The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:48 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
I am posting on this thread to bring it back onto the active topics page.
This is because my 4 year old pony Danny is at the beginning of his ridden career. He has allowed me to sit on him and be his "passive passenger" while he is grazing.
In order to actually go anywhere, since I have no wish to dominate or kick him, I have to ask my husband or a friend to walk in front of us. The verbal que from the ground does not yet translate to my being on his back. I have now forgotton who said they had the same experience on either page 1 or page 2 of this thread, may have been Evita.

I have loved to ride and to trail ride, or "hack" and explore the surrounding areas. I have very little dressage competence and simply aim to remain in balance and not interfere with my horse carrying himself and me.
My old instructor told me to imagine I was a little plastic cowboy on a little plastic horse and then by magic the little horse disappears. Regardless of pace or even if jumping, would I/the little cowboy still remain centred over my own gravity without my horse? Might I fall on my nose or my back? I liked the analogy of not sitting on a horse but standing, which enables one to go from knees bent to arms stretched through a take off and landing jump sequence without a horse under me. It enabled the cowboy to not fall over when the horse had gone to stay in the mountains with his herd.

At this stage Danny has no idea if he will enjoy going out and experiencing the wider world. In order to offer him the opportunity it is necessary for him to carry me safely along the road or his world will be mostly contained in only 8.5 acres, which would be unnatural.
I do not wish to force him. Asking what Dan might like to do, the answer is hang out and groom or eat, or actually both at the same time is his favourite.

Previously I would have done much more walking and leading, but my own arthritis flares sometimes, and I have to ensure I stay supple and capable of meeting the horses basic care needs, so if I can be carried by my pony, we can can go further together.
However, we have no arena and whilst sitting in a field, my pony is getting rounder and wider and prefers to graze with me on him rather than waste energy, - he has to store energy for emergency running away from predators, if the occaision should ever arise.
Danny has assured me there are no horse eating monsters and absolutely no need to run, unless I am near his stable with his dinner bucket.
Once in the winter, we managed to run at Ben and drive him from one of the many hay piles, I think Dan forgot I was with him. It was only 20 feet but fun. Walking, any forward thinking beyond eating would be a start.
Putting on his halter or bitless does help me give him a clue, but would bring things back to what "i want", since he carries on and does his own thing and allows me to be there with him.
I try to raise my energy, walk my legs, turn my hips, but Dan prefers me to do this to wipe a landing fly from his coat.

My old horse Roger would reach a hilltop, and he would stand, gaze and tell me to take in the view, to breath, live and not to rush. Roger loved views after coming out of a woodland ride, he was especially good when he felt I was in a hurry, simply fitting in his ridden work for exercise and had my head full of other things I must get done.
Horses are wonderful levellers at teaching the "now" of life, they have a way of saying, "just relax and enjoy this precious moment we share".

I will re-read from page 1.
Any suggestions on how to plant the idea that exercise if more fun than eating, (sugarpuffs and cheerios get rationed as feed rewards, where grass and clover are freely available,) and Danny needs to lose a few hundred kilos.
Susie xx

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 12:51 am 
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Sounds like he's a great candidate for positive reinforcement (clicker training). You'd have to work out how to reward from on top of him, but if his neck is supple enough, and you've prepared with ground work (treat to walk) it certainly is feasible.

There are great articles by AND members on how to do CT that might well be worth reading if you have not already.

If one can CT a horse into kneeling or laying down or goat on the mountain, or other maneuvers, certainly walking and trotting to CT is quite attainable.

Donald

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So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 1:53 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Thanks Donald, (still trying to read through all threads on the beautiful Althea and Bonnie and so very many threads in Daily Training),

I manage to get Dans attention for a turn by pressing a free flat palm against his neck whilst offering a sugarpuff in the opposite palm near my boot, helps with flexation rather than any actual, energetic forward movement.
I have Alexander Kurlands book, need to work on targeting. I have been establishing halt because I believe the first trick is the default position, if all else fails and the pony is confused, offer the original for a treat. (would never want rear as a default try).
The road out of the field gate has no verge but cars travelling in both directions on hills and around bends at 50mph and more, the road is 14 feet to 16 feet wide from hedge to hedge and busy with large lorries, coaches, tractors with big implements being towed which sometimes have cars crashing into them, so halt and reward, no need to worry and wear as much hi viz covering as possible and pray that when vehicles are coming from opposite directions at the same time, they are going slowly enough to pass us and each other, otherwise we are a softer target for a driver than an oncoming car.
Whilst he does get tongue clicks for walk on and strokes and "well done, good boy", the reward is always given when we halt. So I need to have my friend over to ride whilst I treat in motion?

