The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:03 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:13 pm
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In another forum I often read about a specific cue for bringing the horse in a head-low position for better calming down in stressful situations, which one can install f. e. by means of the CT. I am wondering all the while, if that really can work in a case of emergency. I can't imagine, that a easily scared horse, which is not able to perceive his surroundings in such moments, can listen to this signal, much less immediately calm down. But, maybe I am wrong. If anybody has experiences with it, please share them with me. Thanks! :f:


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 Post subject: Re: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:38 am 
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We had lots of discussions about that in the time around 2007/08, and I will find some of them for you later today (but first I will go down to the horses because I have an appointment with Azhar in a few minutes). It can work nicely indeed, especially when you use this as a default exercise that always gets rewarded so that it becomes the horse's very first idea when he cannot think clearly anymore. I don't know if it really works by calming the horse down (for me it never felt like that), but in any case it creates a default behaviour that is incompatible with running away or jumping at the human. I also did it with Summy before I found that working with his excitement works better for us. But it might be a good option for you, especially when you feel too overwhelmed with Pan's excitement to use your body language. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:13 am 
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Romy wrote:
It can work nicely indeed, especially when you use this as a default exercise that always gets rewarded so that it becomes the horse's very first idea when he cannot think clearly anymore.


Could be, that this will be his first reaction. But it doesn't getting him immediately calmer thereby? At most it's getting him sidetracked for a moment, I mean.

Romy wrote:
but in any case it creates a default behaviour that is incompatible with running away or jumping at the human.


Could be, it reads logically. For a few seconds may it works... ;) But what, if the horse nevertheless constantly peers into distance because there seems to be any wild monsters? We had the same problems only yesterday, and I asked myself, if these cue really could have helped us.


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 Post subject: Re: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:56 pm 
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TakeItEasy wrote:
Could be, that this will be his first reaction. But it doesn't getting him immediately calmer thereby? At most it's getting him sidetracked for a moment, I mean.


But body and brain interact. For example, assuming a posture that is typically associated with power (upright, open) for just a few minutes changes hormone levels, increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol (which is associated with stress). Similarly, relaxation is used as an exercise in psychotherapy and for some anxiety disorders it's even as effective as exposition - and that's also "just" an exercise for the body, but it has effects on the brain and in that way on the emotional experience. I don't know any investigations on changes of hormones and neurotransmitters following head lowering in horses ;), but it would not surprise me if these effects were present.

TakeItEasy wrote:
For a few seconds may it works... ;) But what, if the horse nevertheless constantly peers into distance because there seems to be any wild monsters?


How is he supposed to do that with his head on the ground? :green: Because that's another beneficial effect of this exercise - with a head that low, the horse cannot possibly get into staring and freezing mode.

Concerning the old posts about head lowering, I realized that there were many of them but they all just said that people were doing it and it worked, but to know that I guess you needn't read all the posts first. So instead, here is a thread that is especially for you and Pan: Treats in anxious situations. It discusses how people deal with their horse turning into a statue because he sees something scary at the horizon. :f:


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 Post subject: Re: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:05 pm 
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With Mucki I have ample opportunities to test cues for calming down when we are out on walks ;).
I have also installed a 'head down' cue, which I use with success when I ride him.
Like Romy explained, it seems to work like a conditioned response and puts horses into a no-danger-mode. After all a low head is associated with grazing or resting.
I could even witness Mucki administering the head lowering to himself when he was stressed with all the fireworks around New Year.

For me, the most valuable cue for calming down is any one that is so well conditioned, that it works automatically, even in stressful situations, or right after bolting. For Mucki and me that is usually a cue for turning the head towards me, or shoulder-in. For one part it breaks his sight of the scary object and brings his focus back to me, and furthermore it gives me control of his hindlegs and makes bolting impossible.

If the horse is not paying attention, I use Romy's micro-communication technique to keep the focus on me, even before it drifts away. This can vary between a playful way of fighting boredom on a part of the walk, and a demanding way of asking for compliance. I try to adjust my body language and style of asking to the situation at hand.
What helped me greatly - and what is actually the hardest part for me - is that I improved my body language so that I can better adjust it to the current level of excitement in the horse.

_________________
Volker

The horse owes us nothing.


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 Post subject: Re: Cue for calming down
PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:36 pm 
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Thanks Romy and Volker! :f:

Volker wrote:
For Mucki and me that is usually a cue for turning the head towards me, or shoulder-in. For one part it breaks his sight of the scary object and brings his focus back to me


True that, I can imagine, that these strategy can work well for us too. Good idea... If Pan is scared, he yanks his head up, snorkels, snorts and/or freezes like a statue. For me almost impossible to focus his attention back to me. A "turn cue" could give me another possibility for a better handling. Thanks! :smile:


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