The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:04 pm 

Joined: Mon May 05, 2008 4:38 pm
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Location: Saint Louis
I can get my horse to lift his legs by pointing down at them or by demonstrating which leg I want him to lift... How do I get him to target an object, probably my orange "carrot" stick? Is it as easy as it sounds?: If he accidentally touches it with a leg when he lifts it, I click? I haven't tried that because I don't want to confuse him.

I want to be able to do more with my horse other than have him lift his legs and chase me or the tiger. (He can't even really chase me or the tiger because I'm 5 months pregnant and it's getting harder to do that.)

I want to be able to teach him to put his legs on a pedestal or log, or anything. I want to be able to teach him the Spanish Walk, Polka, piaffe... I want to teach him the bow, and he still doesn't get it. I've been trying for months! I want to teach him the back crunch.....

Help???

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:22 pm 

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My advice is - don't hurry. There is at least your horse's lifetime to do things like that. Just step by step without pressure and you both are happy.

About the leg lift. I do not do clicker training, but I use treats and praise. Proloog started to scrape land once and I praised and treated him (what a confusion from his point of view - people wanted to do some crazy things with him before - jumping, lunging without purpose and still weren't happy, but now his person is very happy when he scrapes land :lol:). I mimicked him when he did that and everything after that was easy - I put some wooden plate or stone etc before him and told him that it would be lovely if he'd scrape that by scarping it myself. So higher and higher we went and now he put few weeks ago his leg on our dining table (which stand outside) :lol: :wink:

My advice would be not to start with carrot stick but with some objects he can really put his leg on - then he sees the point of that action. My Proloog put his leg on objects, then few months later started to realize that he doesn't need object - and the jambette was born. Now we are on our way to Spanish walk. And if you noticed, lot of mimicking I use, just to take specific exercise further.

Good luck :wink:
Anneli


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:27 am 

Joined: Mon May 05, 2008 4:38 pm
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Location: Saint Louis
Proloog wrote:
My advice is - don't hurry. There is at least your horse's lifetime to do things like that. Just step by step without pressure and you both are happy.

About the leg lift. I do not do clicker training, but I use treats and praise. Proloog started to scrape land once and I praised and treated him (what a confusion from his point of view - people wanted to do some crazy things with him before - jumping, lunging without purpose and still weren't happy, but now his person is very happy when he scrapes land :lol:). I mimicked him when he did that and everything after that was easy - I put some wooden plate or stone etc before him and told him that it would be lovely if he'd scrape that by scarping it myself. So higher and higher we went and now he put few weeks ago his leg on our dining table (which stand outside) :lol: :wink:

My advice would be not to start with carrot stick but with some objects he can really put his leg on - then he sees the point of that action. My Proloog put his leg on objects, then few months later started to realize that he doesn't need object - and the jambette was born. Now we are on our way to Spanish walk. And if you noticed, lot of mimicking I use, just to take specific exercise further.

Good luck :wink:
Anneli




Thanks for the wish :-)

I have tried getting him to lift his leg and put it on a mounting block. Tried for a few days. However, I guess that was too much too fast.

I'll try getting him to put his foot on something on the ground. My problem is that he is very spooky with stepping on things. Any recommendations for things to step on?

And how long did it take him to catch on?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:35 am 
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Hey there!

You wrote:
Quote:
'll try getting him to put his foot on something on the ground. My problem is that he is very spooky with stepping on things. Any recommendations for things to step on?
And how long did it take him to catch on?


If he's spooky about standing on stuff, I'd start really slow and work on a towel or a small tarp first, or a board. My filly is completely cool about putting her feet on things, and got this quickly, but Stardust, my big guy, is not convinced about any of this!

What we've been working on is first getting him near the scary thing (I'm doing C/T, but with verbal responses rather than the clicker) -- first getting him willing to get his nose close to it, then putting the treat on it, and then I've taken handfuls of hay and let him eat off of whatever was scary.