I think if I could lead him far enough from the feedshed, and then enlist someone to help, (most times it is just me with my boys,) then we could have his dinner bucket shaken and manage moving without following someone. We might even enjoy his 30 canter paces to the bottom of the hill, followed by his walk up the bank which saves him being too out of breath to tuck into his dinner.
I need to rethink the carrot on a fishing rod.

I had no forward problems with my Thoroughred mare when I began riding her, and she had no other horses to accompany. Where many who came later had my mare to walk behind, or infront and nanny them until they became the next to accompany a ridden young horse.


Dinner is quite small and contains the extra salt and minerals the land does not provide, Danny looks like a chap who drinks 20 pints of beer every night.
I wonder if he escapes the field and trots off to the pub after I have gone home? xx

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:50 am 
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Very interesting horse you have there. A pub crawler at night you say? :funny:

The problem you feel you need a partner to help with to do the reward is a non problem.

The point of the click is to identify the behavior you wish to have repeated. That the horse stops for the treat is entirely incidental. I had much confusion with the too when I began clicker training - operant conditioning.

What you are seeking is a gradual increase of duration with a decrease in interval. Walk further, stop less often.

Sometimes when difficulty comes with teaching a particular behavior the clicker mavens here break the behavior down, chunking it, into the tiniest bits of approximations. In other words, the horse may at first merely lift his foot a fraction in response to a fly, and CLICK!, Reward.

Takes some concentration and focus to spot that moment that works as timing is the key.

The interval between the behavior click (the bridge signal some call it) and the reward need not be instantaneous. I trust if you held your hand out while the horse was moving he'd stop for the tasty treat.

You don't need to "halt," him, but simply let him halt on his own - it's not the behavior you are after, but the forward movement. He might be confused a time or two but I'll bet he'll get it quickly.

Your riding environment would scare me spitless. I'm very good at calming horses, even get paid for what we call "bomb-proofing," but that doesn't do a single thing to train drivers to be careful going by me on horseback.

Had a nasty fall as a kid crossing a paved over bridge when a car went by and the mare I was riding simply stepped aside a bit quickly. Horse fell on me. Same side that some years later I took a pretty hard kick on. 60 years later and I have a trick hip on that side that tells me, painfully, all kinds of things.

Fortunately where I live folks are pretty neighborly and go out of their way, usually, to pass slowly. Of course it helps that we have a beautiful filly trotting alongside her mother. All the ladies passing want to stop and coo over her. Which I encourage. 8)

Alexandra Kurland's book is the one I prefer but there are others I think probably are as good. I just happen to like her style and clarity, especially in chunking down the training when stuck, and going back to the prior step when the horse is stuck in the current attempt.

I believe it was Karen here at AND that did a few posts here on operant conditioning where she isolated a muscle or a small group on the horse's barrel, probably the lifting stomach muscles (but I'm not sure) and posted a link to a vid. Quite interesting, and quite informative.

It's served me well in working with your brand new girl, Bonnie, in getting ground handling to progress.

She thinks it's all a fun game now. I expect her to be putting her hoof in my hand on her own soon.

We certainly are headed in that direction. She chases her head collar at this point, and before she was totally suspicious and ran from it. Can hardly keep her nose out of it. Same technique, OC.

She also runs over to have her bum skritched. Her very favorite thing, along with insisting that when we groom her mother we groom them as a pair. She'll stick her head under your arm stroking the brush on her mother. Pushy little thing.

As you might guess I'm quite the fan of OC.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:29 am 
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Hi Susie,
Oh the eternal question.. how to get the energy efficient horse to WANT to exercise.. Hehehe!

I use a combination of pressure and reward with some of mine.. I find that reward alone is not enough to motivate some of the more "pie and a pint" kind..while for the more energetic often just the offer of a game is enough. So.. I reckon.. it depends.

You don't have to have a helper to clicker train for forward movement. You can do it really easily alone, and you don't need to feed the treat in motion for the horse to understand that it's the MOTION that you're rewarding for.. That's where the sophistication of the "marker" signal comes in.

Whether you use a click, a whistle, or a word (we use "yes") as the marker, the point is, the horse must first be able to understand that the marker = treat , therefore means correct, good, well done, right! The marker always comes before the reward, and it marks the EXACT moment that the horse performs the behavior that you want.

