The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:15 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:42 pm
Posts: 4
Hei everybody,

I didn't find a good name for my topic - it's hard to find the right words in english, but I ty to explain it better here:

My 20 years old Tabaluga has quite severe problems with his knee. At the moment he is getting a regular treatment and has to stay in the box in order to recover. It's very sad, he hates being in the box and I hate it to put him there. But at the moment thats what the vets are telling us :( And so I am searching for ways to comfort him at least a little.

He's allowed to walk a little, so I take him to little walks - but he gets more and more bored and would like to romp, jump and rare - what I try to avoid, as I am affraid that it could harm his knee again. So I try to calm him, by talking to him, by walking only some steps, pausing, letting him relax again, and starting again when he's more relaxed and so on.

That works sometimes very well, sometimes it's still very difficult, and so it happens that he jumps even though he shouldnt.

I would love to help him by entertaining him a little better. He likes to carry things in his mouth for example, so I bring him things he can carry, and which he brings to me, and it seems as if he would like this little game. We also do the referece (the part of the spanish walk you can do without wolking), he crosses his front legs ad we can "dance" togehter, he lies down and I can reward him and caress him again,...

But acutally that's all we figured out until now. Not very much and not very varied - so I'm affraid he get's even more and more bored of this also. So I wanted to ask you, if you have some nice ideas what I could suggest him - some games, some other ideas maybe? (I can't let him free when we are outside the box, because he would emediattely run (which I understand very well), so everything is on-line at the moment, or free in the very tiny paddock, or in the box).


I would be very happy for your answers - at the moment I'm a little depressed about my sad little pony and would be very happy to find some ways to cheer him up.

All the best,
Anna


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:39 pm 
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Hi Anna, maybe you will find some ideas here: Playing - Calm games. All the best for you and Tabaluga! :)


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:49 pm 
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I know how hard it is to have to restrict a horse like that. It breaks my heart every time I have to do this to Mucki :sad:.

I found that a mix of calming and exciting things was best to keep our interaction enjoyable for both sides. Too much funny games often resulted in a very aroused horse that wouldn't let me leave. Calming things, like grooming or Tellington touches, helped to establish certain welcome and goodbye rituals that structured the interaction. That was especially helpful when our mare was in hospital for three weeks.

Among our favourite stationary games are body targets, where I say the word of the body part and hold out my hand and the horse has to touch my hand with that part. Examples are: nose, ear, eye, cheek, chin, breast, leg, hoof, knee, hip, tail.
I also like micro weight shift, like standing in front of the horse and trying to shift the weight to each of the four legs separately by an as small as possible hip movement ;).

Or I play of course a lot of clicker games:
- fetch
- cleaning up (pick several things from the floor and put them into a bucket)
- stacking cones
- put rings on cones
- colour discrimination
- form discrimination
- saying yes/no

_________________
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:10 am 
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
If he likes picking things up you could try teaching him to paint. Pops and BJ love doing that.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:32 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:42 pm
Posts: 4
Thank you so much for you nice answers! And for the link, Romy, I hadn't found it before, so it was very helpful.

I already showed him the idea of putting things into a bucket. And I think he liked it, so we will continue this :)
And I also noted other things which I want to introduce to him step by step. I like the idea of letting him put his frontleg on different things, playing with poles and cones... and I very much like the idea of the body target, that sounds great! :)

Marina, do your hoses paint with a brush and waterpaint or what did you use?

And I like the idea of TTouches as welcome and goodbye rituals. I guess I will propose it to him.

The walking-part is getting more difficult though. Yesterday he saw a horse 200m away from us, when i let him graze. He got so exited it was very difficult to keep him from running towards the horse. I had to keep him quite tight, even if normaly I don't use the rope at all, as he listens very well on my body-language. But yesterday I couldn't reach him at all. I went with him towards the other horse. Some steps, then halt, pause and then another few steps. But we were both very exited, and I had to keep him very strong on the halter :sad: Later, as we had reached the other horse he relaxed again. When we moved on, letting the other grazing horse behind us, he got a little exited again, but our normal proceeding worked out his time: by asking him to halt, look and wait he relaxed again. And so did I. No need to pull on the halter, just letting him the time he needed, and then we could go on easily, with a long, loose rope.

How do you react in situations your horse is too exited to listen to you? I really would like to find a solution other than getting tense. Even in cases our normal ritual doesn't work.

All the best,
Anna


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:55 am 
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A&T wrote:
How do you react in situations your horse is too exited to listen to you? I really would like to find a solution other than getting tense. Even in cases our normal ritual doesn't work.


I try to be faster and leave no time whatsoever, constantly keeping the horse busy in his mind. I have explained it in Summy's diary, where I have written about a situation when we were attacked by mosquitoes. Here is the whole story, and here is just the part that explains what I did:

Quote:
When I am walking with my horses, we do lots of micro-communication. I often check if they are still with me mentally, by making small changes in the way I move and rewarding them for noticing these changes and reacting to them. Often I just automatically incorporate this in our normal walking so that it becomes rather incidental. However, in the mosquito situation I did an extremely exaggerated version of it. I stopped or turned or increased my speed or did any other change every few seconds, so that there were almost no periods of just walking straight ahead anymore. I also did it very sharply to leave no room for attending to the mosquitoes: whereas usually I often use small and gradual changes in my movement, this day I did things like stopping abruptly from a fast walk, so that he had to react like a pistol.


I guess it's not just the speed that matters to me in these situations, but also the mindset, trying to use the horse's high energy and potential in a productive way, not just trying to avoid something (him not listening to me) but to create something from it that would not be possible otherwise (a more precise communication and challenging, snappy moves). This allows me to be positive and work with the horse and his energy level, not against him. And of course I reward any small thing the horse does, every tiny reaction to me. Sometimes they are not interested in treats in this situation, but I always have them available and the horse can have as much as he wants. :f:


Last edited by Romy on Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:03 pm 
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A&T wrote:
How do you react in situations your horse is too exited to listen to you? I really would like to find a solution other than getting tense. Even in cases our normal ritual doesn't work.
With Mucki, I have to resort to a very tight physical connection sometimes, when he is very upset and all my usual cues don't get through to him. This gets better and better over time, but I guess it won't ever be gone completely. There will always be situations where his instincts will overrule any kind of conditioning. And the situation you are facing is unfortuantely a very special and unnatural one...

what made such situations better with me and Mucki is that I have a very strong cue for shoulder-in, which keeps his head towards me and thus his forward momentum in check. It also makes him focus at me and gives me opportunities to reward, even when emotions are high.
The same applies to any other body language cue. The stronger it is, the more automatically the horse will react, even in difficult situations. A reward afterwards might make the horse switch from escape mode to interaction again.

In situations like you described, I try my best to keep slack in the leadrope, even when I grab it very close to the horse himself. I also keep a strong tension throughout my body, but try to make it a positive one. I try to envision myself in a yoga position, because that resembles for me the perfect mix of tension and relaxation, and give me more grounded feet.
Those things help me especially in situations of fearful excitement.
Situations like yours are sometimes harder, I think, because the motivation to leave the human is so strong.

_________________
Volker

The horse owes us nothing.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:32 am 
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
We use old paintbrushes and child safe poster paint. And we usually use a flat board propped up on a bin and tape the paper to it with masking tape to get a sort of makeshift easel.


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