The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 8:38 am 
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Normally (well, what ís normal anyway) people make horses get used to weight by lunging them when a rider gets on. I when starting Evita I found out different things can be recommended with ground exercised horses. First I sat a few times on Evita without asking anything and when I asked her to move she won't because she was so used with me on the ground she refused to move without me there. So the first times Ben just walked through the paddock and Evita followed happily (he was not holding her on a rope or anything). This way we all were really comfortable and Evita had to just focus on balance and nothing else. Ben started to stand in the middle more and more and the distance become more and more. But when Evita feels uncomfortable when riding, when she learns something new for example, she immediately walks up to my trainer for moral support :D


Last edited by Bianca on Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 5:24 pm 
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Thanks for the advice :) I will start riding in autumn. When I used to give riding lessons, horses often walked to me for "support", or to ask me if they really have to continue ;) even horses which I didn't know very well. Definetely I will have someone on the ground when I start riding :) also to take pictures :lol:


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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 1:10 pm 
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and to think that on the lunge they already loose balance easily and then the add a person to top...

not a good idea. Straight lines I would prefere as well.
and very very tiny steps.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 1:18 pm 
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Indeed! I sometimes careful drape towels on Imperia now... you see the reaction.. she is not afraid of towels at all but you see something on their backs is really unnatural and scary.
I would also advise to put a blanket on before a saddle. Evita had a winterblanket on all winter and was used to things moving and flairing around her body. This was very helpful. A winterblanket is not even neccesary, a rain, fly or sweat blanket will do fine :)

The first times I sat on Evita I gave her a big pile of hay.. also soft to land in ;)


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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 1:21 pm 
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You know, the first time I put the rug on Ino, he acted like he had that on a hundred times before.
But then, I believe he just did not react to anything, still being somewhat... weary from the accident.
No he reacts to every single little thing like being groomed for instance.
So the pile of hay is always a big help :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:52 pm 
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With Tamarack, I put many different things on his back. I am still some months away from getting on him (I think). He will turn three in July, but I think it will be longer before I "ride" him. I may sit on him now and again, or lay over his back only, but actual riding will be farther off.

As part of Tamarack's "courage" training, we play with many things. All of these things will end up on his back after he has shown he is very calm about them. Sometimes that calmness is immediate.

We have an old feed bag full of empty soda cans. This makes a lot of noise and is very lumpy-feeling. It has been on his back, rubbed all over him, dropped to his off-side, left sitting on his back or his rump as I move him forward, rubbed on his legs and stuffed between his front legs or his back legs. Every inch of him, except his face, knows what that bag of cans feels and sounds like.

I have also done this with an inner tube from a tire. Also a small ball and the large inflatable ball. We also have an old child's saddle to play with.

I will also use a large tarp. Anything I can think of!

While we practice having him side up to the mounting block or the platform, I will rub him all over his neck, back and rump. I have sat on his back whil ehe was lying down. I will use anything I can think of to get him used to the idea of me being on his back before I actually sit astride his back and ask him to ever move forward while I'm up there.

By the time I decide to ride him, I hope to do it with nothing on him at all, although by that time he will be used to the bitless bridle and the saddle as well. In my mind, riding him the first time should be a calm event. I will not do it before he is fully ready, both mentally and physically.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:57 pm 
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To my opinion a horse should be 4 before really riding, do you think that also? Horses are still so much filly at 3 and the bones are not "closed" enough yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:19 pm 
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I won't be riding Tamarack the moment he turns three, honest! That will be too soon. But for me, it will depend on many things including his over-all physical condition. He is in no way conditioned to carry me at this point. He may though, be three and a half , or three a three-quarters...and not yet four. Also, I am and hopefully alway will, be one that rides only when a horse is collected...so I cannot ride him until he can collect himself with a rider on his back, and when I do, it will be for very short moments at the beginning. I wish for most movments to be in place and Tamarack perfectly able and happy to perform them without me on his back before he is ever asked to learn them again with added weight on his back.

Also, the friend I train with all the time has a very small daughter (meaning she is short and slightly built, but she is 18 yrs. old) that will probably be sitting on Tamarack initially as I work him through exercises in hand (no reins - she will just sit him)...but even that won't be for some time yet.

