The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 8:28 pm 
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Level 1: The start - the first exercise

The very first exercise in the Art of Natural Dressage (AND) is not an exercise for your horse, but for you: it teaches you to stop demanding, and instead become interesting. Therefore you shouldn't see these first lesson as exercise or training, but as a task you need to fulfill. Your horse is your teacher, and only when he shows you that you have succeeded in this task, you have the basis to train all the other exercises in a true AND way. This way doesn't rely on pressure, and not that much on foodrewards either, it relies on the fact that your horse wants to be with you and wants to learn from you. So first you have to show him that you are fun to be with and very inspiring too. If your horse believes you - which he will show you by starting to spend more time with you - he has accepted you as his teacher.


Why
Most training methods are based on stimulating the horse to do things. Traditional and natural horsemanship methods use corrections and pressure to stimulate the horse to do an exercise, clickertraining uses food. The first are not used in the Art of Natural Dressage (AND), foodrewards can be. However, the main motivator in AND is not what you give him (corrections or food rewards) but what you yourself are: an inspiring an interesting being - or not.

When you set your horse free, without any tools to capture his attention or to keep him close, you will need to get him interested in you by your personal qualities only. Only then he will want to be with you, and only then you can start to do exercises together. And as in a cordeo or neckring the horse is essentially free and cannot be forced to do anything, you need to become that interesting that he wants to be with you. You have to inspire your horse to work with you. And to do that first he needs to learn that being with you and moving with you can be totally voluntary - his choice


The first task: Just be with your horse
The first training sessions in AND are spent by doing nothing. You probably have a history of training your horse, demanding exercises. That means that your horse will see you as an omen of work, and maybe even pressure and corrections. Your first lessen therefore is to teach him that you have stopped (mis)behaving in that way and that you won't pressure him into exercises anymore. You do that by simply not asking anything from him the first training sessions.

Practically this means that the first training sessions you start with your horse in the training area - without trainig him. Just sit, walk and run around yourself (maybe with a ball to amuse yourself with?) and move or stand still as much as you like. Basically ignore your horse, and don't ask him to do anything! If he ignores you, you continue with what you're doing. When he then turns to face you, stop playing, walk towards him, reward him with some attention or scratching a favorite spot for about a minute - and then leave again playing on your own yourself. If your horse walks towards you, you stop and go towards him, praise him for showing the initiative to join you in your play - and then go and play again.

Do this the first couple of training sessions - reward his interest in you and what you do by turning your attention to him - but don't destroy that by seizing the opportunity and squeeze some exercises out of him! Just leave him be. Only reward his attention with your attention back.

When your horse after a couple of sessions really starts to get an interest in your play and starts walking, trotting or cantering to come to you or keep up with you, then you know that he's getting interested in you. That's a huge accomplishment, you can be really proud of that achievement! Because he has now shown you that he wants to earn your attention in a more energetic way - essentially he really wants to work for earning it. That's why only now you can start asking him a small excercise when he's with you, like moving his hindquarters a step aside or touching your hand. If he does, you reward him and go and run around yourself again untill he starts joining you again. If he doesn't do the exercise you suggested, then you can repeat your aid (touching the skin not harder) two or three times, and if you still get no response then you're off again untill he gets near you again and you ask the exercise or another again.

What you teach him with this playing by yourself is that you as a person are really exiting and fun and inspiring to be with. When he starts to give attention to you, you reward him with your attention, and then you leave again. That makes you interesting! Most horses get bored to death by the cartloads of unwanted human attention they get buried under during a training session. Now your horse has not only learned that your attention is fun (instead of hard labour), but also that it's rare - so he will learn that he needs to become more interesting too in order to catch your attention. And he can do that by performing a little task you ask from him - be it standing with his head low, flexing at the poll, shoulder in or piaffe...