For us, the tarp is proving to be a really good tool -- he's coming along with it (he was totally freaked out by them), so I figured if we could get over his fear of that, he'd be less nervy about other things.

He's just now becoming willing to stand with his front feet on it when he eats -- this has taken us a couple of months (not working on it consistently).

I think it's hard to gauge how fast this will come -- watching my two horses, it's been very different time frames!

Brenda's video diary with Lucy might be really helpful to you -- she is doing a whole lot of targeting with a green and instinctively spooky girl -- they've made huge progress, and Brenda has a really amazing knack, I think, of figuring out how to break things down into little pieces.

And if he accidentally touches your carrot stick when he lifts his leg, I'd most definitely click/treat. You can translate a happy accident into "oh, cool, she's looking for that" pretty quickly, usually!

When I hit a wall with my guys learning something new, or trying to expand on something, I'm finding that backing up and figuring out how to step it out into smaller bits is really helping. And the other thing that I'm learning (and this has been hard for me!) is to not worry too much about where we want to be, but making a game out of these itty bitty steps and getting pleasure out of each small one.

I found myself getting frustrated for a while there because we didn't seem to be making much progress, and then it occurred to me that I had an ideal in my head about what we were working towards (Spanish Walk, or GOTM, or whatever) and they had no clue what I was working towards -- any sense of "this is how long it should take" was coming from my head, not theirs.

This has been the biggest piece for us -- my letting go of my frustration/anticipation. I'm finding that they're tending to get things much faster when I'm remembering not to have big expectations, and instead get jazzed about the little steps in the process. We'll play with something for a while at the same level and then, all of a sudden, it will pop into the next step -- I'm learning to trust them about this, and push only a little bit at a time (and some sessions we don't push at all, but just play with stuff I know that they already understand).

I'm not sure if this makes any sense -- there's a delicate balance about how hard to reach for something here that I'm just beginning to learn to intuit with them. And I'm definitely learning to let go of that "gotta get there!" energy -- it seems to block all of us when I do that.

Hope this is somewhat helpful! Kind of a non-answer... 8)

Best,
Leigh


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:25 pm 
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Leigh wrote:
I found myself getting frustrated for a while there because we didn't seem to be making much progress, and then it occurred to me that I had an ideal in my head about what we were working towards (Spanish Walk, or GOTM, or whatever) and they had no clue what I was working towards -- any sense of "this is how long it should take" was coming from my head, not theirs.


Good point!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 6:21 am 

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Leigh wrote:

We'll play with something for a while at the same level and then, all of a sudden, it will pop into the next step -- I'm learning to trust them about this, and push only a little bit at a time (and some sessions we don't push at all, but just play with stuff I know that they already understand).

I'm not sure if this makes any sense --


Makes perfect sense -- this is how is goes with us, too :D


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 10:44 am 
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I think you've received lots of great advice over here already, and I can only add: experiment!

With Blacky and Sjors, I never pin myself down on a certain method to reach a certain exercise (for example the Spanish walk). If something doesn't work, I'll just try another method and see if that one clicks with them. With Blacky for example I first taught him to lift his legs when I tapped them with the whip. The result of that (and my lack of knowledge about the Spanish walk tens years ago) caused him to do a Spanish stomp, in which he stamped down before he made a step forwards with that leg. I tried to fix it, but with my lack of knowledge (and timing, as I didn't know clickertraining back then yet) I abandoned it for about seven years. Then (with CT) I decided to try again, now by asking Blacky to target the whip with his frontleg. He pretty soon figured out to hit the whip, but still stomped down. So I abandoned it again, and about a year later I was just walking next to Blacky and decided to collect my walk in order to collect his. Blacky responded to my higher leg lift by collecting his hindquarters and starting a Spanish walk, without stomping down. That's where we are now, with one leg doing a real Spanish walk. I'm confindent that in the future the other will follow. 8) :lol:

So I would say, just experiment and enjoy the process of experimenting!

