The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:18 pm 
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I did read in some diaries already some ideas, how to train two or more horses together in the same area. As there are more people who are looking for good ideas, I thought to open a topic here.

Some questions that arise are:
How to prevent fights for attention?
If you clicker train, how to "Click" without confusing the horses, which one was "Clicked"?

Obviously for the second question one could use two different signals, but maybe there are other solutions in use?

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:03 pm 
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AndreaO wrote:
I did read in some diaries already some ideas, how to train two or more horses together in the same area. As there are more people who are looking for good ideas, I thought to open a topic here.

Some questions that arise are:
How to prevent fights for attention?
If you clicker train, how to "Click" without confusing the horses, which one was "Clicked"?

Obviously for the second question one could use two different signals, but maybe there are other solutions in use?


First question: If one is training two horses together, then do exactly that. Don't focus on one horse for any more than a few seconds. Also have both do the same activity, say both do front crunches, at the same time. Use both hands to reward, at the same time.

Later one can begin to have different but coordinated behaviors simultaneously.

Second question: Name the horses within the cue. Such as, "Lucy, canter," "John, back up."

If the horse NOT named in the cue tries to do the cued behavior, simply ignore for extinction.

Finally, the issue of jealously going on about treats. Horses, and dogs, for that matter show evidence they can learn that another being treated is followed by themselves being treated.

I didn't have enough time to test this out with Dakota and Altea, as I had to move Altea to a different location, but we had started and I believe I was seeing the light go on in Dakota's head (he was the pushy dominant one).

Later, when Altea has her foal, in time I'll be able to try this out and test it again.

I don't watch television (too busy looking at AND videos, and reading AND posters) so I don't know if it's still going on, but a popular act on some of the variety shows was the dog act. Often a dozen or so dogs would be on the stage at a time, each doing individual tricks, often with one doing doing and the rest watching. They knew perfectly well, it seems, that they would have their turn.

I would guess it takes time, but can be done.

Donald

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 5:07 pm 
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Stardust, Circe, and I are exploring this, and we're learning several things:

1. I have learned to take advantage of a specific layout arrangement at the barn where I'm boarding: our arena connects to a paddock with some grass. Often, I'll turn both SD and Circe out there first, and then open the gate into the arena, and will start to do my thing alone in the arena. They get to decide who will come and play with me first, and when they want to switch off -- the one who isn't playing will go back to grazing. (So, this isn't a literal training both at the same time, but finding a way for them each to be okay about having their turn -- and letting them decide when that turn happens, and for how long. But it's allowed us to gently figure out that everyone can and will have a turn with less stress than when we're all in the arena and someone has to wait with nothing else to do.) I suppose one could recreate this by putting down hay or other food in various spots in the space you're working, so the either/or is either playing and getting rewarded or having a bite to eat, rather than the either/or of playing or being ignored.)

2. When we do work all three at a time, we're using a lot of the techniques that Donald offers above. We'll tend to work on the same thing, and I bounce my focus back and forth between them pretty quickly. I'm also naming them and the cue as he suggests. We're working through how to put these pieces together, but it is coming -- they're starting to learn that they don't have to be as pushy with me or each other to get my attention. We still have a ways to go with this, :-) but it's coming.

3. I also don't try to work this way with them all of the time -- I figure, like people, it's a good learning challenge to learn to share your toys in the sandbox, but it's also very important to have moments when you are the center of attention. And, at least so far for us, working together is allowing us to do exercises or play that we're all familiar with, but isn't as easy when we're figuring out new things, as they are still focusing on each other a fair amount.

4. One of the specific exercises we started one day a little while ago after some really wild games (and some fairly big sibling rivalry!) was to learn to all walk together nicely, stop and ramener together, and then do leg lifts together as we traveled around the edge of the arena. This was the first time we actually got to the point where everyone was focused on what we were doing together completely, rather than having concern about who was going to get asked/rewarded next. We're going to do more of this, because it calmed all of us down :-) and got all three of us (myself very much included) thinking of ourselves as a unit in a new way.