But where I can safely say that I think a horse should not be ridden at two years old, and I think a horse should first be well prepared to carry a rider, physically, I cannot say that I think there is a perfect age for that to happen. A lady at our stable has a slightly built horse that is three. She is riding her. I definitely think that horse should not yet be ridden.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:43 pm 
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Karen, I totally trust you to do he right thing! I was only adding it for clarification for readers who don't know the proper age.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:59 pm 
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It depends on the breed as well.

The andalusian and kinsky for instance are no sooner a physical adult than 5 or 6 even.
But being as careful as we tend to be here we won't do much damage anyway when you compare to 'normal' riding.

With Ino... I really don't see myself riding him... he is going to be 4 in october :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:22 pm 
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I have so many things I wish to teach Tamarack before I ride him for real...so I think it will take a long time anyway. I'm in no hurry. I made enough mistakes with Cisco. I do not wish to repeat those mistakes again - ever.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:18 am 
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Sunrise is now three and a half..
I have followed a very different way of training her to be an eventual riding horse... beginning with just crawling all over her, and letting her really enjoy, actually desire, the sensations of having me on her back.. while she was lying down and sleeping. Then, when she was around two, I began letting light creatures sit on her while she hung out with me.. chickens.. cats.. my pup.. and eventually one of my students. I didn't tell him that she was "untrained". Of course, none of this was any big deal for her. She accepted it all as her due.. she loves attention and adulation.. and having people sit on her to give her this didn't feel at all of an imposition. It seemed a natural progression for her.
When she was three, I got on and off her a few times, while she was loose in the paddock, just as part of our "love" sessions. She once again accepted it as such.

I told someone at this time that I had an idea to not actually attempt to "train" or "teach" Sunrise to be ridden... but just blend in with her, not oppose her in anything, and follow her lead.
They (despite their very alternative approach to horsemanship) expressed some doubt that perhaps she might just become very willful and uncontrollable. Hmm. Well.. the time hadn't come for real riding anyway.. :lol: , so we just continued on our merry way. ONe day, I was riding Brodie and ponying Sunrise. We arrived back at our driveway, and stopped to eat bamboo. I was looking down at Sunrise's back, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I had the desire to slide over and be sitting on it. So I did. She didn't bat an ear, just carried on munching.
She had no idea what any cues meant.. so I just let her eat, and then meander up the drive, leading Brodie, as she desired. That was our first "ride".

Some months later, our second "ride" occured while I was leading her on a walk on the cycle track/road circuit.. a fortyfive minute walk round trip. I had hurt my big toe, and walking wasn't easy. She wanted to trot with me.. OW! So.. once again, with no premeditation, she stepped up to the wall along the canal, I got up, and slid on as she waited for me. Then she walked and slow trotted the kilometre to the end of the road section, where I dismounted and led her through the grass to graze and wander home.
She was so contented, and seemed to totally accept my riding as natural, and in fact sensible, given the situation. I had just a loosely draped lead rope on a halter, but didn't attempt to control her with it. I'd been doing a lot of liberty work, as well as our walks and bike rides, so she responded to my voice commands for a stop. I never felt unsafe, or at risk, in anyway whatsoever, and Sunrise felt as connected and "with" me as if she had been a fully trained horse, in full bridle and saddle... if not more so.

I've thought about this a lot.. It's the "withness" that's so important. I have no fear of Sunrise running off, cantering, galloping, changing direction beyond my control. She may canter, she may gallop, she may change direction, but none of this will present any problem to me, because she is WITH me, she has absolutely no desire to run away from me.. so any running she does, she will be doing with the desire for me to be able to stay with her, and run with her.. from her back. This has been borne out by recent events.

She is also totally sensible in potentially dangerous situations. She knows how to behave in traffic, how to handle a narrow path, what to do when there's something scary to look at.. not because I have controlled her actions, but because she has been exposed to these challenges since foalhood, in a safe progression, and has been allowed the freedom to choose and modify the most apropriate reaction. She doesn't need me to tell her to move over to let a truck go past. It's common sense, which she has developed in abundance.

