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PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:35 pm 
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Edit by Romy: This discussion was split from Titum's diary.

Quote:
Romy: If you don't like this, maybe suggest something yourself?
Titum: Stupid idea, I don't know anything.
R: Then maybe try this one?
T: Stupid.
R: Okay, maybe stop training for today?
T: (and then he sometimes agrees to stop, but some minutes later he comes again, suggesting something half-heartedly)
R: Oh, it's so great that you have come. So wonderful that you are trying something!
T: Those girls are so easy to please, that's really not an interesting task...
R: Okay, then I'll just go and do something else, and as soon as you DO have an interesting task, just call me....and then he either goes eating for good or we do a number of repetitions of this game. Of course this is the extreme version and quite a bit exaggerated, but it's the tendency of our interaction.


:funny: :funny: :funny: How beautifully drawn!

I know that you're probably going to be shaking your head in exasperation over what I'm about to say Romy, but here goes anyway...

When one of my horses gets like this, (firstly, always these days, I'm happy with them.. and)
sometimes I go and put my energies elsewhere and leave them to their own amusement
sometimes I hang out and do nothing in particular,
sometimes I take them out for a ride or a walk (I loved Volker's posts about walking off the funk. :) )

and sometimes (depending on the dynamics and the particular horse)... :rambo: I just give them a job to do and remind them I'm the boss. :green:

Here's my rationale.

I think that some horses can easily love training with positive reinforcement. They love play, interaction, pushing the buttons on the cookie dispenser, bending us to their will, figuring out what we want and all the strings and things that go along with this. They feel powerful and self determining. They love having a say. It makes them feel autonomous.

Others have a tendency to feel manipulated. Regardless of being given choices, having their opinions called for and counted, having the option of saying no, yes, maybe, now, later, like this.. etc etc etc. Regardless even of enjoying the activity, or wanting the treats. In fact, sometimes, their enjoyment and desire serve to make them even more angry at their own collusion in the manipulation.

More intelligent, more independent, more self determined? I'm not sure. I know that my shetland is not like this, although she is incredibly intelligent, self determined and independent. But despite her bossiness, independence, loud voice, she has always seen me as a benevolent herd leader..and I think therein lies the difference.

I try to imagine..
I love my husband. He's kind and good and takes care of me well.
Through some trick of fate, he owns all our resources. He controls the food, the money, the house, the means for me to move outside our immediate environment, and the people that come into it to interact with me. I feel a little uncomfortable about this - I thought we were supposed to be equals, partners, soulmates.. This seems unbalanced. But what can I do?
And he has cookies, my favourite cookies, and he gives me one of those cookies,
every time I do something he likes,
when I play with him,
train with him,
do tricks for him,
repeat actions that I really don't understand and aren't in my natural repertoire,
and sometimes just for no reason except that he likes me...

and he listens to my ideas and opinions, and follows my suggestions for activities, and I get to choose...so I should feel good...

but always, always, always, it is him, holding the cookie bag and handing out the cookies... deciding what and how much he will reward.

I would feel horrendously manipulated.

I would start to hate him. I would resent him. I would feel as if there was some unfair secret reason that he saw me as less than him. I would hate him most in the moments I was weak and went along with his ideas, for the cookies, or for the fun of it, or just because I enjoyed being with him. I would start to dream about killing him and taking over the cookie bag. And I would feel bad about that, because I know he's good and kind.. I would hate myself. I would feel confused at my own emotions. I would feel confused about his motives. I would feel stuck. I would feel helpless. I would feel sick. In my helplessness, I wouldn't want to move, I would give up. I've been in this situation in my past. I know the truth of these feelings in me.

For me to feel good about working, playing and training together in this relationship, I'd need to be allowed to hold a cookie bag too - the currency of power.

I think many teenagers reach this point in how they feel about their parents.

