The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:32 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:14 pm
Posts: 15
Hi everybody,

So I would like to ask some advice.
I have since short a breeding stallion. (about 2 months)
Very well mannered and calm under the saddle and on the ground.
He is a lot easier to handle than I would initially have thought I must admit.
He is now 12 and he's always been ridden in a snaffle, and so we continued to do so till now.
Thing is that I would like to start riding him bitless. (a hackamore maybe)
That for two reasons, one is my filosofy of the ND method and the other is that he is quite 'hard in the mouth' probably because he's been ridden in front of the carriage a lot and less under the saddle.
Our relationschip is getting better by the day and I feel very lucky to work with a horse like him.
My only problem is when we get close to the mares he gets very hot and can be diificault to handle (his atention towards his rider/handler is for that moment GONE of course haha :yes: )
So the issue is if it is safe, for him, me and the mares to give him a go bitless? He is extremely powerful in his neck and even do we have don a lot of work on flection of the neck and body you must understand that in this particular circumstance it is difficult to remind him of things like, bending, lightness and so on. ;) So what would be the best way to start with all this? Will more groundwork in the end let him achieve control of his mind also when he sees a mare in heat? We ride him out with the mares as well but it does make him very distracted and sometimes I found it difficult to turn or stop him from doing his own will in that circumstances. It is the fist time I own a breeding stallion so I hope you guys will understand... I never hesitated a second with all my other horses to go 'natural'. But I cant risk that I would find myself incapable to go against 'nature's call'


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:57 pm 
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I haven't worked with a stallion for a while, but I think the argument of "going against nature" in response to some external stimulation is similar with other emotions such as panic. How often have people told me that I can impossibly risk it to walk outside with a cordeo, because after all horses are flight animals - if something happens, they will want to run away because it's their nature and then I will need control.

In my opinion, there are a few aspects that are missing in this line of argumentation. First, in terms of the impact of tack, horses get used to the stimulation they are experiencing. If they are used to being pulled around, more and more force will be necessary to get a response. In contrast, if they never feel the leadrope during our normal interaction, a slight sudden pull will be enough to stop them from canter in an emergency situation (indeed I have had my horses canter into the cordeo and then canter in place on several occasions). That is, for me the best way to make sure my horses react to tack in an emergency situation is to get as soft as I can during our normal interaction.

The second aspect is attention. With my horses, I make sure that I can always get their attention (perhaps you know the Encouraging politeness thread where I have explained it all). In addition to our overall focus on attention, I use a few small cues to draw the attention to me if the horse is focused on something else. That could be a touch on his shoulder for example, something that comes quickly and gets the horse to focus on it for a split second, which then I can use to get him refocused on my body language. If this capturing of attention is part of our everyday activities, the cues that are needed for this get smaller and smaller (often just gaze is enough) and the horse's reactions get more and more automatic.

Third, I only build up situations gradually. For me and my interaction with my horses, I have turned the whole question on its head. It's not "We want to do xy, can we do this without tack?" but "We are going without tack, so what can we do in that way?" If for example riding along a road is not possible in that way yet, I just don't do it. If I want to do it, I take the time to prepare my horses for it step by step, but the end of the equation that we are working on is the activities, not the tools that we need for this. :smile:


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:05 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:14 pm
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Well, very interesting, and that is exactly the same thing I've been thinking about all day. Is it possible for all horses to be ridden bitless? Or even in cordeo? I have known several people say 'absolutely Yes!' I personally haven't jet decides my opinion on this question... And than again if you ask 'can ALL horses be ridden bitless in ALL places/situations? Well, there it gets more difficult for many to give a direct yes as answer. You understand what I mean?
Before Warion I already had a stallion, an arabian I've owned since he was one year old. And with him it's different, he's ridden bitless, also with a couple of mares around him. He makes some noise and can get a little agitated but nothing too serious. But than again he's never been used to breeding, and he has always known soft manners. Warion is in a way 'used to being pulled' around as you say it... I guess that's the way most stallions like him are used to be ridden, and he's 12 years old so he probably had a lot of it! And I can honestly say he's getting softer and softer by the day. And I have read the the part of encouraging politeness (very true and interesting), Warion in any other situation gives me his full attention when I tell him to, vocally or with a little touch of the whip on his shoulder. Only, this is a very singular situation I'm talking about. After all he does what he is being used and told to do when he sees a mare...My other mares I can ride without problem in cordeo also out in the mountain, on the road, with cars or people around, I know them and they thrust me, so I feel confident to do so but now I'm more hesitant with Warion. :roll:


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:24 pm 
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ArtWanderer wrote:
And than again if you ask 'can ALL horses be ridden bitless in ALL places/situations?


