The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:04 pm 
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Three recent articles contribute to the understanding of one of the horse's senses: his vision.

Why are horses hard to trailer....what do they see?

What makes them alarm over something visually very bright, or visually very dark?

The horse that jumps the white line on a paved road.

Leaping tiny streams.

Why do they drop their head to peer at something near them, and raise their head so high to view something far away?

These are questions we've all come across for our horses and ourselves.

And what does this mean for our schooling and gentling of our equine companion?

http://equisearch.com/horses_care/healt ... on_012706/

http://www.mini-horse.org/vision_color.html

http://www.ridemagazine.com/?loc=editor ... See_Colors

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:38 am 
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Thanks, Donald!

Very interesting articles, also to have them lined up like this because they all add up. I just read all of them, and even though I knew already that horses only see two colours, I still learned new things about it.

What really set me thinking, was the 'second blind spot', that extends from the cheekbone to the knees and then up to the chest again. It's really logical that the horse can't see that (just as I can't see a finger that's placed under my chin and lower), but for some reason I sometimes forget those simple things. Sjors on the other hand really hates it when you put your hand under his jaws where he can't see it. He starts headshaking, is really annoyed and only relaxes when you place that hand against his jaw so that he can feel what he can't see. Perhaps that's also the reason why Sjors dislikes the cordeo, because it moves a lot when he's trotting or doing the Spanish walk, and he can only see part of it, dancing along the edge of his vision and disappearing under his head... Interesting thoughts indeed. Thanks! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:17 pm 
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I have found a very nice video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13FaxS3VRrI
notice how she shows her hand cue at a distance, so that her horse can see her hands! I never thought about that before :oops:

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:54 am 
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Very interesting subject and articles. The video makes me jealous. What a lovely thought to be bicycling on the beach with our horse galoping behind us

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 7:14 am 
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Miriam wrote:
Thanks, Donald!

Very interesting articles, also to have them lined up like this because they all add up. I just read all of them, and even though I knew already that horses only see two colours, I still learned new things about it.


Me too. I had some of the outdated information about horse vision stuck in my head...not knowing there was this new research until I found these. I think something someone said here inspired me to search.

In my past, over 30 years ago, this kind of information was difficult to find. Bless the Internet, eh? It brings us all together.

Miriam wrote:
What really set me thinking, was the 'second blind spot', that extends from the cheekbone to the knees and then up to the chest again. It's really logical that the horse can't see that (just as I can't see a finger that's placed under my chin and lower), but for some reason I sometimes forget those simple things.


I'm so often confounded by how much I 'forget' only to remember later in retrospective of my recent training work. Annoying.

It's never ending...the learning, the practice, tying it all together by integration of it over time, the DOING rather than having to remember.

Some of it comes back, but then I find out new things here and darn it, I have to learn all over again. Imagine. Why I thought I'd know it ALL by now. :wink:


Miriam wrote:
Sjors on the other hand really hates it when you put your hand under his jaws where he can't see it. He starts headshaking, is really annoyed and only relaxes when you place that hand against his jaw so that he can feel what he can't see. Perhaps that's also the reason why Sjors dislikes the cordeo, because it moves a lot when he's trotting or doing the Spanish walk, and he can only see part of it, dancing along the edge of his vision and disappearing under his head... Interesting thoughts indeed. Thanks! :D


You have very likely pinpointed something that it would do well for all of us to consider carefully.

When our horse is doing things we don't understand, like them or not, and we don't know the cause, here is one more thing to consider, as you say: how does his vision, and the blind spots in this case, effect the horse, his attitude, his compensations, his behaviors.

I have a habit of rubbing under a horse's jaw, well up into this throatlatch. I notice it takes time to get them to allow it. And this could be a clue.

When I think back I believe I remember that gentling by touching the green horse in places he can easily see proceeds more trouble free than touching him where he cannot see.

Stands to reason...and true for us as well.

Best, Donald

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:04 am 
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Well, I was wondering just yesterday what colour he would see best to teach Beau to apport. And taking the blue brush was a good solution :) now it's suddenly clear why blue is my favorite colour :)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:22 pm 
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This discussion about the blind spot is very enlighthening for me.

