take 1 position and stand there.

4. Eye Contact
The idea: actually it's weird that this is nr 4 instead of 3, as it's sort of the first part of Taking Territory only the more subtle one (meant for shy/scared horses instead of Taking Terr): the horse eats his hay, you sit in front of him and make a sound to ask for his attention. If he doesn't look up/turn his ears towards you, you slowly circle to his hindquarters. Whenever he looks up/turns an eye/ear towards you, you walk back to the front and pause over there so that he can have his hay-reward. Then repeat.

5. Leading from behind
The theory: horses are driven forward by the leading stallion/mare (a bit of an outdated theory, but still, horses do use that movement 8) ), so that is the most leader-like position. It's actually what's recommended when you have trouble with a horse instead of the Taking Territory-ritual (which would sound like a more logical thought from a conventional point of view), because Taking Terr is quite confrontational and blocking the way, while leading from behind leave the horse the freedom to go wherever he wants, as long as he moves in front of the trainer - in WALK! Later in trot, but only when the horse has learned the exercise and has learned to relax in it, so it's not a chase.
In fact it looks a lot like long-reining, only @liberty: you walk behind him, practise halt/walk with the piles of hay, try to move the horse in different directions etc.
* It's a bit weird though at first, especially because in the previous rituals (Taking Terr and Eye contact) you've just taught the horse to always turn his head to you when you're behind him. But as now you walk towards his head instead of to his hindquarters, and because the whip is hanging forward next to his body as a visual barrier, it actually doesn't take that much time to get used to it. I thought it could be compared to when starting long reining with the cordeo after always having walked next to your horse with it - then he will tend to turn around the first couple of times as well.

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If the above could be summarized as Claiming Rituals (my words), then the two final ritual below are the endresult of the balance in the relationship: the horse is sent out far (and can stay away if he wants) of can just wander off in any direction (not pushed forward/away anymore), so there has to be a big draw in order to compensate that. And if for example the horse when sent out stays out/doesn't come in, you go back to the rituals that focus on that (for example the saying hello in this case), and if he comes in too energetic and too close, you take a look at the more territory/comforzone-focused rituals.
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6. Companion Walking
The theory: this ritual focuses on creating the draw towards the human. Foals are glued to their mothers in the same way by staying in the heart-zone of the mother and copy her movements. You walk next to the horse and that sounds very simple, but the thing is that you will need a good draw already based on the Friendship Rituals, as well as a healthy sense of personal space based on ritual 3/4, so that's why it's only now in the program.
Important is not to get too far ahead (=next to the neck), but stay next to the chest, otherwise you destabilise the horse in the neck during turns. To make a turn around you you actually lean/step back a bit and that way draw the nose in and push the hindlegs out with your position, collecting the horse.

7. Dancing together (the old name was Go trot and come up)
With Leading from Behind you teach the horse to move away, first at walk, then in trot/canter. Now you combine that with the draw. Park the horse, move a couple of meters away from you (or: ask your horse to move a few very calm steps sideways away from you instead), then tell him to go trot away, but stay in the middle yourself and as soon as he looks/turns back in, you draw him back in by walking back and reward big time
When he knows it's a game, you let him stay out longer and longer before asking him to come back in, and instead of coming to a halt you can then also go right on into companion walking, leading from behind etc.

I've tweaked it back into AND quite a bit already, but I thought it was a quite refresing break from all the more traditional nh-programs and much easier to adapt.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:27 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 16, 2007 7:51 pm
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For the ones who want to read more:
This blog gives an exellent & detailed report on the rituals: https://sites.google.com/site/erinscarolynresnicknotes/home
The blog of Carolyn Resnick: http://www.carolynresnickblog.com
The site of Cynthia Royal: http://www.royalequineacademy.com

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:37 am 
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...and we also have a long thread about the rituals here in the forum, if someone wants to read about the experiences and opinions of some of our members: The Waterhole Rituals (Carolyn Resnick)


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:39 pm 
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Great! I somehow lost the link - but it was actually that topic that made me to do some research on the WHR again. Thanks! :yes:

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:02 pm 
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you see i knew it, that it was somewere over here ;-)
good luck with your new expiriences!!


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