I cannot speak for all people and horses, so I will just focus on me and my horses. For us it definitely is not possible to ride all of them without tack in all situations. For example, Titum tends to get scared of big vehicles, so I would not ride along a busy road without tack. However, as our starting point is that we only ride without tack, this means that I do not ride along big busy roads, unless he will ever be at a point at which he finds it totally unscary - which might be possible with lots of practise, perhaps, but if I wanted to find that out, I would have to invest the effort first. Unless I am willing to to that, riding there is not something we will do.

For me these decisions get easier when I imagine it was me. Would it be possible to get me through all situations without force? Certainly not. For example, I would not go into a lion cage. But does that mean that more control over me is needed? I don't think so. If someone wanted me to go into a lion cage, I'd prefer that he either can make sure that the lions won't attack me (and that I am 100% convinced of that) or that he gives me the tools that convince me that it is safe. He could either teach me to keep the lions away, or he could explain to me in what situations it is safe to go there because they are not interested in me at all. In either case, I would want him to provide the context that allows me to feel confident enough to go there, instead of ignoring my feelings about it and just making sure I cannot get away. Now perhaps fear is somewhat too different because it is a matter of avoidance, whereas the stallion thing is all about approach. But I am sure you could construct similar examples for basic approach motivations. The principle would still be that I'd prefer someone to work on my motivation (feeding it, directing my attention away from it and offering alternatives, teaching me some strategies to control it, or changing the situation in a way that the urge does not get stronger than me), instead of just making sure that I cannot act according to my motivations.

If you do not dare to ride past mares with Warion yet, would it be an option to make the situation easier in the beginning, and give him a positive motivation that helps him want to stay with you? Something that makes sense from his perspective?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 11:08 am 

Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:14 pm
Posts: 15
Thank you Romy :) I think you are right, all the best things will come with time and exercise, but for now, we will play safe and try to not create too difficult situations for us to handle :)


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:35 am 
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On the subject of all horses being able to go bitless or bridleless:

Yes, that is to say eventually. It all depends on the former (type) of training or lack thereof. The type of horse and the experience of the human, the goal intended etc.
Training is and will remain the secret of the succes, whether bitless or not.

On the subject of tack:"
A (mechanical or English) hackemore is in fact more harsh than a normal snaffle, I would not recommend it. The best solution for Stallions who can be effected by the hormones I find in the double bridle.
Here is an example:
http://www.klassiekeruiter.nl/index.php ... &Itemid=26
This way you can simply work in hand and ride with a soft cavesson, and only use your (non) mechanical) hackemore when you see no either way, in which you take up the rein a few second and release, repeat until you have your stallions attention back. 'Stellung' will soften your stallion again to your being present and your questions. Train as you do now and slowly and surely get closer to mares untill he can control his emotions.

On a side note: I very much believe that Stallions who can not control their emotions should not breed (even after a fair amount of constructive and positive training). The same with mares really :)

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:38 am 
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Josepha wrote:
On a side note: I very much believe that Stallions who can not control their emotions should not breed (even after a fair amount of constructive and positive training). The same with mares really
Now this little Pandora's box maybe better remains closed - it just reminded though of how the whole topic of horse breeding is just pure racism. And that comes from me, owner of a Lipizzan (the world's oldest so called "culture race")... :sad:

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:16 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:14 pm
Posts: 15
I don't' really agree that he for example should not breed, he's a very smart horse and he would be a pity not to use as well being a beautiful one as well. ;) He has not jet been breeding this year since he's been with me, but the former owner says he's gentle to the mares and very careful. So I've thought to do exactly the contrary than what you suggest, next week or so he will be breeding with one of our mares and I would like to keep them together thru out the pregnancy as well. I think it will make him more responsible and it will give him peace of mind having a mare to care for and defend. :sun: His former owner thinks it's a good idea as well.


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