The 'you inspiring your horse'-fase can take one or more training sessions, depending on how much your horse liked your training sessions before. If he really depended on corrections as motivator to play with you, then he probably will need some time to be reassured that moving around and playing with you can be voluntary and fun. If he before was mostly motivated by food, maybe even to such an extent that he would do stuff for a carrot even when he didn't really want to repeat it again, then he will need some time too to discover that you can be inspiring without food too. But every horse can learn this, you just need to follow the rules of not going to the horse unless he shows interest in you, and not asking him any exercises before he shows you he really wants to work. Also remember: you're only interesting to the outside world if you think you're interesting yourself to begin with. Occupy yourself. If you can't do that by just sitting, you can walk or dance. If you don't feel like moving, you can occupy yourself by drawing patterns in the sand of the arena, playing with a ball, knotting ropes in a string. Do something to amuse yourself and keep yourself busy, and your horse will start to wonder why his human looks to content and happy - and will want to investigate how he can share that same feeling too.

Don't worry if you and your horse need more sessions together just doing nothing before you two discover your inner power and happiness. It's not just something your horse needs to learn, but sometimes you yourself too. But you will see a change throughout your 'training sessions' of doing nothing particular. Also try not to make them too extensive. Don't make these first exercises of doing nothing longer than 15 to 20 minutes. After that your horse will grow tired because he needs to think this mental shift over, so give him that time.


The second task: The rest of your life
When you've established this new relationship in which your horse actually wants to be with and learn from you, you need to be very carefull with that. You'll need to alter your own views on training too, because when you decide that you'll do a lot of exercises the next half hour, your horse will get bored, feel pressurized with all the (even pressure-less!) demands and stop playing along again. Because the deal was; if you as human get interesting enough, your horse will start to play with you. So then don't get boring again!

And if your horse walks away from you: let him. Take over his idea and walk away yourself too and start amusing yourself again, for example go to another horse and give him attention, check the haynets or other things. The more your horse realises that you won't push him, follow him or force him to be with you, the more interested he will be in being with you. This doesn't mean that from now on you can never go to him anymore when he doesn't come to you - as you have an equal relationship, you're allowed to express your opinion too. But keep in mind that your training wil only succeed if your horse wants to be with you. So walk to him, scratch an itchy spot or stroke his mane, and see if he likes the attention. If so, you can decide to let him graze or to take him along to play with each other. If he doesn't like this attention either, know better than to push through and still take him along, and just let him be. Because tomorrow there's always another day!

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Last edited by admin on Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:38 pm 

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 11:09 am
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Location: Chesapeake Va
I hope you don't mind but I wanted to add something I have been doing with my horses when doing the just spending time to get their interest in me and trust. I will move toward them and wait till the moment they look ready to move away than stop. I turn in the direction they are facing and mirror them from than on. They turn to look away from me I look away from them, they take a step I take a step, they back I back, they put their head down I do the same. It has helped greatly with horses whom are scared of humans in understanding I don't want to hurt them but interact with them. It becomes a game to them esp. when they see if they stomp I stomp. It has lead to my two horse following me and mirroring me at times like I mirrored them.

When I do this I like not to do anything else and never do it for very long. It def. has made the horses more curious in what I am about. :D

Just some of my thoughts!
Eileen

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:18 am 
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Wonderful, Eileen! This really is the basis of asking the horse to mimick you; by starting to mimick him yourself first. Thank you for reminding us of this! :D


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 4:33 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:03 am
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I noticed that there havn't been any posts in this topic for over 1 1/2 years. Does this thread continue somewhere else?
In any case, I had a question about it. I would love to know if people have noticed differences in how long it takes horses to be interested in people depending on breed. I know that there are differences depending on good or bad experiences a horse has had but am curious if some breeds are quicker to bond easily with humans, like Andalusians or Arabs compared to Quarter horses for instance. Since I have used positive reinforcement ever since we have had our horse I never had the chance to try this out with her. Whenever I come to see her she's always affectionate and happy to see me but of course part of that could be the expectation of food, since I feed her twice daily. It seems to me that horses would always associate at least one person in their life with feeding time and I would therefore assume that whenever a horse approaches a person there is always the thought of food somewhere in the back of their head. I'm actually wondering if horses that live in a herd would show any interest in people they have seen before and investigated (meaning their natural curiosity is satisfied), since it seems they would be so much better able to relate to their own kind. This compares to me to people, who, when given the choice, will try to relate to other people who speak their own language. Only when this is not possible will the need for companionship motivate them to learn another language. Another motivation of course could be a strong motivation to learn something, like on this forum, where many of you are willing to go through a lot of extra effort to communicate in a foreign language.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:01 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Birgit,
This is an interesting question. I for one do believe that there are certain breeds that like humans better than others. Of course there will always be exceptions to this and temperament and previous handling is a big part.
When I searched for my boy, I went looking for a horse that had has as little as possible human contact BUT an interest and curiosity in people. I really truly believe that there are "horse" horses and "people" horses. I think this is why some people struggle so with their horses and interaction. For one reason or another their horses are the "horse" type and will choose the herd for safety over the human every time. The quieter more sturdy cold blood types seem to be more willing to try to co-operate or want to learn what the owner is asking, perhaps because their flight/alert responsiveness is less heightened? However the down side is they can be a little reluctant to show play and a more energetic side as their nature is to be calm.
So I guess it depends on what one wants to see and how energetic the owner is!
What I do find very interesting is the interaction with my horse and people he has never met. Some he will trot to meet, others he gives a very wide berth and won't even let them touch him. He knows who he wants to interact with and what their intentions are. Is this smell, body language or intuition.....whatever, he knows immediately!
It always fasciantes me to move among a herd of unknown horses and see which ones want the human interaction and which ones don't. This is not to say that they can't learn to want to be with humans but if the need and curiosity is there to begin with, I do think it makes life that much easier.