So, if I wanted to teach a horse to move off in a straight line forward to my cue, first I would "charge" the marker signal.. that is, I would teach the horse it's value, it's meaning.
I would choose a simple exercise, like touching my two fingers, and at the exact moment my horse touched, I would MARK, and then, at my leisuire, get out the treat and give it. I wouldn't try to be too hasty to get the treat into their mouth, because I want them to focus on my Marker, not watch for my hand going to my treat pouch as the marker.. because that's too late. After a few trials, the horse should be getting the idea that when they hear this word, the reward is coming soon, and if they want to hear the word, they can perform a certain behavior. Cool! Operant conditioning.

Okay.. once the horse understands the MARKER, you can move onto using it for ANYTHING that you want to let the horse know that you like. These can be things that the horse does naturally, spontaneously, things that you lure him to perform, things that you demonstrate and encourage him to copy, or things that you apply pressure for to get a response. The very instant that the horse is DOING the thing that you wanted him to do, you MARK, then go over and reward at your leisure. Don't wait til he's STOPPED doing it to mark, this is the key point.... or he will interpret that as "Oh, my person says I'm good when I STOP doing this thing, stand still, etc etc. " (which MAY be what you want sometimes! :D ) So.. you can Mark different things at different times.

So, for example, when I"m teaching my young horses to walk forward on cue, I give the cue (whatever is most likely to be the most effective at first, usually walking with them) and the moment my horse leans forward and goes to lift his foot to step, I MARK! The horse stops, and I give the treat.. but he knows it was the intention to move forward that I marked.

I'll do this a few more times, then I'll raise my expectation and tell myself that I'm going to tell him he's correct when he takes a whole step forwards.. then two.. then make it easier again, then harder.. then ask him to walk ten steps, then go back to rewarding immediately for a snappy response..

So what I"m doing is constantly changing the criteria, and going back and brushing up on old criteria. So sometimes the criteria might be walk ten steps .. and then I would reward the moment he's doing the right thing, that is, beginning to take the tenth step.. and I wouldn't worry too much about whether he makes a nice snappy departure.. and sometimes the criteria would be snappy departure, and then I wouldn't worry how many steps he takes, but I would reward the moment he steps off.. and over a few trials he will get snappier. When he can perform both criteria, I can combine them.. I want him to make a snappy departure and take three steps for example.. so I would prime him up by rewarding snappy departures.. and then perhaps on the third trial, instead of marking, I'd say good good good while he took two more steps THEN MARK and give him a big Jackpot.

I'd vary what I ask to make it more and less.. so he's never going to know how many steps he has to take before I give him the reward.. and sometimes I make it really easy to keep his interest up, particularly if I'm making something more difficult, or teaching him something new. Pretty soon I'm going to be able to ask him to walk a whole circuit of the arena before I give him a big whopping jackpot. And I'm going to be able to start on trot.. once again, going back to marking for the MOMENT that he just THINKS about accepting my invitation to trot. It's EASY!! :D

Once I've got good forward movement on the ground from various positions ( I like to be able to walk from horses barrel, back where I'd be if I was riding them,) I introduce a bum tap with a light twig cue. I don't start with this one, because I prefer to teach the horse by having them mirror me at first, not through pressure (although as said, I will use pressure if I feel a horse is being held back by being so fat and lazy that they're not motivated to even try...get their fitness and motivation up a bit and then they begin to feel a bit better and be motivated by the reward.

(Oh, and I do all this loose, so if for any reason a horse objects to having their bum tapped, they can just walk off, and there's no punishment. But there's also no reward, so they usually come back pretty quick for another try! )

So I give a slight bum tap, followed immediately by my normal voice and body language cue... then mark immediately the horse responds. Gradually I reduce other cues and get horse moving forward from tap.. and vary the criteria again so I get snappy responses and longer periods of walking.

I also throw in some alternative criteria.. no longer mark for walking... just say good... good ... good.. then give the cue for stop and MARK! So now I"m reinforcing the stopping part.. then swap back to marking the walk again..

This way, all the different components that you're going to want to put together get worked on and polished up.

Then.. when I'm ready to ride.. I mount up with bag of treats.. and use the voice cue "WALK" and the little bum tap and MARK immediately my horse responds with any thought of forward movement. Gradually working up to a few minutes of walking before marking.. and then asking for stop before marking.. then a stop and another "walk" before marking.. mix it up and shake it around. PERFECT! REcipe for happy willing forward horse, however fat and lazy they were!