Now, I imagine another scenario. I'm an English teacher, working in a little cram school. (that part is true!) I spend a great deal of my time there. My boss is kind and good. She takes care of her teachers and her clients well. She controls our environment very carefully - who can come in, what time we must enter and leave, where we must be at any time, what we can and cannot do there, she controls our eating time, and where and when we are able to drink water. She controls who I'm able to interact with there. She is powerful. She is strict about certain standards. And she controls the resources. The most important resource she controls is money. The currency of power. I do not challenge her, because she is The Boss. I want her money. But I do not resent her. I respect her! She runs a good company. I like my work. My life is clearcut and simple, but challenging! I trust her to make decisions that I don't need to be involved in, and I will follow her directions. I feel confident in my ability to do my job well. She delegates responsibility to me and I'm proud of the trust she has in me.

Now, she has a bag of my favourite cookies. She tells me that as well as providing me with my livelihood, she will give me a cookie
-when I do something she likes
- when I offer something special
-when she asks me to do something repetitive that I really don't see the point of
-when I make suggestions
- when I train with her
- when I play games
- when I put in a good effort
-when she delegates responsibility to me
and sometimes just because she likes me.

How do I feel? I feel GREAT! I feel appreciated. I feel like my job has real meaning. I feel motivated to offer more. I feel valued. I feel like I'm encouraged to be an individual. I feel like I have real freedom in my job. I feel like my boss values me, and I feel warm towards her. I feel as though she sees me as an equal in some way, even though there is a very clear cut power differential. Even though she's my boss, and I'm clear about that, I know we can even be friends!

The difference in my feelings between one scenario and the other are poles apart. But the differences in the situation are what? Only perceptual really I think.

I accept my boss as having more power than me. I accept her as a leader, and I don't question her authority.. I feel great that I'm allowed to give feedback.

I do not accept my husband having more power than me. I question his right to wield authority over me. Who is he to be able to "allow" me anything?

Understanding this has helped me come to terms with my issues of leadership with my horses. I'm the boss. And I feel good about that. Being the boss doesn't preclude me from having friendships with them, or listening to them. I can still value, appreciate, delegate, share, empathise and be friends with them. They can still suggest, offer, refuse, have opinions, own their own experience and be friends (or not!) with me.

Some of my horses, sometimes, I believe, have felt uncomfortable, confused, in our relationship when I haven't shown enough clear leadership, meeting them instead as a best friend and equal, but then always holding the balance of power and the cookie bag. That feeling would show up as resentment, aggression, or passive resistance. And I've found that taking on the "good boss" role at those times, has really helped them to feel better about things.

Horses don't get to choose us as friends any more than they choose to come to work for us. So I don't see one as intrinsically more morally wrong than the other. We make the decision to bring them into our lives, we put fences up around them, and then it is up to us to decide how best to take care of them. I've found that sometimes "showing them I'm the boss" is exactly what they need from me to feel really good about themselves, me and their life in general.

That's what your story brings up for me. :) . I know that you and I don't share the same feelings about leadership, possibly don't even share the same syntax. :D So I'll be interested to hear what you think. It's good to have my brain engaged! :D

xxSue

Ps.. I totally understood what you meant by boring! Like food cooked without passion. Doesn't matter if it's cheese on toast or a ten course banquet..you can taste it when it's made with care.

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:19 pm 
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Thank you so much, Volker, this has been SO helpful. I am so glad to hear from someone who can probably relate to Titum's feelings better than I can that an activity-based approach might work out. This gives me a lot of hope. :f: And you are totally right, Titum really enjoys long walks. We have done way too few of them in the last year, which actually also is a major difference to our previous interaction. Could well be that those two changes are related and maybe that's already part of the solution. I will keep you updated! :)

Marina, thanks so much as well. Taking him grazing sounds like a great plan. I probably do way too little of those things, because we always train in the pasture and only after I have put in fresh food (without food Titum is always up for interacting), so for us the default option was to just leave him alone with his food. But of course the grass is greener outside and eating together is nicer anyway. So probably it's not just me who is very happy about your reply but a little brown Arabian man will appreciate it a lot as well. ;)