Thanks for starting this topic, Andrea! I look forward to more ideas from people.

:-)
Leigh

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 6:28 pm 
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Oooo...what a beautiful description, Leigh.

Do you have video of them working together? I'd so love to see it.

Donald

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


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:13 pm 
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Yes, Donald, I do not watch TV anymore either for quite a while :D But I know what you mean with those dogs, it is like with all the circus shows basically. The animals know to wait on their pedestals for their turn.

Leigh, it sounds nice how you do work with Stardust and Circe. With Tammi and Ippa they are both all eager as soon as there is any food involved. If there is no food, Ippa will come and play, but Tammi only check now and then, what could interest Ippa that much :lol:

But now I got already some ideas what I could try :D Thank you Donald and Leigh.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:09 pm 
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Hey Donald:

No, no video at the moment :oops: -- I need to get better about this!!! We finally had big rain over the last couple of days, so my fear of dust disintegrating my camera is lessening -- now I need to get better about remembering to bring it!

:-)

Andrea -- another thing that just occurred to me is that I've also begun, some days when we spend time together, to do so not in the regular arena, but instead work with them in another turnout paddock that has a bit of grass and they can graze. I'll go in with treats (and sometimes the target stick or some other toy, but sometimes without anything) and wander around near them and let them decide if they want to engage. I'll get one's attention and we'll play for a few minutes, and then the grass is interesting, so then I'll wander to the other one and invite him/her to play. No stress at all this way -- and sometimes both of them are more interested in eating grass than playing, which is good, too!
This is an even lighter version of the arena/paddock combination play we're doing.

I've been enjoying being able to relax into what the day will bring us when we work this way -- nobody is pressured to do anything particularly focused unless they want to (including me!) :-) It's been a great way to engage gently without an agenda -- they get to call the shots about what we do -- and I'm learning a lot about how our rhythms together can shift and change, and that I don't have to show up with a big plan in mind.

This has been really helpful to me as I break out of old training expectations, and I'm finding that coming with a variety of ideas about what we might do and where we'll do it (all together, one on one, in the arena, in the paddock, or out wandering around the ranch and just beginning to venture off onto the trails, etc.) but also being completely content to do the lightest kind of relaxed interaction depending on their mood and focus levels is really rewarding. It keeps me from getting into a rut of over planning our experiences, and is, I think, teaching them that when I come we will have some kind of interaction, but I won't always be asking a lot from them. So they're anticipating doing something, and are eager to see what it might be. I figure it's good for them to have a lot of different rhythms and experiences.

One of the "truths" that I've been taught about horses in the past is that routine is really good for them -- and I've struggled with this. While I totally agree that there is comfort in the familiar, I think that this gets taken waaaay too far sometimes, and horses learn a certain kind of helplessness from this when their experiences get too narrowly defined. So part of our goal is always to be shifting the familiar a little bit, thinking about the pieces of continuity between our experiences as well as how they differ. It's part of why I am working to define a series of different ways that we interact with each other as a herd, too, in terms of how I'm cueing and who gets attention when, etc. This may not be the fastest way to get this to work, but to me, it makes the most sense for their psyches -- so different experiences become a part of their vocabulary. (And different places, rhythms, etc.)

When I think about horses in the wild, I think their lives are a mix of this familiar and new all the time -- they have patterns and certain places that they go, and certain dynamics within the herd, etc. But this is all against a backdrop of a much larger territory than most domesticated horses, and needing to pay attention to potential threats, etc.

When Stardust first starting coming out of his trauma/being shut down, he would get really frantic if anything shifted, or was unexpected. It's been really interesting to watch his confidence grow as I've been more consciously working to expand his world. (Actually, the same is true for Circe, even as a happy young girl.)