Bravada never liked to be touched and brushed under her neck or on her chest. She would try to bite the brush.

I often wrote in my diary that she did not like the cordeo. She was always trying to bite it and sometimes showed me her big teeth. Samething when I ask for the Spanish walk and I am in front of her and I put my hand underneath her chin and hold the lead rope buckle. She does not like to feel something she does not see. Who can blame her?

That would be an extraordinary discovery for us if that is the case. I will investigate this further. I was looking for answers in all directions but not this one and it seems so logical now.

This site is really great it helps us put the pieces together. We keep looking for answers because we know the horse is always right. In other training philosophy it would have been a respect issue.

Donald, it is good that you don't know it all!!! :wink: Because we get to learn from you :D

You made my day!!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:46 pm 
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Indeed, imagine the loss if Donald just knew it all automatically and didn't have to post his discoveries anymore! Thank god we're not perfect. :D

But really interesting that Bravada doesn't like the cordeo either! Sjors doesn't either, especially not when there's a leadrope attached to it - and now I come to think of it, also when he has a leadrope attaced to his halter... Sjors doesn't bite, but he starts headshaking. Not all the time, but every now and then when just walking or trotting calmly along, he will suddenly violently jerk his head up and blink very fast with his eyes or half closing them, or shaking his head. Now I come to think of it, that blinking with his eyes does seem to point towards something annoying him in his field of vision... :idea:

Due to the rain and our paddock now voluneering as swimming poll, since two weeks we train outside the paddock in the garden, and over there I have to use the cordeo for safety because I need to be able to grab the occasional pony that decides to jump into flower beds or eat apple trees. :roll: :wink: But I just have the cordeo around his neck and don't have a leadrope attached to it. Sometimes I do hold it in my hands (try not to) and then Sjors stiffens a little (probably because I do too as I can't move as freely anymore either when my hand is attached to his body) but he seems to accept it. But whenever it is possible, we work at liberty.

And Blacky doesn't seem to mind at all. 8)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:59 pm 
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Thinking of this just now, a lot of horses who get upset about me trimming their feet, want to look. And most owners immedietly yank their heads away or ties them short. Because I can feel such a big relief when they look, I always tell people to let them. Some will just gentle rest their heads on my back and watch what I do, and they calm down a lot. I also like to touch a horse as much as possible, rest my shouder against him, rub his girth, lean on him. This seem to reassure them too. Before I pick up a foot I'll usually lean against their shoulder and sratch their chest, massage their necks. Break for me, nice for them. But they really like feeling a lot of you against them, rather then one hand. But that makes sense, thinking about this, the more of you touching them, the more they can 'see' you without looking. If I have a hand on you, I can be anywhere. If I have my chest and arms around you, you know exactly where I am.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:05 pm 
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So funny that you write that, because Blacky and Sjors do the same too! They bend their necks double and lean with the chin on the shoulder of the hooftrimmer when he's trimming their front hoofs. Sometimes they place so much nose over his shoulder that he can't see the hoof anymore, ;) but they stay like that for about a minute, and then they're done and don't look at the other front hoof that much anymore either. But I always have to laugh when they stand like that, really like they are wondering what exactly that human is doing with their hoofs. :lol:

Now I come to think of it; this situation is probably the only time when the horse actually sees the sole of his own hoofs!


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 4:58 pm 
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My horses like short shirted trimmers and sniff or lick the skin of their backs :lol:

The information about the blind spots explains a lot. Unico is not afraid of wearing a halter but was afraid to have the type on which you have to shift over the nose. I understand why, because he does not see it coming. I now understand why they make special foal halters with buckles on top of the nose. This way you can tighten it without beeing in and out his blind spot.
So Unico is now wearing a pink halter because the other halter (white) had no buckle on top :(

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:36 pm 
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I have noticed too that they only look a couple minutes, then they are fine. But if you don't let them look, they are all upset the whole time.

