The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:49 am 
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Donald wrote:

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How close are we to attacking another's method, and another person, as stated in our our AND posting rules?


Boy, it sure doesn't feel that close to me!

This feels like a thoughtful analysis of the work of someone that people admire for a lot of different reasons -- but who also don't necessarily agree with all of his techniques and opinions.

For me, part of the interest is looking to people who are presenting themselves as working "the way of the horse" to a fairly large audience -- not to play "gotcha!" but to really try and suss out how far into a sense of partnership they're going.

This interests me for a couple of reasons -- first, because I'm so ungracefully grappling with what that looks like in my world, :-) even though it's at heart my most cherished overall goal, and I am intrigued by how others might (or might not be!) getting there and/or valuing that.

Second, because I'm constantly looking for what I perceive as "paradigm shifts" in the way we approach horses, I'm trying to pay attention to what anyone in a position to talk about this with lots of people (be it a famous clinician or researchers at an academic institution, etc.) is saying -- and doing.

I think this is important because this is how traditional opinions slowly start to change. I'm very aware that in my lifetime, it's unlikely that the vast majority of horse owners will adopt AND as a philosophy, but I am excited to see that there are ideas and information opening up our analysis of how we approach our horses, and some of the cherished assumptions about traditional training are worthy of being retained in the interactions between horses and their humans are being looked at more carefully.

I personally have run up against a lot of "this is the way it's done" traditional thinking in horse training, and my instinct is always to ask "why?." It doesn't mean that I agree or disagree, but I'm suspicious of "because this is how it's done" responses. (I'm the perennial three year old...why? why? why?" :-)) But any theory or belief system that's worth its weight, should be willing to at least try and answer that question before I can decide if I agree with it or not.

So -- to me, paying close attention to the work of a given clinician, particularly those who articulate their work in the way that Hempfling does, is important. Both for me, in my personal wanderings and questionings and learning, but also for the broader community of people who engage with horses.

I think, for example, his work raises legitimate questions about how deep horses' psychological need for leadership is -- he's found a way to provide that leadership that is much more subtle than many trainers, but his belief in the need for it seems to be implicit, from what I've read. What I'm hearing in this conversation, in this community that I've learned to trust, is that's a pretty accurate assessment.

I don't know that he's wrong, but I personally think we still have a great deal to learn about the nuances of the horse's psyche. And, so, while I can still learn from someone like Hempfling, who I think has a genuine mastery of his particular methods, I know that there are also things I'm not likely to learn from him. And I keep experimenting! :-)

But, I think your raising the question is perfectly reasonable, Donald!

(And, on a much less serious note, I got the serious giggles about your glitter description, Patricia! Boy, that sure does seem to happen! I'd started a fairly silly response to you about it, but Miriam responded so much more carefully than I had, I decided to dump it...but pass the purple sparkly gltter, please! I wanna be a guru!!!) (NOT! But I was a purple glitter covered harp-playing showgirl for a few months...does that count?)

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Best to all,
Leigh

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:51 am 
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First I want to say that I also don´t mean to attack anyone´s method either, because as I said, I really admire parts of Hempfling´s work, especially the body language part.

When I said that there were things that I don´t agree with, I wasn´t very clear: actually I don´t disagree with him on the pressure-related things,they are just not for me. That doesn´t say anything about the rightness of them in his own framework, but only in mine and there they just don´t fit. I have said it before, but for me good and bad or right and wrong can only be discussed in relation to a goal and what I actually meant when I said that I didn´t agree with everything he does was that our goals differ a bit.

I don´t see any signs of attack in that, but if there is one and I just can´t see it, please point it out to me, because sounding as if I wanted to attack someone in my posts is just the last thing I want. :)

Brenda, your questions are quite fascinating and it´s so interesting to think about that!

When I say that I admire the way how he uses his body and that I can learn a lot from that, I don´t exactly mean that I want to use the same body language like him. I mean that I am thankful to him for helping me to become more aware about how different movements and energies in my own expression work and what effect they have on the horse. The signs I myself use then have to be validated and shaped by my horses.