AFter that "ride" I once again stayed off her for a few months..
Then, I had a few sessions in the round pen at night, when I was inspired to climb on her back, with no gear, not even a halter, and help her to "translate" some of the language of groundwork, into the language of ridden work. This involved just sitting on her, blending in with her movements to let her understand "walk" and "stop" and then "step hind leg under". Each session was only a few minutes, and didn't involve actually "riding".

So, I'd separated the two parts of "riding", kind of like my dad did when I learnt to drive a car.
First I learnt to just steer the car, while sitting on his knee.. no need to worry about all the controls (cues), just stay with is and get the feel for it. This I can like to Sunrise learning to enjoy just having me on her back, and the feelings of moving in different ways with me on her back, without having to be stressed about trying to understand what I wanted her to DO.

Then, when I was a great car-steerer, many years later, it was a simple transition for me to learn, while not actually driving the car.. just stationary with the motor running, how to operate all the controls.. the lights, the blinkers, the horn, the clutch, the brakes the gear stick.. to co-ordinate the various actions.

Finally, I put it all together.. and voila,at the age of fifteen, I was a pretty good and confident, and SAFE driver, without ever having actually "driven" a car.

(My first "real" drive, was in a little old Austin A30, with dubious brakes, and the kind of indicators that stick out from the top of the door.. My boyfriend bought it.. and I had to drive it while he rode his motorcycle..
On my own, an hours drive from one side of Auckland city to the other, up and down hills, on and off motorways, through rush hour traffic.. hillstarts from a red light with no handbrake.. Madness of course.. but possible because all the pieces were already in place.)

This is a similar learning experience to what I want to create for Sunrise. Perhaps not the Auckland city at rushhour with no handbrake part though. :lol:

Then I had an "incident" when I decided to get on her at night, when she told me that she wanted to play. I was feeling a little unco after a can of bear.. hahaha.. She did her playful little flip, jump rear leap kick..and some other horses joined in... and I was definitely not up to it. So.. kids at home.. if you are following this how to.. skip this part. She had no ill intentions.. and it was a very interesting realisation for her to understand that I couldn't cope with that kind of playing while riding her, bareback, not even a cordeo, and slightly inebriated.

In retrospect, that could have been so easily avoided by listening to her requests, and obliging her desire to play with me on the GROUND first.. then going to the sitting on her back part.

I began to experiment with turns at that time.. but she wasn't ready for that level of control. I had no gear on her, so there was no way to pressure her into anything, and I couldn't find a way to blend her desire with mine to teach the turn..
So.. I just left things there, after perhaps four five minute sessions. No more "riding" once again for, nearly six months this time.

I began NHE with her.. her fitness level dropped initially. Her tummy sagged and her back bowed...
There was no way I could even sit on her like that.

Just in the last few months, she's regained her fitness again, And, wonders!, has learned to collect a little, and step under herself nicely, rather than waddle like a toddler as she was doing before. I've seen this work magic on her back and posture.
Added together with the fitness work we've done in the last couple of months with daily walks/cycles.. she's starting to look much more like a mature horse, than an ungainly kid.
The two and half weeks at the beach completed the transitions.. as she walked, trotted, cantered and galloped free, for miles every day, and did her exuberant playing, galloping, capriole, levade etc etc.. up and down dunes of loose deep sand.
She was looking quite spectacularly different by the end of it.. with nicely defined muscles in her buttocks, muscling over her loins, a much stronger shoulders and neck, a (slightly!) tucked up tummy, and a beautiful proud strong carriage.
She was telling me, with her actions, her appearance and her emotions, that she was ready for me.

Soo
Sunrise and I decided it was timely to do some more riding..

More on this later.. suffice to say though, that Sunrise loves being ridden, and my friends fears that she might turn out to be willful and obnoxious have been completely unfounded. On the contrary, she is willing, joyful, and eager, and began the transition to following me leads with no resistance. When I meet resistance, I blend with her.. or if that's not possible, I just get off.

I should add.. the riding I did was still no more than ten minutes at a time... a number of times over the space of a few days. And now, I will stay off her again for another six months, as we concentrate again on her collection, and growing obedience on the ground.
I want her to process the experience, and remember riding as something that gave her joy and freedom, so that next time we do it, she's yearning for it.. no risk of her becoming tired, sore, frustrated, oppositional and learning to dislike riding, or simply tolerate it.