When the voice and bum tap cue is working well, I introduce the leg cue.. So first give the leg cue, then immediatly follow with voice and tap..allow more time between leg cue and voice and tap.. till horse begins to move off from leg cue.. and MARK and JACKPOT reward when he first gets it without the tap.

So.. that's how I do it without a helper. If I have a helper, I walk beside the horse and get my helper to ride and give the cues just slightly before I do, so horse can gradually transfer over.

We start all our horses riding outside.. on a road.. with cars and bikes and motorcycles and a train line! If the relationship is good, and the horse is tuned into the treat bag it's really easy!

We have a little trick we call "LOOK!".. that means, whenever horse stands and LOOKS at somethings.. as they do when they see something potentially scary.. we say "LOOK" and then MARK and reward! This has many beneficial effects.. First, simply eating calms horse down. Second, they become focused on us even when they're nervous, and look to us for our response. Third, they become conditioned to offer to standstill and expect a treat whenever they see something potentially upsetting, so they don't startle first. Fourth, we can spot potential scary things before horse does and direct them to "Look".

Longer term the effect is that they no longer get scared of things, and instead feel like it's a game when they find something "scary". We encourage this with "touch the scary" game. All these things are fun if you're not in a hurry to get anywhere. And makes starting a green horse outside so much safer and saner. AND it gives the less than energetic horse more things to get motivated about.. so riding becomes something to look forward to, rather than a chore.

We also play "PICNIC" to motivate them for rides outside. Ride them out till they reach the end of their comfort/willingness zone. Stop and give them a picnic (either whatever can be found in the environs, or a packed treat of chopped carrot etc". Go home. Next time, push them just a bit past their comfort zone for the picnic.. and gradually extend it. We never take the horses out for a ride without letting them either graze or picnic at the furtherest point from home, and we've found that it's made a huge difference in their motivation. They just think we're totally crap leaders if we go out for a walk and neglect the whole point of it! :green:

We're just starting our four year old Harlequin. The day before yesterday, my daughter rode him out PAST where the other horses had gone to their grazing field, out to the road, and down the road half a km.. He was MOST upset! HEY!!! The other horses have gone to graze! I don't want to go out here! I'm going to buck if you tell me I have to! We decided today was the day to meet this argument.. up til now we've just avoided all confrontation.. but now the trust is good and he's understanding her cues and feeling fine. so...Ells insisted just a bit, ignored the little shenanigans.... got two hundred meters further, turned into to a side road, and threw out handfuls of cut up carrot pieces on the ground. WOW! Harlequin couldn't believe his eyes! :D

Yesterday evening, in the dark, we took all the horses back over to the grazing field. Harlequin was at the back, Ella riding in just a halter. At the turnoff to the field, seven horses turned and went down the hill to the gate.. one horse walked straight on, alone down the path, heading out towards the road! :funny: :funny: It took quite a bit of persuasion for Ella to convince him that they weren't going to go carrot hunting again at that time. :funny:(And of course, he got his carrot in the paddock instead.) I'm sure he won't argue next time she suggest a ride out on the road.

The fitter they get, the more pleasure they take in the actual exercise itself. So for us, it's always a delicate balancing act between putting on just a bit of pressure to increase fitness, and rewarding and making it fun and their choice. And if we do it well, even the fatties begin to enjoy their outings.

Good luck with Danny!
cheers, Sue

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 8:18 am 

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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Sue,
That was such a great post and just what I needed. i have one of the lazy ones.....and have just realised that I am going to need a little pressure and am starting to feel okay about that. Of course this time around it will be followed by click and treat, so hopefully will not feel too pressured to Morgan.
I am so pathetic that I back off from any difference of opinion for fear of losing what we have but I think the time now has come that the balance needs to be addressed. It was sooo helpful for me to read your post.
Thank you.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:26 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Thank you Donald for taking the time to clarify for me.
Quote:
You don't need to "halt," him, but simply let him halt on his own - it's not the behavior you are after, but the forward movement. He might be confused a time or two but I'll bet he'll get it quickly.

Actually, Danny is probably not the one who got confused here, hands up, it was me again that muddled the concept.
I think it is back to the beginning and work on establishing targetting and placing a marker as Sue says.
windhorsesue, thanks for that, it followed on so well from Donald's lovely post and gives me plenty to be going on with.
Quote:
The fitter they get, the more pleasure they take in the actual exercise itself. So for us, it's always a delicate balancing act between putting on just a bit of pressure to increase fitness, and rewarding and making it fun and their choice. And if we do it well, even the fatties begin to enjoy their outings.
This is what I am currently aiming for.