Part of my consciousness of this is because my guys aren't in a big pasture: they're not getting the opportunities that they should to interact with their world more broadly than by being housed in a small paddock, so I feel a responsibility to help shape this broader range of experiences when we work/play together. So I try to be really conscious about not always setting up one particular way we do things -- whether it's who comes out of the paddock first, or who gets played with first, or who even walks on one particular side of me when we're walking together on the lead ropes...)

I'm digressing a bit from the original topic, but it's part of why I'm not trying to define one particular way that we all three work together.

I'm a big believer in the quote "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" from Emerson! :lol:

I'm watching for the patterns that they're developing and feel comfortable with, and as long as I feel like those will work well for all of us, I'm happy to build off of those. I'm trying to be very light with what I expect in terms of consistency from them right at the moment, and am experimenting to see what emerges from them as feeling comfortable rather than assuming I'm going to have the best patterns to impose on them. (Acknowledging, of course, that some of my impositions, like the "thou shalt not squish the mama" rule are completely reasonable! :lol:)



:-)

Leigh

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:13 pm 
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It seems, Leigh, that you are engaging in herd social interaction and dynamic building.

With the "do not crush mother," discipline analogous to a lead mare establishing boundaries for herself.

Not to alarm but I've often wondered if horses occasionally hurt humans simply because they misunderstand or confuse role characteristics of other "herd" members (in this case the clumsy, fragile, socially ignorant - from a horse's point of view - human).

Could it be that we get squashed as a result of them simply correcting our behavior?

For the horse it must be terrible confusing to teach a human equinetiquette.

I wonder if anyone has studied, by logging and charting horse to human kicks, for instance, under what circumstances a horse kicks a human.

I've thought about that recently after hearing of two instances where the same person was kicked by different horses, and another bitten severely. Where they being played with, as horses use play as herd social paradigm training?

Sort of, "here's what you are supposed to do when we exchange pushes." WHACK!

Or, "It's okay for me to push you, but when you push ME," WHACK!

I think at some level, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, we pick up on this and become super alert during play with our horses.

At least I hope so.

I know it tends to focus me intently.

I seem to recall that when Koko, my QH stallion, first took up wild play with me, and with me often as he sparring partner, it occurred to me that he was very careful about my boundaries.

I thought that he was because he got it we are easily crushable. Had we just met he might not have known that and hurt me. But we had a long association before the at liberty wild play started.

This comes to mind because you mentioned to a newer member today that there is no hurry.

Leigh wrote:
Quote:
If this is being a lot of fun for both of you, there's no particular hurry to get to other things...

(Not cast in stone, but just a reminder that going with what feels good is almost never a bad thing...)


I would add, there is a need to not hurry. And it has as much to do with relationship building (where the horse learns our limitations and our mutual herd roles with each other) as much as with safety concerns: our fragile human boundaries.

And of course with developing our attachment to each other -- the bonds of trust.

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 Nov 03, 2008 5:03 pm 
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Hi Andrea,

Although I don't actually plan training sessions together, I do have to interact with both horses in their paddocks and pastures every day. I have two small paddocks where I can separate them, leave hay for the one who stays, and then take the other out to the arena or for walks.

So with my two, Lucy was the bully, and her being bigger and younger, and consequently Jack is quite oppressed by her presence! So trying to actually work with him with her around is stressful to him, and just not worth it at this time.

So I decided that Jack could do what he wanted (cuz he's just so safe) and Lucy would be the one that I would work on self-control stuff. So I taught Lucy that when I fed Jack treats, it was a cue for her to back up and wait, then of course c/t for her too! She also has to back up and wait for many things like hay, 'grain', gates, etc. whereas Jack does not, which makes him a great distraction for Lucy's training!! And Jack thinks this whole idea is the best thing since sliced bread!!

Anyway this basic every day training has evolved into Lucy being calmer around Jack when I'm there, and also she now simply waits out of our space, no need to back up anymore cuz she just doesn't invade!

This was really noticable when we were out on our trail walk together, Lucy (on lead) was very patient when I occasionally gave Jack (loose) attention and treats, knowing that her turn would happen!

Just some thoughts...