Brenda wrote:
Romy wrote:
But back to Hempfling: I think that I can learn a lot about him, because he is so great at using his body language, which is my main training tool as well.


So, these questions is not just for you Romy, but for all AND'ers!!

Most who have seen Hempfling or his videos make similar comments about how elegantly he uses body language.

So these are my questions:

Is his 'body language' the same concept as mimicry here at AND?

How does negative reinforcement/pressure/release affect the horses response to his body language??


For me the answer to the question if it was the same concept as our mimicry is both yes and no. Yes because he does indeed use his body in a way which resembles the movements of the horse and no, because there is a large intentional or instructive component in them.

Here is an example: when I want Titum to rear more slowly with more engagement of his hindquarters, I lean slightly backwards and bow down in my knees. For me that is pure mimicry - I don´t try to "make him" shift his weight back in that sense, because he can completely ignore my movement and that won´t have any negative consequences for him (except for less oat maybe if the rear only becomes a little hop ;)). All I try to do is help him to use his body in a better way by showing him a way and supporting his own movement with mine.

Then there is the other situation: Summy comes cantered towards me when he wants to invite me to play. He bucks, rears and makes all sorts of funny jumps, but most of all, he runs into my direction like a battleship and within seconds I have to be sure if he will be able to brake successfully or accidentally run into me, because he couldn´t stop, maybe because the ground was slippery or just because he underestimated the way he would need for reducing his tempo. Then I can make a step into his direction while he is still far enough away from me, I can become a bit stiff and raise my energy so that I am making the impression of a blockage long before he has to be blocked by my body itself when he runs into it. 8) In that situation I don´t support the horse with my body, but I try to give signs or instructions.

I see both versions in Hempfling´s work and I think both have their own place and their own benefit. But maybe in a pressure/release framework the line between them or the way in which the horse sees them as belonging to one or the other category shifts? That´s so interesting to explore and adds to one of my most important questions that I am trying to answer during my training: which of my actions does the horse see as pressure, which as support? Where is the line? Of course there is no single line and this changes at least on a daily basis, according to our moods, the specific exercises and other conditions. But I am trying to be careful to send the message I intended to send and not to unconsciously add pressure through my body language where I don´t want it to be.

Quote:
What makes his body language work to get the response he wants??

What is the reinforcing consequence for the horse??


Another great question as well and I just wanted to say that I have not overread it. I only have to go to work now and probably won´t find any time to post my thoughts until tonight - the good thing is that this gives me some time to think about it and become clear in what I actually think. :lol:

See you later! :)


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:39 am 
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I am sitting here reading and thinking of body-language...

Among horse-people it have been very modern to learn bodylanguage, and how this affects the horses. All the way, at least where I have learned, the focus is how to use the body-language to make the horse do things, be dominante....

I have been many years among dog-people too.. And there, bodylanguage have been modern for a long time. Some places people still learn to use bodylanguage to dominate the dogs as well. But the main stream all around the world (I think) is to learn how the bodylanguage affects the dogs to avoid using dominante guestures so the dog is more free, relaxed and willing to learn....

I wish for that day to come among horse-people as well. The day where we don't anymore learn how to put pressure on the horses with our body - but how to avoid putting pressure on it.... So the horses will feel free, relaxed and willing....


About Hempfling I have only read one of his books - and the sentence about "horses, just as dogs, needed to be dominated" made me have very sencitive eyes on his words. Because, I TOTALLY DISAGREE!!! :lol:


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:54 am 
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I guess that bodylanguage and mimicry have a lot to do with each other but also are quite different.

For example, a lot of bodylanguage from nh-trainers isn't focused on the horse mimicking those exact movements, but rather run away from them: the trainer is mimicking the bodylanguage of an agressive horse, scaring the horse away from him and making him submissive.

Hempfling however also goes beyond that in his bodylanguage and uses his own body in such a way that the horse can mimick that in order to become collected.