I suppose young children who are reluctant to go to school still have to go in order for them to develop skills to enable full participation later. To gain access to the wonders of the written word we have to learn to read, some children require more encouragement than others.

Morgan I am at the stage you have reached. I am so happy with our bonding that I have become reluctant to bring my own ideas and have simply allowed him to carry on with whatever he has chosen.

If I walk along side, Dan walks with me, actually Arthur usually comes too and if Ben thinks they are having treats for walking forwards and backwards he wants to join in, I end up with 3 noses looking for the treat and only two of them earning it.

Arthur will also try to join in if I am sat on Dan while we are just grazing at liberty.Young Shire Horses have large heads and since Arthur is larger than Dan it is likely I shall be pushed off my pony. I usually end up giggling too much to be sensible and have my bottom on Dan with one boot over Arthur's neck or shoulder so he feels included. The Health and Safety Police would have a field day watching us relaxing together.

It may be easier for Dan to seperate actually walking with me on board if I put some tack on him to begin with, as asking for walk whilst he is standing on his dinner plate with no means of lifting his head other than offering yet another food reward, which he accepts readily and then when he is sure there is no more to lick of course he returns to grazing. Defining work/play and turnout time might be progressive.

I watched Adam Shereston when he gave up his time for free to raise funds for a local horse sanctuary. He demonstrated on a horse saddled for the first time, he did not sit on the horse, continued to teach from the ground, but built in a walk forward by holding the stirrup away. He was explaining it is not necessary to use any pressure with leg or whip or spur to build cues for the horse as long as one remains consistant. I liked this a lot, it was different to anything I had thus far considered.
Beyond tapping my boots with my hands, Dan has had no pressure at all. I don't think he is lazy, just likes to conserve energy. It is my training that has been sloppy and lazy. He does walk forward on tarmac with tack on but he would like to grab a little snack from the hedgerow.

At this stage on our busy road that we must use to get to smaller lanes and off road riding, it helps us both to have someone accompany us and just ensure we remain safe. He has been rewarded for standing and allowing the big vehicles to pass.
He also gets a treat for halting if we happen to see another horse, because he is inclined to want to quickly go and socialise. Since I have told him not to worry about the traffic, crossing in front of it to meet a new friend will probably be fine in his book. So waiting and staying with me, ignoring all new friends, especially the flirty fillies, earns big treat reward.
(Dan is Daddy to 5 and was asleep whilst gelded last year, no-one told him the operation ever happened, and the lady horses still tell him how handsome he is, inspite of his expanding waistline.)

Thank you for this thread, I shall reread several times. Susie xx

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:21 pm 
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PiePony wrote:
Thank you Donald for taking the time to clarify for me.
[...]

Thank you for this thread, I shall reread several times. Susie xx


Susie, let me suggest you, with Windhorse Sue's permission, print out her post on this subject. Not that other's haven't contributed, but that this is the best, clearest, and richest piece I've ever seen done on the essential elements of clicker training -- positive operant conditioning -- I think I've ever seen, and I've read them all.

Reread WHS's post, and whenever you feel stuck, read it again.

There's an old saying about raising children that WHS's piece reminds me of; "catch'em being good."

If there is an art to positive operant conditioning, one that can be cultivated and refined by the practitioner, it would be this: catch those moments when the horse is doing something you wish them to do on cue, and click and treat. I'm referring, of course, with your low energy kind of horse, to WHS's "LOOK!" conditioning.

Wonderful stuff.

Best wishes, Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:36 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Donald said
Quote:
If there is an art to positive operant conditioning, one that can be cultivated and refined by the practitioner

Totally agree, it is practitioner or operator trouble on my part that is holding us back, if we manage targets I doubt I shall manage refinement, Dan would learn fast with a practiced human.


I really like all of the pages on this thread. If it is okay to do so, then printing WHSue's last post as a succint instruction would be a sensible option for me.

I am familiar with the term, operant conditioning, in my late teens and twenties I studied Maslow, McGregor, Hertzberg and various Pavlovian types in relation to humans and the productive work environment. Nowhere near as interesting as inter species communication.
One of the first books I ordered having read a brief review at publication in 1975 was Henry Blake's "Talking With Horses". I loved it, but of course ethologists have moved mountains since then.