And yes, mimicry is a very important tool; so if you want your horse to lift his leg, try to lift your own and see what happens. When I lift my leg and the pony looks at me if I'm insane, I click and reward even though he didn't lift a finger. I just rewarded the attention he gave me. Pretty soon he will start to share what I'm doing by copying it too - and there's a leg-lift. The same goes for stretching the leg out - it might just work with mimicry too. And for the pedestal you don't need to have mastered the leg-lifts at all. You can use mimicry - step on the pedestal yourself with one leg, stomp on it and see what your horse does. Any interest in what you're doing, sniffing at it or stomping on it I would reward immediately. It will take some time, perhaps more than when you cue for lift leg, walk forwards, step on it and combine that to get him on the pedestal, but what I like about mimicry is that it comes from the horses own brainworks. And I just love to see them think! :D


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 5:05 pm 
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Quote:
When I lift my leg and the pony looks at me if I'm insane, I click and reward even though he didn't lift a finger. I just rewarded the attention he gave me.
LIGHTBULB MOMENT.
I never thought of that but it makes sense. Step 1 for everything you teach them.
thanks for the advice Miriam.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 6:30 pm 
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Glad to help! :)

I must admit that I always feel a bit insane myself to click for nothing happening at all, because in the back of my mind there of course is a voice telling me that when I reward for nothing, the pony will learn that he should do nothing.

But quite the opposite is true; when I click unexpectedly, they become even more keen for more clicks, because they want to give the foodrewards a regular, predictable pattern. In order to get as much out of it as possible, of course. 8)


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:55 pm 
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Funny -- I thought the same thing, Jocelyne! Make that a thank you from me, too, Miriam. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:06 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
So at last! I am going to try using a target to teach something to my horse :applause:
(I am more of a negative reinforcement kind of person :D, that's why the excitement... )

I have a SW already (well, not pure, the hind legs are not working well enough to call it SW, but our version, anyway). I want to teach a knee lift to my horse. So instead (or add to) a leg lift and reach forward, I am looking to put a knee lift - forearm about horizontal - on a cue. This is to help my very restricted shoulder/elbow horse move better.

And I want to do this the "right way" - meaning taking in into movement (walk then trot) right away, so it doesn't become stuck and a halt-step-halt-step kind of an exercise, like our SW.
So this will probably mean a couple of things:
* ask for one leg and take it into movement, alternating normal and elevated steps etc.
* begin with small knee lift and make sure the horse can balance himself and maintain regular, normal gaits before asking for higher knee lifts or alternating L/R steps

I think I will use the pink pool noodle I have, I haven't used it for anything else yet. And I imagine I will begin by standing on Special's right side, hold the target in front of him and ask for a RF SW step - then praise when he bumps his knee into the target. Any potential problems with initiating the move with known cue?
And do I add a verbal cue right away? How do you control the timing with targeting? When I move the target away, is that a pause? is me putting the target in front of him his cue to try to touch it with his knee? And if so, how do you determine the frequency or a duration? So many questions! :)


The reason I will start with the RF is because he tends to lift this leg in a more "knee already flexed" kind of way - he lifts with a bent knee, then extends the hoof forward. The LF he kind of extends as he lifts.

I am excited about a beginning of a new exercise, and about doing it in a new way! :yeah:


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:09 pm 
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Zuzana wrote:
So at last! I am going to try using a target to teach something to my horse
Exciting indeed! Will be interesting to hear how it progresses. Keep us posted, will you?

Mucki and I have done our share of targeting, so I can tell you from our experiences.

Zuzana wrote:
Any potential problems with initiating the move with known cue?
I always try to make it as easy as possible for the horse to succeed, especially when starting off with a new exercise. So basically it would be a good idea to use a known cue to help teach a new one. However, in this case you might want to really start this exercise from scratch. It is a wonderful possibility to build this up entirely with positive reinforcement and see if it feels any different to before.
Mixing R+ with a well established R- cue, might just give you the very same behaviour as before. Just a thought...