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:08 pm
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Location: Denmark south/west
Hi everyone !
I hope it is ok for me to reply to this post as i have only just signed on tonight! It has been a long time since I have written anything in english so bear with me :blush:
I find this very interesting about what kind of horse is suitet best for interacting with people....I have found that this depends as much on the person as well, some horses just doesent want to have anything to do with some people, some horses loves everybody and some are very selective in their choice of human friend! Klaus Hempfling has said something about this.
In my own experience I have had a horse I found it extreemely difficoult to connect with, but it was well worth the effort, I had to develop certain sides of my personality,and be very,very patient for a period of 2years!!!!
This horse and I then had 15 wonderfull years together, and he turned out to be very talentet, very special...When I am old and have forgotten most things I am sure he will be the one I remember!!
If this was not quite along the lines of this post , I am sorry, still new ar this. ;)


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:50 am 
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This first exercise is really nice. :yes: Basically this is how I try to do everything - being interesting with no need for food.

Birgit wrote:
It seems to me that horses would always associate at least one person in their life with feeding time and I would therefore assume that whenever a horse approaches a person there is always the thought of food somewhere in the back of their head.


I feed my horses 3 times a day oats and hay, and 1 or 2 times a day carrots. But I did not feed them anything from my hands for some months now - they do get food only from the ground. Their bodylanguage is different, when they think I might be the source of some carrot or such. They do look at me with the "food?" expectation by now mostly when I do things connected with feeding only.

They used to be handfed in the past. When other people go near the horses, the horses are all over them, searching and sniffing for food. So even when I do feed the horses, they do not associate me with handing out food, but basically everyone else they do associate with food handouts.

So I believe, that if you do not use training treats, nor do hand feed your horses, but just feed them for feeding times from the ground, that they do not always have the thought of food connected with people.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:44 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Hi Lisann,
First welcome and your English is great so don't worry about that. I would be very interested to know what Klaus has to say about horses that like/dislike human interaction. Can you elaborate on that?
We had this discussion somewhere else about how the foals upbringing by the mother can affect that too. If she is nervous she generally puts that across to the foal or so I am led to believe. I know my friend won't breed if the mare has any kind of people issues at all as she says it is always harder to home the foal that doesn't come to greet or is nervous.

Andrea, I agree with you about the feeding only at feed times etc, but I do believe that if the horse has the same person feeding them all the time they do connect that one person to their feed but not all people. The time of feeds, being regular also elicits a feed response from most horses...hanging around the gate, waiting by a feed pole.
For this reason I try to interact with my horse away from his feed times so he is not distracted.
Luckily for us we are on a private farm so not too many hand feeders....but I know this can become a bad problem.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:41 am 
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It would be wonderful if you would start a topic on it an appropriate section...perhaps mental and emotional connection?

It sounds like a very good topic to have!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:08 pm
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Hi guys! ;) I feel very welcome! Thanks for nice comments, I will start a new topic in the section Karen sugested ! :friends:
Lisann


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:28 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 8:42 am
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Location: Tuscany, Italy
Quote:
Birgit said: I'm actually wondering if horses that live in a herd would show any interest in people they have seen before and investigated (meaning their natural curiosity is satisfied), since it seems they would be so much better able to relate to their own kind.