I had this little thought while we were doing this:

Horse generally DO dislike being ridden. The dislike stems not from actually having a person on their backs.. it comes initially, and mainly, from the "CONFLICT" that arises for them through being ridden.
This conflict between their needs and desires, and the humans will, is what creates the psychic disturbance. So.. even if you make a formerly hurting horse comfortable with riding, train it using positive means, attempt to listen to it, I believe that what you will continue to hear will likely be the reiteration that they don't like being ridden.. Because it dredges up for them the memories of that psychic disturbance. AND.. of course, when we are "really" riding a horse, we do feel compelled to have to impose our will over them.. for safety and practicalities sake. So the psychic disturbance is carried through to the present. I think this is where the "no riding because it inhibits the training" rule comes from in NHE.
However...when you are starting with a young horse who hasn't yet suffered this psychological dilemma between it's needs and our demands.. we are at liberty to choose our situation and method of training, so that we can almost totally avoid the negative connotations.
THEN.. I believe it's very easy for a horse to enjoy being ridden.. even... and :shock: :shock: , perhaps even especially "trail" riding.. as this comes closest to the horses natural model of normal activity.. which is most commonly unable to be fulfilled within the domestic environment. :D

Sue


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:39 am 
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I think indeed there is a big difference in starting an unridden horse or riding an already ridden horse. But trailriding is not fun for every horse. Evita for example does not like to leave her "domain" as far as I experienced upto now. She does like to exercise under saddle but mostly the things as Spanish walk etc.
I want to underline the need not only to not desturb the balance when riding a horse, but also ride a horse in a way wich would not damage a horse, collected.
I think in this NHE is right, only trailrides when you do train your horse collected on the trail.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:52 am 
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Hi Bianca, so if Evita doesn't feel safe leaving her environment, then this would certainly qualify as a potential psychological conflict for her if you persisted on insisting on it. And that would surely lead to NOT enjoying riding.. so of course you are right to listen to her, and do what she feels comfortable with.
Sunrise, (and all our young horses) have been brought up taking long walks with us, as they feel confident to do so, sometimes with other horses, and sometimes just with us. We've never pushed them beyond their emotional comfort levels, and always let them turn back when they feel they've gone far enough, even if, as at the beginning, that was only as far as the front gate and back. As they learnt that they were safe and had control, they became really confident, and eager to venture outside. So the ridden part is just an extension.

I have to beg to differ with you on the "horse must always be in extreme collection for riding" belief. I don't subscribe to it. My current belief, based on long thought and observation, is that there are different levels of collection appropriate for different physical activity. If the horse is trained sensitively, kept fit, given varying activities, has access to different terrain, allowed to set it's own head carriage, ridden well by a balanced, fit and not too heavy rider,, not overtaxed and overtired and is relaxed so that it is not going around with her head in the air, and is trained to collect with a rider when neccessary, my belief is that they will choose the correct posture.
It seems to be non-sensical to me that a horse must have the same level of collection to be able to land from an extreme capriole with an adult rider, without injury to back or any other structure,
as to be able to amble along at a gentle walk or trot with that same rider. I know that this is at odds with NHE, and probably with many here, and I do accept the possibility that there is yet more for me to learn about this..
But that's how I feel at the moment.
I really like the approach to collection and self carriage that has been taken by Dr Deb Bennett. Her old horses get more beautiful, more athletic, and carry themselves better and better as they age..
Just my two cents worth.. and I won't mention it again if it's too controversial here..

cheers,
Sue


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:06 am 
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windhorsesue wrote:

I have to beg to differ with you on the "horse must always be in extreme collection for riding" belief.



I'm not speaking about extreme collection but the horse beeing enough "like a bridge" to carry you. I call this collected. This bridge is not only different with every horse but also very different with different types of exercising, I agree with you on that. I saw a horse this weekend which had a perfectly rounded and strong back when riding, but his neck was just slightly bended, relaxed. The horse was naturally relaxing while riding because nothing more as a easy trot was asked and but at the same time surely strong enough to carry the rider.


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