Zuzana wrote:
And do I add a verbal cue right away?
Usually, you add the final cue (e.g. verbal cue) only if the behaviour is reliable, so that it is really connected with the final behaviour and not with an unfinished one. Up until then, you use the pool noodle for example. I have to admit, that I am not that strict actually and introduce verbal cues somewhere in the middle ;)
Zuzana wrote:
How do you control the timing with targeting?
If you want exact control over the timing, you should be very exact in defining how you want your target to be used.
A common training plan could look like this: you start with rewarding for just touching the target. Then touching the target when you hold it in increasingly difficult (farther away) positions. Then you could introduce a new criterion if you want, like touching and keeping the touch until you give a release signal. That way you could shape the holding phase.
Like you probably know already, I love to use mimicry for these kind of exercises. There, the criterion is synchrony, which is also asked from myself, and so I have a very flexible way of shaping movement and adjusting it in every phase as we go along. The downside is that it is a much more fuzzy tool and is just as good as my own body control ;)
Zuzana wrote:
When I move the target away, is that a pause?
As long as you don't have another reliable cue, the presentation of the target will be the cue. It is usually best practise to present the target, wait for a reaction, reward and at the same time remove the target from sight (behind your back).
Zuzana wrote:
And if so, how do you determine the frequency or a duration?
See above. Remember to work on only one criterion at a time and be prepared to see other, already learned criteria to deteriorate while you work on a new one - they will be back again when the new stuff is learned ;). You can also use this fact to your advantadge, like for example ask for only very sloppy leg lifts while you work on cadence and timing. Otherwise you only make it unnecessarily hard for him. You can always combine the better lifts with the better timing later on...

Hope there was something you can use - and I'm looking forward to hear from your progress...

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:09 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thank you Volker :f:

I actually managed to sneak out to the horses between loads, while waiting for the big hay trucks I am unloading.

The horses have been locked in the corral with the cattle for the last few days, because this time of year the dugouts begin to freeze and it takes a few days for the ice to get strong/safe enough for dumb cows - sometimes cows walk out to the middle of them looking for water, and then the whole herd falls through and drowns.... I don't think the horses would do this, they aren't as lazy about walking to the yard to drink as cows are :)

Anyway, they are getting kind of impatient, especially since I haven't done anything with them because it was sooo cold and so busy...
So as I walk through the herd with the pool noodle, which they have never seen before, I certainly had their attention :D
It was so cute, Indy was staring at it intently and then began lifting his front legs :funny: as if he knew... -I think it's just his way of asking to "please let's do something, I am bored!"...

Anyway, I just grabbed Special and found a spot out of the wind and a little away from the other horses. He wasn't scared or curious about the noodle at all, which surprised me.

I wanted to stick to my plan and begin small and really re-train this from scratch, like Volker suggested - but it didn't turn out that way.
Right now I don't use pressure/release for the SW. It is mostly volunteered, or maybe I will look at the front leg, at the most I might point to it or say "step". And then just somehow encourage the duration of the exercise, possibly with my body language, I am not sure. But Special has learned that I like alternating steps, and I don't really have any control of which leg he should lift. Which is going to be something I would like to work on as well, to be able to do "the waltz" (I think it's called).

My plan was to hold the target and when he bumped into it with his knee, to reward and remove the target. So I tried to stand on his right side and he immediately lifted his RF, touched the noodle and got a reward. However, he kept trying to move himself so I would be on his left side, so I let us switch.
Then of course he would offer SW steps without the target there, which I ignored. I tried not to project any hint of displeasure or anything like that, just stood there and tried to appreciate his efforts, but without giving him treats. Then when he paused, I put the noodle back in front of him and treated when he bumped it. It took about 3 tries before he got it.
I wasn't sure whether to treat only for the leg I wanted him to lift/touch with? Volker? Eventually I would like to have control of which leg, and as he basically knows the exercise, maybe it's ok to differentiate already?