There is a fascinating book by Carolyn Resnick called 'Naked Liberty' which traces the story of her life with wild Mustang herds and she goes into this sort of thing there - it's a lovely book and very interesting, also on the concept of dominance/leadership, her ideas and conclusions being drawn from her observations of horses over the years, plus how she got them interested in her too! I can really recommend it, a great read! (I got it through amazon.uk).

Quote:
I would be very interested to know what Klaus has to say about horses that like/dislike human interaction. Can you elaborate on that?

me too me too!!!

I'm so glad this topic was 'resurrected' after two years - so newbies like me were sure to find it!!!
susan
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:58 pm 

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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
fab, thanks Lisann

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:48 am 
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I too find this subject very interesting (even though it really doesn't have anything to do with "the first exercise").
I was thinking about my two horses while reading everyone's ideas and I don't agree on everything.
I hand feed my horses, a T-B and a QH. I have taught them to not invade my space. I clicker train so when I am teaching them something, I feed them. Of course they are motivated by food - that's the name of the game. But they wait for their treat. I feed them twice a day (beet pulp & other good stuff). Right after they're finished, they have fresh hay so they will eat for about half an hour. Afterwards, they know it's training time. They will move from their hay and come to me (they are always at liberty - in stalls 11 x 22). Corado, my T-B will show me what he can do even before I ask him (of course he's expecting a treat. But that's ok). He reminds me of a child who is showing his mother what he can do.
While I'm training Corado, Magik will eat his hay. when I'm ready for Magik, he will stop eating his hay and come to me. He will also lift his leg to show me he's ready to learn (I had the hardest time with him for leg-up and now he's lifting on his own).
This behavior I owe it to clicker training and of course the encouragement I received on this forum. I used to be a Parelli student with Corado, my TB. I didn't have a true relationship until I proved to him that I can be a friend. I will give him treats for no reason. Sometimes he's just standing beside me and he's letting me pet him. I'll give him a treat and a stroke.
He has changed so much in the last 2 years. I still don't ride him, and maybe I never will. I don't have the riding experience to ride an ex-race horse but on the ground, he is my best friend. So why ruin this relationship. I think he will give me a sign when he's ready to be ridden. right now, he still doesn't have the confidence he needs and I don't want him to rely on me. I want him to rely on himself. We're getting there because now he dominates Magik but he still spooks at the slightest sound or move. Maybe he always will since he's so nervous but I'll continue working on that.
But going back to the subject, the first exercise. I believe time spent with your horse and developing the relationship is what this is all about. And, in my opinion, if hand feeding is part of developing the relationship, then that's ok with me. Of course I don't have agressive horses, maybe my opinion would be different if that were the case.
Again, my opinion.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:01 am 

Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 8:42 am
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Location: Tuscany, Italy
Horsefever, the 'work' you are doing sounds amazing, with a horse that has so many issues it's a real test of love and patience! And clicker training is all about that, right? slowing down to where your horse is at, and taking it from there, taking as long as it takes. There is a lot of that in other training approaches too, I know it's not just clicker of course.
Re food treats/rewards, Alexandra Kurland is very eloquent on this and allows for using or not using them. I do use them, and my horse can get pushy and over-excited about it, especially in the rapid-fire moments when we are establishing a cue or similar. But that is also to my advantage: because he loves his treats so much he pays extra attention when he can't have them because he's being too pushy or grabby and it's a superb learning experience for him, he really puts his all into working out why they suddenly get harder to get at....
In her books AK tells the story of Fig, a very aggressive ex-racehorse with huge anger issues.....treats were what in the end helped her to turn around and become herself again, so I think treats and aggressive horses are two separate issues that can work together or not....I wonder if the secret to the success or otherwise of treats is not simply in the attitude of the human in each equation? It's not right or wrong either way, it's what works for each individual and there is no point forcing yourself to give, or not give, treats just because of a 'dictum' from some training manual. (And ditto all the other 'golden rules' we have imbibed from our respective cultures childhoods etc etc etc).
susan

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:06 am 
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I moved the part about the waterhole rituals so that they have their own topic now: The Waterhole Rituals

Feel free to continue discussing them over there! :)


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