Brenda

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 7:13 pm 
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Donald wrote:

Quote:
Not to alarm but I've often wondered if horses occasionally hurt humans simply because they misunderstand or confuse role characteristics of other "herd" members (in this case the clumsy, fragile, socially ignorant - from a horse's point of view - human).

Could it be that we get squashed as a result of them simply correcting our behavior?

For the horse it must be terrible confusing to teach a human equinetiquette.

I wonder if anyone has studied, by logging and charting horse to human kicks, for instance, under what circumstances a horse kicks a human.


Donald, I think this is totally interesting (and not alarming!) :-) and I think you are right.

We ARE working to become a herd and I'm finding it endlessly fascinating.

And I think sometimes they forget my fragility because they get excited and want to play with me as hard as they can play with each other -- but, though I hadn't thought about it in quite this way before, I think there are also moments where they are trying to teach me etiquette as well.

Thanks for this -- it is a wonderful thing to keep in my head as we play.

For me, this is both an insight into why dominance has emerged as such a major element of horse training -- to set up a situation where horses don't have an opportunity to ever correct our behavior, and therefore eliminate the risks inherent with that.

But ultimately, it offers me another glimpse into why working with horses in a mutually respectful, trusting way is so magical -- that we can fine tune our conversation to the point where they can correct me if I've blown it (and I so agree with your thought that it must be confusing to them as they try to teach us how to be polite! :-)) with subtlety and gentleness. So from both directions, our requests from each other can be soft and deft, rather than ever needing to be harsh and broad.

And I so agree with the step you took with what I wrote about not needing to be in a hurry -- I am learning over and over that often the greatest tool at my disposal is time.

Thanks, Donald!

:-)
Leigh

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:42 am 

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I do think horses try to correct us, too. And it's interesting the degree of correction they feel is necessary -- because they can of course make us aware of our mistakes very subtly.But like people, I think some horses are better at being tactful than others 8)

I've recently met a stallion who has such presence he can direct not just his mares but even the people he meets with the tiniest movements... his herd is wonderfully peaceful and amenable. You have to watch quite closely to see the "discussions" which are going on all the time.

I always have several horses in a fairly small area at the same time when I train. I generally focus on one at a time. They seem to prefer it this way, and are generally happy to wait their turn, as they know it will come.

Occasionally it works to ask two to work together, but I never expect that (I'm not competent enough!!), but I run with it a little way if the opportunity presents itself.It also requires a lot of concentration on my part, because I have slightly different cues for each of my horses :roll:


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 11:59 pm 
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What an interesting discussion! What have you all done as far as the IB and TB signals? When working with Caspian and Deo, I made it so that they each have their own TB signal ("yes" for Caspian and "right" for Deo). That seems to work most of the time, but then, sometimes I get the words mixed up and end up doing some sort of combo "yeight" word!! :lol:

Have you found that "clicking" (or whatever signal you use) for one horse confuses the other? Or do does the non-clicked horse notice that you're not focused on him and so the click wasn't for him?

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:30 am 
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Leigh wrote:
Donald wrote:

Quote:
Not to alarm but I've often wondered if horses occasionally hurt humans simply because they misunderstand or confuse role characteristics of other "herd" members (in this case the clumsy, fragile, socially ignorant - from a horse's point of view - human).

Could it be that we get squashed as a result of them simply correcting our behavior?

For the horse it must be terrible confusing to teach a human equinetiquette.

I wonder if anyone has studied, by logging and charting horse to human kicks, for instance, under what circumstances a horse kicks a human.


Donald, I think this is totally interesting (and not alarming!) :-) and I think you are right.

We ARE working to become a herd and I'm finding it endlessly fascinating.

And I think sometimes they forget my fragility because they get excited and want to play with me as hard as they can play with each other -- but, though I hadn't thought about it in quite this way before, I think there are also moments where they are trying to teach me etiquette as well.

Thanks for this -- it is a wonderful thing to keep in my head as we play.