I was able to test his understanding (maybe too quickly?) by holding the target farther away in front of him - and then he did SW steps until he hit it with one leg, then treats... thoughts on this? He was very involved, interested and excited! it was wonderful! I really got the feeling he was thinking. :clap: :yeah: And happy to hit the noodle :D
It looked like he was working hard to figure out the coordination needed to put his leg up where the noodle was, when I moved it farther away. I am guessing the horses don't have quite the same "hand-eye" coordination as humans :blonde: :) This is very exciting stuff.
So with this: moving the target far in front of the horse, should I just stick to only having the target in a position where it's realistic to touch it with a single leg lift? Or do I use it to maintain the SW? - like holding/moving it in front, but un-reacheable to get the horse to move forward in SW? As my goal for this is to change the way of lifting the legs, I think I should only use it as a target for single step/lift right now, to shape the steps.... So the horse touches it with every leg lift. Then later use it as a signal to "keep doing that"? Or do I plan to only use it for "more" ? and for "hold"?

So we did about 3 tries of this, with lots of treats. Then (man, am I ever impatient!) I figured I would try working on duration. So I wanted him to lift his knee, touch the target and hold. I tried once by saying hold and just not treating when he touched and lowered his knee. I tried treating after 2 repetitions, which prolonged the duration slightly on the next try. But then I presented the target, said hold and when he lifted his knee, I reached in front and held (gently, of course) his forearm up so his knee remained in contact with the noodle. Then lots of praise. And it was unbelievable - the next try, I presented the noodle, said hold - and he did it all by himself!!! he stood there with his leg up, the knee touching the noodle :yeah: sooo cool! And no way that is an accident, either 8)

This little story represents what I would like in my training, I think. I want to be able to show the horse what I am looking for, guide him there with touch if need be. Then let him do it on his own, unless he needs help. This is exactly how I understand the negative reinforcement, after a possible initial stage (like right when you begin to work with a horse for the first time, not with every new exercise!) when the pressures might still get heavy (or the whip taps get more frequent/annoying), it doesn't go past a "guiding touch" anymore. Then it's about understanding and helping...

So now the big dilemma - in my conventional training, the quitting point is the ultimate reward. Also because I give the horse something to eat after our work session. But now, I knew it's different. So when he gave me that "knee hold", I gave him most of the treats I had left, and walked away as he was still chewing. I went straight to my little tack shack and poured some oats into a bucket and walked away while he was eating. I really didn't want him to offer something and me just walking away! any thoughts on this? how do you guys quit? (without feeling bad about it!) :smile:

I will just copy this into my diary, but feel free to answer my questions here, thanks :f:


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:27 pm 
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Well done, Zuzana! It looks like you already made some great progress and interesting findings.
There are so many points in your post I'd like to answer to, let's see if I can make it and still be coherent ;).

Zuzana wrote:
This little story represents what I would like in my training, I think. I want to be able to show the horse what I am looking for, guide him there with touch if need be. Then let him do it on his own, unless he needs help. This is exactly how I understand the negative reinforcement, after a possible initial stage
The main problem I have with R- is that it's so hard to improve initiative with it. The learning process with R- is directed by avoidance of an aversive stimulus. That alone puts the horse in an avoidant, re-active mode.
Training with R+ on the other hand has the ultimate benefit of the horse wanting to do it right. He tries to figure out what you could've meant with your cue. You can save yourself a lot of micromanaging - you basically just have to pick the one response from the horse that you like best ;).

That leads me directly to another thing you mentioned. You said that you want to control which leg he lifts. Do you really need to control that to teach him the Spanish Walk? Isn't all you need to ask him to lift the very next step and then the next and then the next?
When I'm doing SW with Mucki I'm not picky about which leg he lifts when, as long as he does lift them. Of course there's always one better side than the other, but that gets better with time and training, just like every issue of handed-ness.
For me it's important to have a reliable cue for leg lifts installed. Then I use that in motion and give it almost one step early - just when he puts down one foreleg. The result is that I get a leg lift of the other foot. In a sense that's the most accurate way of how I control which leg is lifted.
The next thing I train is the Polka. That means cue for a leg lift in walk, then wait three steps before you cue again. That way, you always get a leg lifts from alternating sides. This is very helpful to train both hands equally, as well as giving the horse enough time to get the next leg lift ready without loosing the cadence of the walk.