My little Danny PiePony can be a sceptic, he had not been touched by a human, but had never been harmed by a human, before I eventually laid a hand on him 5 weeks after his arrival. Dan is happy to put his head under my large golf umbrella for a kiss and treat, I am allowed to hold the umbrella over his back, but he would prefer it did not touch him or sit on him. He gives me a look that says I am just taking liberties.

Arthur is less bothered and things touch him because I cannot always manage to hold things high enough not to.

If a tractor comes in the field to harrow and roll, we try to run after it, with the theory that if it keeps running ahead of us it probably won't eat us.

This is how scared of crunchy sounding plastic tarpaulin my sceptical pony is.....
Image

if I am dragging tarps out to dry or to cover something with, somehow I end up with pony help.
No bribery, no treats, just fuss for being in the way again and distracting me from ever accomplishing more than stroking and kissing my horses.

Just out of interest...
Are any of the A.N.D. members familiar with or subscribed to Equine Behaviour Forum? http://www.gla.ac.uk/external/EBF/
This site charge £16 a year and appear to be set up primarily for professional behaviourists and ethologists, but also open to amateurs with an interest in horses.
I think I may have to join and gain access to reading the site, without free access I have no idea whether the views expressed would offer insight or if I would feel empathy with various preferred methods of training. I am sure there are publishing researchers there. They do ask for written contributions, and members of A.N.D. would have so much to offer from their own experience.

Do members of A.N.D. receive the articles from TheHorse.Com? These come from all areas and all points of view but some do show enlightenment within research.
http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6494
http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?id=13642

This research from 2008 on a horses ability to understand a human gesture seems unremarkable. Dogs have forward vision like humans, horses have a blind spot when something is immediately close in front of them, but I suppose Universities like to test their theories and write dissertations.
http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?id=11344

I would be interested to read what conclusions International Society for Equine Science came up with at this years conference. I wonder if positive operant conditioning was mentioned during their program?
http://www.equitationscience.com/Sydney ... racts.html


Love from Susie xx

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:46 am 
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PiePony wrote:
Donald said
Quote:
If there is an art to positive operant conditioning, one that can be cultivated and refined by the practitioner

Totally agree, it is practitioner or operator trouble on my part that is holding us back, if we manage targets I doubt I shall manage refinement, Dan would learn fast with a practiced human.



I've read through this reply to my post, and your responses to others input as well. It occurs to me, as you describe your activity with your ponies that you are well down the AND road.

As you look at some of the training diaries you'll find everything from careful and artful use of operant conditioning with great attention to detail, and you will find sloppy kind of joyful, silly, sometimes frightening, inattention to detail, sometimes not very careful, but just as the careful folks, the not so careful are also artful in their own way.

Personally I vacillate from one state to the other, and suspect that many AND folks do as well. A great deal of experimenting goes on, and is any university setting (what I think of this as, a series of lecture halls with all kinds of laboratories scattered about as well) while one is learning basics, sudden wonderful "ah HA!" moments come along, and usually with at least the seeds of a new discovery, a new way of seeing happening.

Your description of your play with your horses sounds suspiciously to me like experimentation on your part. Are you going to confess or not? :funny: :funny: :funny:

PiePony wrote:


I really like all of the pages on this thread. If it is okay to do so, then printing WHSue's last post as a succint instruction would be a sensible option for me.

I am familiar with the term, operant conditioning, in my late teens and twenties I studied Maslow, McGregor, Hertzberg and various Pavlovian types in relation to humans and the productive work environment. Nowhere near as interesting as inter species communication.
One of the first books I ordered having read a brief review at publication in 1975 was Henry Blake's "Talking With Horses". I loved it, but of course ethologists have moved mountains since then.

My little Danny PiePony can be a sceptic, he had not been touched by a human, but had never been harmed by a human, before I eventually laid a hand on him 5 weeks after his arrival. Dan is happy to put his head under my large golf umbrella for a kiss and treat, I am allowed to hold the umbrella over his back, but he would prefer it did not touch him or sit on him. He gives me a look that says I am just taking liberties.


I'm fortunate that Kate and I are the only ones that have handled our Bonalaria (Bonnie) from birth. And Kate is careful to both follow instructions if I choose to give them, or to play freely with her own inspiration with Bonnie if I do not instruct. Mostly I don't instruct, just watch. As Bonnie teaches Kate (and incidentally myself as well) about what she needs in her life.