For me the difference between Hempfling mimicry and AND mimicry is that with AND the horse is free to do whatever he wants with the movements of the trainer. With Hempfling the mimicry is part of a dominance/pressure-release based system, and the bodylanguage/mimicry is part of an increased pressure system. If the horse doesn't respond to the bodylanguage, then H starts speaking a physical language untill the horse does.

For me the most important question when studying other trainers is not what they can get the horse to do, but what they do when the horse doesn't. 8) This often shows very clear if their theory (for example, of no pressure and bodylanguage only) is also what they really do in practice.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:25 am 
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Hi Donald,

I can not imagine someone her would ever attack Mr. Hempfling.. certainly not me, I think he is very inspirering :)

Patricia, did you like Mr. Mccleans book?
I started reading it several years ago and then threw it aside after I think 1 or 2 chapters as it was only stating how stupid horses are...
Was I wrong perhaps to not read on?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:35 am 
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I consider an effective clinician-trainer one that makes me examine my own methods more closely.

My admiration for Hempfling, though I reject his philosophy in part, comes from that very reaction to his work. It makes me examine my own more closely.

I personally don't see anyone attacking Hempfling here, but want to test our AND guidelines on how we address others and their methods when I asked my question.

Personally I am very hard, as some have noted
:wink: on "gurus."

Yet they all have work they do that challenges and inspires. Even one I watched on a training video kick a young mare in the belly for her stubborn little kick at a rope he was sliding around her hind quarters.

That I fully admit, I attack. He justified his kick in the video. He'd have had me had he admitted it was totally in error.

He did other work though that was well founded in improving the horse's athleticism.

Kristi brings up the issue of pressure for dominance from Hempfling. That is a tough question for an AND person. Which of course brings up Miriam's question about where the line is.

Which tells me that from an AND perspective the line is not fixed, cannot be described in a way that we could include as 'method.'

Yet we agree that there is such a line, somewhere. And apparently keep striving to learn where, and how to do our work and play with our horses on the AND side of that line.

I have to agree with the statement that this is a murky unclear area that we must accept, yet always question.

Donald R.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:16 pm 
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We are all only human, even Klaus :lol:

But indeed he has the same effect on my which you so wonderfully described.

The whole thing with AND probably is that this line lies on a different spot with every person and every horse...

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:38 pm 

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[quote="Josepha"]Hi Donald,
Patricia, did you like Mr. Mccleans book?
[/quote]


Josepha,
I learn something from everyone I read. McLean is trying to be a behaviorist. There is a lot to learn there. But the focus is on operant conditioning... well, AND seems to be interested in the behaviors that come out without conditioning. So I would say that McLean and AND are on opposite spectrums of horsetraining.

Yrs,
Patricia

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 3:17 am 
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HinnyWhispererE wrote:
Josepha wrote:
Hi Donald,
Patricia, did you like Mr. Mccleans book?


Josepha,
I learn something from everyone I read. McLean is trying to be a behaviorist. There is a lot to learn there. But the focus is on operant conditioning... well, AND seems to be interested in the behaviors that come out without conditioning. So I would say that McLean and AND are on opposite spectrums of horsetraining.

Yrs,
Patricia


The effects of operant conditioning are unavoidable in any two party interaction. In fact they even work with only one person present.

The environment does it to us. Sit on a padded chair with a spring poking through. In time you'll get up and move.

Using the general rather than specific, "you."

You have just had the environment use negative reinforcement on you to teach you not to sit on seriously uncomfortable chairs.

We can ignore conditioning, even deliberately attempt to avoid it with our horses, but it will take place despite us.

I decided long ago, since I am effected, motivated, by conditions, and it's obvious a horse is, then I need to pay heed to what I use and how I use it to condition the horse.

The question for me then isn't DO I use it, but what is my ethical framework as I do so.

AND members, as I see it, spend considerable effort exploring exactly that. What is their ethical position, and how might they apply it with a moral perception.

I think, and I risk here that I'll be disagreed with, that AND also looks at other systems, philosophies if you will, and puts that same question to those.

