The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:10 am 
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The magic isn't so much in the cue itself...you use whatever pleases the horse and keeps you safe. That means, you probably shouldn't start it while standing in front of the horse, but rather from beside the horse.

Horses can easily learn to target something with the front legs...so you walk beside the horse and hold the target close enough to the front legs that the horse accidentally bumps it. Stop and praise enthusiastically (even though it was an accident... :D ). If you use food rewards (or click and treat) click (or mark with the voice) the very second the horse touches the target. Then repeat, repeat, repeat until you notice the horse TRYING to touch the target. They are smart...they figure these things out. :yes:

Because you are walking or standing beside the horse, a longer target is good. This can be a whip, or you can start with something softer, that the horse doesn't mind bumping with a foreleg. I used a pool noodle.

As the horse figures out to raise the legs, you add a verbal cue (I use, "step"). If you don't wish to add a verbal cue, that's fine...you'll find that your horse will read your body language and at least from the ground, when you are in the position you are normally in when you ask for Spanish Walk, and reach over AS IF you had the target in your hand, your horse will offer Spanish Walk.

So for some people the cue may become pointing at the front legs. For me, I hold my hand and arm out as if I'm holding the pool noodle for him to touch.

There is no one correct cue for it. You can just play and let your horse choose the cue! :f:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:33 am 

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Karen,
thank you for your reply! :)
I have no trouble initiating the Spanish Walk, the horses seem to love to express their stallion tendencies in this exercise... actually, had a really "cute moment" when introducing a mirror to my horse - who is very proud to be learning to lift his legs - well, I led him up to the mirror, he stopped, stared - then without me doing anything, he with very focused, intent look lifted his leg ... :)

But as I am very new at teaching it - I would like to come up with a cue to use all the time. What I do now works well, but I worry about not being clear enough - especially with horses that I don't have a deep bond with yet...

Right now even a look at one leg, then the next works, but I would like consistency - and to transfer to ridden work. I started with a "stick touching the leg" cue - and might have to go to that again to begin ridden Spanish walk, we'll see.

What I am looking for is a single cue to work on the ground and ridden - I am thinking verbal - I like your "step"...- do you say "step" for every leg? Anyone try teaching "left" "right" to lift each leg respectively???

Turns out (watching video of myself) I also do a bit of posturing - not so much lifting my legs, more lifting my shoulders/chest? For a while I played with moving the head/neck to the opposite side to the leg I wanted up, but I found it too bothersome/restrictive as a cue for a horse who understands the mechanics of the movement...
I don't always use ropes and sticks when I train, so those cues are out... just wanted to see what you all are doing to cue this...:)

Thanks
Zu


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:43 am 
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I've thought so many times about telling you what an inpInspiration you are with your description of how to create and execute a training cycle with the clicker. The reason I haven't is that about the time I get into reading what you write I also get into visualizing what you are saying and off goes my mind to seeing me doing it with Bonnie and or Altea, and you know the power of the wandering mind to distract.

You have many times inspirted me to work more with the clicker and the method. Just not enough time in the day, or the blasted winter days nows going on.

Thank you,

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:28 am 
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Oh Don :blush: :smile: Thank you! :kiss:

For cueing SW under saddle...well, you don't really ;) . You aid the Spanish Walk under saddle. It's done with your seat, a bit of leg early on...sometimes the hands early on, but it's very much like the School Walk in terms of aids. The horse should be collected...well engaged in the walk...and the Spanish Walk will happen without any additional cues if the horse has been taught to do it on the ground. If the horse isn't working in a collected frame, then they can still do the Spanish Walk, but you run the risk of them doing it with an inverted frame. You don't want that. The Spanish Walk should be slow, measured and silent. At least that's the goal. They all stomp a bit in the beginning, but it should be a slow and graceful movement, driven from the haunches of the horse and not just cued from the front.

The School Walk (or "pas d'école" ") is a very slow collected walk with a little flair to it. Some horses will lift the forelegs slightly with each step, others will do it with straight legs, extending the foreleg just a little with each step, like a mini Spanish Walk.

Here is a video that shows a form of School Walk. Right near the beginning, when the first rider (the chief rider?) enters the arena, his horse is doing a School Walk. With nothing more than a slightly held movement of the seat, the same movement takes on more amplitude and the horse is doing Spanish Walk.

http://romyromy1.multiply.com/video/item/92

Here's another (with slow motion!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K3LJAb40y4

You can also elicit the Spanish Walk through the reins, by slightly lifting and holding the rein on the same side as the leg that is extending (hope that makes sense). So you don't need to cue it...you can aid it. An important thing to remember is to try not to exaggerate your body movement to cause the horse to Spanish Walk. The aiding with the seat/legs or hands should only be a slight "holding" or hesitation in the seat that causes the horse to reach out further (or up higher).

So you go from an engaged collected walk, to School Walk to Spanish Walk. :f:

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:41 am 
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Unfortunately my post got lost during the crash of the forum last weekend and I haven't got a chance to see if there was any following discussion. So I post it again - in short version ;).

Regarding cues for Spanish Walk I prefer mimicry. It brings some challenges with it, namely having to do the Spanish Walk myself (I'm having a hard time keeping balance and cadence). But I believe that mimicry enables the horse better to find out the movement himself, resulting in a proud and round movement. Opposed to that I see Spanish Walks sometimes taught by targeting or touching the legs with the whip, which look more like a jerking, kicking movement.