And she is very much as you describe you PiePony. She can be very cranky and reactive when she doesn't care for something, but a sweetheart when she does. She's taken to kissing me, or presenting her nose for a kiss, when she starts to feel confident about something but wants a bit more reassurance.

PiePony wrote:

Arthur is less bothered and things touch him because I cannot always manage to hold things high enough not to.

If a tractor comes in the field to harrow and roll, we try to run after it, with the theory that if it keeps running ahead of us it probably won't eat us.


Yes, same with Bonnie. The prey behavior.
PiePony wrote:

This is how scared of crunchy sounding plastic tarpaulin my sceptical pony is.....
Image



Ah, cute. If I was female I'd even say, "Darling." :D
PiePony wrote:


if I am dragging tarps out to dry or to cover something with, somehow I end up with pony help.
No bribery, no treats, just fuss for being in the way again and distracting me from ever accomplishing more than stroking and kissing my horses.


I will never go back to the cold efficient "training," of horses every again, nor will I teach it as I formerly did. My students are bemused by my relationship with their horses as I always greet the horse at the same time as I do the owner, though I use horse talk (nose to nose breath exchange) with my thoughts properly ordered to the elements of a good relationship. This means that I frequently think, "I shall not kill and eat you, as I am here to play, not be a predator. I hope you will play with me." Or similar thoughts.

I even think about the activities I have planned for the rider to do and visualize them as the horse and I breath together, nose to nose. I'm becoming more and more convinced they read breath like we would read an instruction brochure. They find out what you are about. If you withhold this information, or they do catch your breath and you have hard mean demanding thoughts they will know it, or be confused because they have no "breath borne" information.

I'd be branded, in some orthodox horse circles, as an OOOooooOOOOooo type, but I'm too old to care about that anymore.

PiePony wrote:

Just out of interest...
Are any of the A.N.D. members familiar with or subscribed to Equine Behaviour Forum? http://www.gla.ac.uk/external/EBF/
This site charge £16 a year and appear to be set up primarily for professional behaviourists and ethologists, but also open to amateurs with an interest in horses.
I think I may have to join and gain access to reading the site, without free access I have no idea whether the views expressed would offer insight or if I would feel empathy with various preferred methods of training. I am sure there are publishing researchers there. They do ask for written contributions, and members of A.N.D. would have so much to offer from their own experience.

Do members of A.N.D. receive the articles from TheHorse.Com? These come from all areas and all points of view but some do show enlightenment within research.
http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6494
http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?id=13642


I get them. Commented recently on the one about horses reacting, apparently, to the change in heart rate of their rider. I think it was a terribly constrained study. They did not refer, as far as I could tell from the article (didn't read the abstract or the study itself), to the other senses. Frankly I think it quite possible the horse can feel the riders heartbeat, or even hear another animal's beating heart that is close enough.

Of course similar things have been discussed for hundreds of years, but without much precision. At least the researchers move toward more precise details about how such things might be happening.
PiePony wrote:


This research from 2008 on a horses ability to understand a human gesture seems unremarkable. Dogs have forward vision like humans, horses have a blind spot when something is immediately close in front of them, but I suppose Universities like to test their theories and write dissertations.
http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?id=11344


The thing I like most about them is that they codify what we knew, and on some rare occasions blow our beliefs right out of the water and make us look in our own new directions. Horse vision research did that to me. We had certain knowledge in the 60's that is now outdated and changed by more current research.
PiePony wrote:

I would be interested to read what conclusions International Society for Equine Science came up with at this years conference. I wonder if positive operant conditioning was mentioned during their program?
http://www.equitationscience.com/Sydney ... racts.html


Love from Susie xx


There are, from time to time, in various publications, comments on POC, but we here are where the rubber hits the road. Even individually many of us do far more wide ranging experimentation. I doubt there are grants large enough available that would cover all that we have done and are doing. And I rather like that.

This kind of forum tends to allow for the transfer of knowledge more easily. Not to say the academic milieu isn't exciting in its own right for those with that particular approach. Though I suspect they, at times, envy our freedom, or what looks it to them.

Loved the tarp picture. I've a few tarp pics on my photobucket account in the Dakota folder where I'm working with bomb proofing a spooky older Morgan gelding, who incidentally also had some sense of humor. And of course there had to be some umbrella work.