So my point is: it's not so important to control the legs of the horse, but to control my own cues, so the next logical leg that will be lifted is the one I want :green:. A result of that is that I train the cue for leg lift while stationary, but I train the SW (or Polka) while already in movement.

Zuzana wrote:
So with this: moving the target far in front of the horse, should I just stick to only having the target in a position where it's realistic to touch it with a single leg lift? Or do I use it to maintain the SW? - like holding/moving it in front, but un-reacheable to get the horse to move forward in SW?
My goal is always to make it as easy as possible for the horse to be successful. So if I teach at first that the task is to touch the target, but then constantly move the target out of reach, will probably be very frustrating for the horse. I'd rather stick with touching the target every time for a longer period and then eventually progress to rewarding for every other touch, so he touches left leg first, then the right, then gets rewarded. Over time I could then get a whole series of SW steps. By then I can fade the target more and more out until only the hand movement is sufficient for example, as if I was holding the pool noodle.

Zuzana wrote:
I really didn't want him to offer something and me just walking away! any thoughts on this? how do you guys quit? (without feeling bad about it!)
Well that's a common issue when using positive reinforcement, but then again it only shows that you are doing something which is really rewarding for him ;)
I think we have discussed this topic recently in one of the food reward threads, but I'm not sure where. I for myself use certain exercises to calm down, or which show Mucki that we are ending our training now. I often also just initiate grooming, or just get into a resting position, which is something I also observe among horses in the herd. It is also not uncommon, that one horse tries to engage into play, while the other just gives him the cold shoulder. In fact, at some times I do just that myself and walk away. I don't believe that horses hold a grudge for that...

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thank you Volker!
:giveflower:
you have made the process make sense for me, once again :)

Volker wrote:
The main problem I have with R- is that it's so hard to improve initiative with it. The learning process with R- is directed by avoidance of an aversive stimulus. That alone puts the horse in an avoidant, re-active mode.Training with R+ on the other hand has the ultimate benefit of the horse wanting to do it right. He tries to figure out what you could've meant with your cue.


I think that R- at it's finest is pretty much the same as R+ , as far as the cues are concerned. In fact you could say that when you claim to be using R+ and you apply a cue (even something like lifting your own leg for mimicry cue) and you hold it until the horse responds, then you "release the cue", it is actually R- :funny:
words can be dangerous... :D I think it's not quite as black and white, and certainly not in my training, as I use treats as well.... hopefully one day I will be good enough at it to have the same softness with my "R-" training as you and Mucki have with your "R+" ;)



And you are so right, it's not important which leg he lifts, not in our ground work. It's the timing, of course! I think I was thinking a little ahead to the time of riding this. Right now our ridden SW is cued by me reproducing what the SW feels like - and the horse following me. For this, it very much matters which leg we are lifting, otherwise we are out of sync. And I like having the horse following my feel under saddle (you probably have this in your ground work as well, I don't very often...) I initiate, then harmonize. But I am sure we will work it out.
I love the Polka (not waltz haha) approach. I think this will be a great challenge for our SW.

I aim to keep this targeting for changing the movement, for the knee lift. I think it may be a bit too confusing for the horse to use the noodle for regular SW as well as the knee lifts... for now, anyway. The more I think about it, the more different what I am looking for is from the SW. I am thinking more like passage type movement - lift the knee (or diagonal) and pause, lift other knee (diagonal) and pause.... it's the "hold" I am interested in as much as the "lift". Not so much the reach, like in our SW... and I guess it's not really about moving forward very much either, maybe 30-40cms at a step...

So do you think I should be trying to train one leg only? or allow the multiple steps? And should I try this in movement already? ... so many questions :D
Thank you so much for your help, Volker!


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