Look at how most people put a bit in too. Set there hand on the horses nose (usually a blind spot) and then pull the bit in their mouth (definately a blind spot). There are also halters you put on this way too, and most horses I have met have faught having them put on that way. And think how scary the dentist must be, they usually kneel under the horses jaw, he can't see them or what they are doing. Really makes you think about how you do things.

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If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:32 pm 
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... your respect and support for the horse. I think we so often get what we give with horses.

Faith wrote:
I have noticed too that they only look a couple minutes, then they are fine. But if you don't let them look, they are all upset the whole time.

Look at how most people put a bit in too. Set there hand on the horses nose (usually a blind spot) and then pull the bit in their mouth (definately a blind spot). There are also halters you put on this way too, and most horses I have met have faught having them put on that way. And think how scary the dentist must be, they usually kneel under the horses jaw, he can't see them or what they are doing. Really makes you think about how you do things.


Because Dakota had been tied fast to his paddock gate, took a fright from some hay being offloaded nearby and pulled back and took out the gate, he needed confidence lessons concerning that spot and having a halter on and pulling on his poll.

This one issue is the one I've spent the longest time on with him, because I do not wish to frighten him again, and I wish to help him so that should anyone tie him fast in the future, he will not be injured or injure someone.

Each time I come to work with him I meet him at his gate, and we spend 15 to 30 minutes putting on the halter taking off the halter, putting on the halter, down pull (lots of C/T of course) with reward for coming forward ... which started from being rewarded when he pulled back to his stopping point and then stepped forward.

The same lessons are repeated at the end of each workout as I turn him out again to the paddock.

He no longer pulls back, and steps forward at a downpull.

He also puts on his halter almost entirely himself. I simply act as his holder and ear 'steward.'

And this discussion on vision prompts me to remember that the best position for having him learn to reach foward and down into the halter nosepiece was UP in front of his face, and at a distance.

Below his chin, he didn't respond well at all. And know I think I know why. Vision.

Funny how simple things are when we connect the dots.

Funnier still how much trouble we can have with SEEING THE DOTS, without help.

Thank you all for your in-sight (pun intended). And making us think about why the horse is doing what he does, and that it's not defiance, or a problem, but simply what he does to feel in charge of his world. And safe or safer.

I used to teach parents of disturbed children how to help the child feel more in control. And I'm sure it applies in our work and play with our horses as well.

The horse's mental health depends on it.

Best, Donald.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:54 pm 
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Josepha wrote:
Yuri is 'just' a trick rider, circus acrobate etc.
Not AND at all. I just found and interesting new exercise, to spice up our AND training :funny:


Betcha some of us have started already. LOL

A thought about how horses process vision - it's not like ours we have to remember.

I'd suggest that if some one wants to do this do NOT, as I see the man doing, use a white rope. White is a 'puzzle,' color (just as black is) to the horse brain as it processes visual information.

I can only speculate as to why this is, but experience has shown me this from as far back as 65 years ago with my first horse, Buzz the OTTB, who upon coming to a white line in the middle of the road, made a jump over it only a TB could make - huge, and this little ten year old bareback rider found himself in the ditch upside down across the road with Buzz happily munching grass nearby, unconcerned now that the fearsome white line had been conquered.

Brown, green, and yellow are the colors horses normally accept without difficulty - blue, though I've not explored this closely yet, is claimed to be true to color for the horse. I've seen many times horses spook at white horse trailers, and not a blue ones. What color do I own? Blue, of course. And I face it either north, or east to get more reflected and even light inside as I load the horse. Heavy shadows can also spook.

White and black often energize a horses' anxiety responses - flight or fight.

Not a particularly good way to introduce a new concept to a horse.

Of course AND handled horses, with their relationship with their human being what it is they are likely to be more accepting of new and even scary circumstances that would spook another horse.

Now I wonder if Bonnie would like to jump rope. She certainly plays with them in other ways quite a lot.

Hmm...now that I think of it, I may just work out a routine for a play date with her.

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake

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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: Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:22 am 
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That is very interesting and new to me Don!
Thank you! :kiss:
I was thinking of painting the arena fence black... better not then I think... :ieks:

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