Donald

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~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:17 am 
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Quote:
and have just realised that I am going to need a little pressure and am starting to feel okay about that. Of course this time around it will be followed by click and treat, so hopefully will not feel too pressured to Morgan.
I am so pathetic that I back off from any difference of opinion for fear of losing what we have but I think the time now has come that the balance needs to be addressed.


Hi Annette, glad this was useful! I don't think it's pathetic! I think it's an essential part of re-educating ourselves if we haven't started out this way.. and it can take a Looooooong time for some horses to be willing to accept a little pressure in exchange for the reward... Only we can judge when the time is right. Really simple foolproof test: always start off with any pressure cues being given when the horse is at liberty to go away, physically and mentally. If horse leaves, no harm done. They learn a lot from that too. And we can ask again another time and see if the answer will be yes then. That may be in five seconds, or five days or five months. But in my experience, when they take that step of agreeing to accept our idea over theirs in exchange for a reward, then there's a huge shift in the relationship and the training. (And of course.. we can still spend lots of times asking them to call the shots too to keep the balance fair! :D )

Donald, :blush: :blush: :blush: You know how I like it when you flatter me! :funny: :funny: :funny: Absolutely, "Catch them when they're good!" (I used to run a parenting course with this title, taken from the book. Exactly the same principle.)

Of course you're welcome to print anything out that's useful Susie. :) This forum is FREE sharing of ideas. Nobody owns them! community property.

Now.. I know that what I wrote might have sounded very organised, possibly even professional :funny: ... But you have to know, my fat pony and I spent more than a year and a half able to do almost nothing more professional than bum scratches. (not even reciprocal). She just went on strike.. and I was HOPELESS at motivating her.. got started with CT and was hopeless at that too, because I had to learn everything the hard way... :roll: piece by piece, reinvent the wheel. then read the books and say "Oh fancy, they tell you to do it just like I've finally figured out" Anyway.. point is, it took me a really long time to believe that I could do the "refinement" stuff.. but finally, one day, it all just "clicked" for me.. and suddenly it became easy to teach pretty much any of the horses pretty much anything. And I have to watch as my students struggle to learn it.. and resist the impulse to just walk up and do it.. and eventually they suddenly get it too.. some of them very quickly, some more slowly (none as a slow as me... but I console myself.. they have me for a teacher. :green: ) And this morning, my formerly fat pony was doing the most gleefully energetic spanish walk, all eye rolls and snorts and high lifts and even correct hind leg action :ieks: :ieks: :ieks: :D Hard to believe... and I have NO experience in dressage at all....but we're learning together.. and both of us are much slimmer and fitter than we used to be. :funny:

Pony Pie is GORGEOUS! How wonderful that you allowed his pride to stay intact even though his manhood was not... :D

Quote:
I suppose young children who are reluctant to go to school still have to go in order for them to develop skills to enable full participation later.


Yes, this is how I think of it too. Young children often need a little pressure to do all kinds of things that we know are good for them and will contribute to their overall happiness and quality of life.. brush their teeth, go to bed on time, etc etc..and that aren't initially intrinsically rewarding. Clever parents know how to balance that pressure with fun and choices and rewards and encouragement and praise, and then those lucky kids will feel great about doing those things. Horses too.

I often use greater reward for things that I insist the horse does.. give a handful of treats rather than just one or two. And also spend MORE time on horses choice of activities, initially, so they don't forget that they're welcome to have ideas too. :D
:)
Sue

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,

But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:32 pm 
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Sue...... :kiss:

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:32 pm 

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Ditto what Karen said,
:kiss:
and all of the AND founders and members for such a valuable and informative site. xx

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Susie xx
http://www.flickr.com/photos/piepony/


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:37 pm 
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Oooooh, boyo, this is wonderful!

Susie, thanks so much for pulling this thread back up to the surface. (And welcome to the forum, BTW -- I'm so hideously behind on intros!)

Ms. Sue of the Windhorses...

DAYUM! This is exactly what I needed right now, as well, with Miss Circelina.

Am now copying and pasting your brilliance into my diary so I can find it again easily...

And Dan the Man Pie Pony is cute as the dickens all bedecked in his tarp toga -- he and Circe could play dress up together!

:funny:

Best,
Leigh

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:43 am 
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I´m just adding a link to an article about bone maturation by Deb Bennett, which Susie has posted in Moyna´s introduction. Maybe it can be helpful for people who wonder about which age is best to start their young horses:

http://www.equinestudies.org/ranger_200 ... 8_pdf1.pdf

Enjoy! :)


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