For me, this is both an insight into why dominance has emerged as such a major element of horse training -- to set up a situation where horses don't have an opportunity to ever correct our behavior, and therefore eliminate the risks inherent with that.



I hope this important point is not overlooked when we assess books, instructors, various clinicians we study.

You clarification above reminds me I must consider that very point when I evaluate what others offer in the horseworld.

I put a great deal of emphasis myself on safety issues, but I hope I make clear the relationship, if one is to put AND before risk, is the thing in the end.

Some horses, no doubt, with some humans will not learn of the human's fragility, though I think most will.

Watch horse's around foals. It's not often a foal is injured by a horse. Yet the opportunity, if it's a herd situation, is always present.

I've seen horses take great care not to hurt smaller creatures, and make close an enduring friendships with them. From cats to chickens to donkeys to dogs.

No reason we cannot, by focusing on relationship building as you are doing, enjoy some of that same careful regard of our bodies.

Leigh wrote:

But ultimately, it offers me another glimpse into why working with horses in a mutually respectful, trusting way is so magical -- that we can fine tune our conversation to the point where they can correct me if I've blown it (and I so agree with your thought that it must be confusing to them as they try to teach us how to be polite! :-)) with subtlety and gentleness. So from both directions, our requests from each other can be soft and deft, rather than ever needing to be harsh and broad.



The proof of the truth of your observation shows repeatedly in the experiences of AND horses and AND humans.

Leigh wrote:


And I so agree with the step you took with what I wrote about not needing to be in a hurry -- I am learning over and over that often the greatest tool at my disposal is time.

Thanks, Donald!

:-)
Leigh


Thank you, Leigh.

Donald
[/quote]

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


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:12 am 
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Interesting topic!

I think working with two horses at the same time is quite a challenge every now and then! I used to reward both the ponies after every click, but very soon they became very impulsive and competitive and it was quite hard for me to focus on pony one if pony two was already trying to deserve that click by doing a Spanish walk.

So when I asked Lydia, my sister, how she did it, she told me that she just rewarded the pony she was working with after the click. That worked better for me as well. I work for about 5 to 10 minutes with one pony, and when I switch I'll say 'Hello Blacky!' and go work with Blacky.

The ponies still attack each other once of twice every session because of sibling rivalry, but much less than in the past. And when pony A attacks pony B, I'll immediately stop training B and start training A.

But it sure is a challenge! 8)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:24 pm 
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Miriam wrote:
...

The ponies still attack each other once of twice every session because of sibling rivalry, but much less than in the past. And when pony A attacks pony B, I'll immediately stop training B and start training A.

But it sure is a challenge! 8)


Hmmm... as I look at that I wonder if pony A might not be attacking because B is getting your attention. Then you switch attention to A, the attacker.

I'm sure you can see what I'm wondering about. Which is being reinforced for what?

Donald

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


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:27 am 
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I just saw that I've exchanged the letters! :roll: :oops:

Of course, when A attacks B, I'll start training with B, the victim and not with the attacker! :lol:


But it's an interesting point you're having there, because I wondered something similar myself often too. Generally, it's Blacky, when I'm training him, who attacks Sjors. So I immediately start training Sjors. But Sjors is a very sneaky and sly pony, and even though he does 'nothing wrong' when he is being attacked because he just stands there looking at us or slowly walks towards us, I can't help wonder if he isn't being rude in horse-language to Blacky. He did something similar when driving them both in a team as well, with very subtle nastiness getting Blacky to attack him, and then have me correct Blacky for attacking Sjors.
Those attacks continued no matter what I did to try Blacky to stop doing that, right up to the moment that I decided to instead correct Sjors with one slight slap of the whip as soon as he looked at Blacky in a slightly foul way - He got sooo angry at that! I can't help but suspect that most of his anger was about being found out, because he did it two more times and then it stopped and Blacky never attacked him in front of the carriage anymore.

So training two horses already is quiet something, but if one is a potential evil genious, it's quite a challenge indeed! :roll: 8)

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