Examining Hempfling's work for instance has clearly brought this out for us. We appreciate and are inspired by him, both his personality, and his work. Yet we might not choose, some of us, to use the amount of pressure we believe we are seeing.

I have to trust that is an ethical position being taken. It is for me, at any rate.

Even within that model, his, there is much that one might see as ethical. His extreme refinement of method lends itself to such quick reduction of pressure, that is immediate and sustained release, that it falls within what I would accept as a much more, by far, ethical treatment of horses than nearly the entire horseworld.

I have much the same feeling about Parelli, though some might disagree with me. He creates considerable softeness that he disguises a bit, or it's concealed by, his own showboating.

So to me, AND can encompass for some of us at any rate, a good deal of both deliberate OC (examples are in Karen's work, Brenda, my own, and others) and incidental OC.

In the latter case I'm more inclined to see much of Romi's activity with her horses (though she'd be the final arbiter of this) in this light. Incidental operant conditioning.

My own challenge with OC is to be disciplined and mindful while also taking time to play, knowing that both constitute for the horse, much of the time, if not always, conditioning.

We have a wonderfully complex problem here. Thank you for bringing it up and making me think more about it.

I've not read McLean, but I'm going to make a wild guess. There is something in his work that might be more pressure and less release, so for you AND is seen as being in opposition.

What did you find in his book. I'm curious.

There is so much reference work cited by AND members I've given up trying to get around to reading it all. So what an AND member says about it now determines more whether or not I take the time to read someone's work.

Best wishes, Donald R.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 4:40 pm 
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Thanks everyone for responding to my questions and discussion!!

And, for me, if we discuss someone's methods thru analysis, I think it is a very healthy way to learn. What I am trying to learn is why the horse responds the way he does? What is the science operating behind the show, so to speak...

So the bottom line behind the show just seems to be negative reinforcement/avoidance learning, which is as I suspected but wanted to her other's perspectives as well! Thanks!

So a few more questions:

So how does what KH does fit into AND??

If for example, we want to achieve collection, using KH methods, how do we do that without compulsion? I can see the shaping process if we use mimicry and treats/positive reinforcement, so what do you see KH doing that could help that goal, without adding compulsion to the mix??

Brenda

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 4:50 pm 
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Romy wrote:
That´s so interesting to explore and adds to one of my most important questions that I am trying to answer during my training: which of my actions does the horse see as pressure, which as support? Where is the line?


And Romy, I so agree with the above! And another great question indeed! I too am always trying to see how the horse perceives the consequences of their behaviors.

Both positive reinforcement (+R) and negative reinforcement (-R) increase behaviors, tho in very different ways, but can be difficult to tease out which is in play on the behavioral timeline.

So I too always try to be aware of which consequence the animal is seeking, treats? or release? or both? For example, if I am trying to increase the # of canter strides using mimicry, when I click, the horse gets a treat (+R) but also gets rest(-R) from a behavior with a high response cost. If she freely offers the behavior again, I feel that she is seeking the treat consequence. However if I was working with whip (pressure from behind), it would be very difficult to analyze which consequence was increasing the canter stride behavior.

I use being at liberty I think as a sort of 'checks and balances' to analyze why my horse responds as she does. For example, when I work with Lucy's feet, something she had a lot of stress/baggage about, I always have her stand loose. This way it keeps me from using any force, and to be sure I stay on the positive reinforcement side of the equation!!!

Brenda

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:05 pm 
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HinnyWhispererE wrote:
Josepha wrote:
Hi Donald,
Patricia, did you like Mr. Mccleans book?


Josepha,
I learn something from everyone I read. McLean is trying to be a behaviorist. There is a lot to learn there. But the focus is on operant conditioning... well, AND seems to be interested in the behaviors that come out without conditioning. So I would say that McLean and AND are on opposite spectrums of horsetraining.