Here's one recent video of Mucki and me practising: http://youtu.be/kicSX5UmsaU

I'm happy for any feedback. I'd especially like to know your opinion on whether it is too early for Mucki and me to start Spanish Walk. Is it better to wait do it via collected walk and School Walk? Any caveats I should look out for?

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:34 pm 
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Sorry about your post Volker :sad: But so glad to see a new one. :cheers:

Having taught Tam the Spanish Walk with the target, I can say that it doesn't make a jerky or stomping kind of walk. If the target is used in a elegant way, the steps are done in an elegant way. I hold the target (the pool noodle) up and as he steps I bring it out in front of him and pause, so each step is done as a reach and hold, reach and hold. You can do that same rhythm with mimicking too...so I think both methods can produce lovely SW.

I've seen horses stomp when a a whip is used to touch the legs to annoy the horse into doing it, but it can nevertheless become elegant over time...especially from the saddle when a rider can softly elicit the more drawn out and more silent step. :yes: It requires the horse be moving in balance, be calm of mind, enjoy what he/she is doing and have a hman aware of the connection (Under saddle or at liberty) that the horse takes his cues from.

I can see that with your long, graceful frame (sorry if that sounds girly :funny: ) Volker, that you could produce a very long and graceful step for your horse to mimic. You do have the frame of a dancer...even though I know you'll deny that you carry that trait. :kiss:

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:39 pm 
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Just a passing thought on the use of mimicry.

Have you attached a none "kicking," your legs out cue to the desired behavior from Mucki?

Separately: in watching horses that appear to be target trained, or whip motivated, to stride and reach the jerkiness may be because of poor technique in targeting, and in whip training doing hits rather than truly light touches.

In the latter instance, hitting the horse, the response evoked is one of irritation - chances are it will be jerky.

In targeting though the objective of smoothness is, I think, more likely attainable by keeping the increments ask for small. The lift and reach being asked for in just a few inches increase over time.

Speculating, not research. I taught only one horse Spanish walk many years ago and never put finish or her. She did stomp her foot down occasionally.

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


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:29 pm 
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I am also just speculating because I have never worked on the Spanish walk in any other way than mimicry, so my comments are purely based on the videos I have seen so far. But to me it seems that the difference is not necessarily that much about jerkiness and precision, but more a question of focus.

When targeting something with the frontlegs, the focus necessarily is on the front legs, perhaps even on the lower part of the frontlegs as I assume few people let their horses target with the leg area that is closest to the chest (a proper English word for this is very welcome ;)). On the other hand, when working with mimicry I find it way easier to let the movement come from the core of my body and therefore inspire the horse to do the same. I actually feel that the legs per se aren't the most important body part for Spanish walk mimicry.

From that perspective, I think you can get stomping and jerky steps as well when you use mimicry for Spanish walk. That seems to happen, again, when you focus only on the legs. This I actually know from practical experience because with the Spanish walk being one of my least favourite exercises, I often do it very carelessly and in that way get that weird jerky movement. If, however, I make an effort to move in a good way myself with the focus being on my body (and if on the legs at all, then only in that context), Titum can produce nice steps as well. :smile:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:02 pm 
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:yes: :yes: I think you hit the nail on the head in a way. The SW is not just a front leg movement. The horse needs to learn to engage the core and the hind legs and balance back in order to free up the forelegs to move elegantly. :yes:

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:54 am 

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Is there a section before this that assists you with asking only to teach the horse to lift its leg and hold it... I am not even at that level, my horse can lift leg and bend eg for me to clean out hoove, or just to stand with it bent, but I do not know how to ask him to hold it forwards yet and want to be asking him in the correct fashion


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:17 am 
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Ok, what you seek is also called Jambette and there is also a thread for that of course ;): http://www.artofnaturaldressage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=605
Hope the info there helps.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:10 am 
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Yesterday, I caught our current state of the Spanish Walk on video. 8)
In the first part, Mucki was still a bit unfocused, as the wind was blowing strong and he was all alone :pet:. But what I like about that part is exactly his way of doing the SW so unfocused. It gets a very casual quality and becomes almost just an accented walk. That's often what I seek as it brings out the roundness of the movement - I don't like the SW to look like a military goose-step, as it often can be seen.

In the second part, where he comes towards me, I exaggerated the cues a bit, which I thought necessary over the distance. There the leg lift is much more pronounced, but the back is hollow. Guess I will work a bit with backwards tendency again - or even do the SW backwards.
Still, the walk is intact, I think. That's good...

Have a look - feedback is very welcome of course:
Image
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXqKVzgS2eo

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Volker

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:14 am 
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Great! Cookies for Mucki for being so attentive and diligent, even at working at a distance. :clap: I wish, Pan would be interested in doing this with me.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:42 pm 
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I so love how you work at a distance. It's not something I've really done, at all. It's lovely! :f:

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Karen wrote:
I so love how you work at a distance. It's not something I've really done, at all. It's lovely! :f:
Thank you Karen! I like the distance especially when working on the SW. When I'm close to Mucki, he tends to walk into me, as it seems like he wants to touch my legs with his ;). Maybe some stallion behaviour originally? I don't know.
Also it's hard to judge to movement when I'm too close.

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Volker

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