Yrs,
Patricia


Thank you Patricia :)

What was suprising and dissapointing to me when I first started reading Mclean was that he based the equine intelligence 100% on human reference.
Which also surprisingly, a lot of scientist seem to do. And in my book science needs to take place from a neutral point of view.

And as he stated his book: 'the truth about horses'... well that is a heavy verdict to state, if you know what I mean.
Goes to show that there seem to be many truths out there (not meaning the X files ;) )

That is why I choose to not read on as it only annoyed me to the core (sorry Mr. McClean, I am sure every thing I do and say would annoy you even more :lol: ).

So indeed, I am curious just as Donald what you found in his book that is helpful... Of course I should take it up and read for myself... but I have no shame in asking your for the useful info :)

warm regards,

Josepha
ps: and it cracked me up when you said 'trying to be a behaviorist' :lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:06 pm 
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HinnyWhispererE wrote:
But the focus is on operant conditioning... well, AND seems to be interested in the behaviors that come out without conditioning. So I would say that McLean and AND are on opposite spectrums of horsetraining.

Yrs,
Patricia


Hey Patricia! Long time no talk, eh? Welcome to AND!

As far as the above, in a general sense, conditioning is just another term for learning. Here's a few definitions from the USF Multimedia Glossary:

Learning: The relatively enduring changes in behavior that result from conditioning processes.

Conditioning: The term conditioning is used to describe both operant and respondent behavior. It refers to a change in the frequency or form of the organism's behavior as a result of the influence of the environment. In operant conditioning the frequency of a performance changes as an organism interacts with the environment. In respondent conditioning, a neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response as a result of pairing it with an unconditioned stimulus.<<<<

And I agree with Donald, that we need to remember that the 'environment' refers to us and EVERYTHING else that the horse's senses can perceive!!

So even tho in AND we may be 'stimulating' natural behaviors, once the come in contact with the environment/consequencs, some sort of conditioning is occurring. At least that's the way I see it???

Brenda

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:13 pm 
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Brenda wrote:
If for example, we want to achieve collection, using KH methods, how do we do that without compulsion? I can see the shaping process if we use mimicry and treats/positive reinforcement, so what do you see KH doing that could help that goal, without adding compulsion to the mix??
Brenda


OOOPS! I think Mariam answered that question a few posts ago!!

It's getting clearer...thanks Miriam!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:14 pm 
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HinnyWhispererE wrote:
Josepha wrote:
Hi Donald,
Patricia, did you like Mr. Mccleans book?


Josepha,
I learn something from everyone I read. McLean is trying to be a behaviorist. There is a lot to learn there. But the focus is on operant conditioning... well, AND seems to be interested in the behaviors that come out without conditioning. So I would say that McLean and AND are on opposite spectrums of horsetraining.

Yrs,
Patricia


Thank you Patricia :)

What was suprising and dissapointing to me when I first started reading Mclean was that he based the equine intelligence 100% on human reference.
Which also surprisingly, a lot of scientist seem to do. And in my book science needs to take place from a neutral point of view.

I remember him stating that horses are really stupid because a few horses died behind a fence, while some miles further there was an opening.

I wonder how native nature people would do, if they never ever saw a fence for one.
Second, if it were indeed 3 stupid horses that died there, does that mean every horse in the world is stupid?

and third... did the horses die because they did not find nor searched for the way out? Or did they die of something totally differnt like poisoning for instance?

As I was learned in school... science is 'taking every possibility in account'.
And a lot of scientists, as in this case Mr. McClean do not really practise science in that way, from my point of view.

And as he stated his book: 'the truth about horses'... well that is a heavy verdict to state, if you know what I mean.
Goes to show that there seem to be many truths out there (not meaning the X files ;) )

That is why I choose to not read on as it only annoyed me to the core (sorry Mr. McClean, I am sure every thing I do and say would annoy you even more :lol: ).

So indeed, I am curious just as Donald what you found in his book that is helpful... Of course I should take it up and read for myself... but I have no shame in asking your for the useful info :)

warm regards,

Josepha
ps: and it cracked me up when you said 'trying to be a behaviorist' :lol:

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