Sue, thanks a lot, again, for taking the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful post! :) I never did (and probably never will) shake my head about you writing about your experiences, your feelings or your attitudes. If this works for you, that's great. I know many wonderful people, some of whom I really admire in many ways, who regard stable leadership (as opposed to situationally fluctuating tasks and roles that depend on the context) as a relevant part of their way of relating to others. That's completely fine with me, no reason to shake my head. I also don't feel there is anything morally wrong about this... to me it just doesn't seem like a relevant thing that I feel I need or want in my own relationships. :smile:

By the way, I think Titum is reading along here. When I came to the pasture this evening, he offered things like cantering with me, trying piaffe, different but focused sideways variations and several other things like that. He even left the oat that I had put into his hay piles in order to persuade him to stay and eat (because I had been afraid that we would exaggerate it and get him bored again). Funny horse! :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:57 am 
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Quote:
If this works for you, that's great. I know many wonderful people, some of whom I really admire in many ways, who regard stable leadership (as opposed to situationally fluctuating tasks and roles that depend on the context)


Yeah, it does work for me! :D Although I don't see leadership as opposed to situationally fluctuating tasks and roles that depend on context - I think these are a totally integral part of great leadership! Perhaps that accounts somewhat for the difference in our viewpoints. :D For me it's not either or. It's inclusive. That might appear to be confusing on the surface, but so far my horses seem really okay about that, and if anything, I've noticed that they have greater confidence to adapt, experiment, suggest, share ideas, and express their opinions than when I was agonizing over trying to give them complete autonomy and fostering their feelings of equality..

I think it was definitely a proccess I had to go through - being a naturally "bossy" kind of person, the first step for me was learning to let go of that and really seeking and destroying all manifestations of it in my dealings with horses. And I still think that is the absolute best place to start this journey for most of us. But then, with careful thought and application,I have rebuilt some aspects of my leadership in the way that i want it to be. I like the kind of boss I am now! :D

Glad to hear that Titum is reading along and figuring this out by himself. :D He's one smart horse. I know that you never need advice from others. I'm laughing at your "limited powers of introspection" comment. :funny: You are incredibly insightful and probably spend more time than anyone I know examining yourself - while still managing to dwell solidly in the moment. It's a rare skill! So, my writings here are definitely not intended as a prescription for you and Titum:ieks: :D .. Just a discussion on philosophy. :)
Sue

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,

But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:19 am 
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windhorsesue wrote:
Quote:
If this works for you, that's great. I know many wonderful people, some of whom I really admire in many ways, who regard stable leadership (as opposed to situationally fluctuating tasks and roles that depend on the context)


Yeah, it does work for me! :D Although I don't see leadership as opposed to situationally fluctuating tasks and roles that depend on context - I think these are a totally integral part of great leadership! Perhaps that accounts somewhat for the difference in our viewpoints. :D For me it's not either or. It's inclusive.


Wow, have I been unclear, I see it myself now when I reread my comment. Even though I now realize that it sounds like this, I was not intending to differentiate between dictators and the ones who are okay with their partners being autonomous creatures as well. But I'll try to clarify the mess I have written. :funny:

I have no leader, and I am not the leader of anyone, either. Even when for brevity I am called the boss of the students who work in my project, I am actually not THEIR boss. I am the person who is in charge of the research we are doing. Unless our conversation is strictly about the work to be done in our project, it can perfectly be guided by them instead of me. If power is considered as a determining factor of leadership, my actual power only lies in the fact that I can have them decide to either do what I consider to be necessary for the task we are doing, or leave. That's exactly what the shop assistant, the bus driver, the waiter in a restaurant, or the owner of the house where I live can do to me: let me decide to either behave according to the rules of the place or leave. Now are they all my bosses? Depends on how situational you define leadership, I guess.

And what if a student in my project works in a restaurant that I go to? Then in the morning I might be her leader and in the evening she is mine. And this is not because I am such a generous leader who allows her to have some power as well, but only due to the fact that different situations afford different ways of sharing responsibility, and maybe even power if you wish, although the thought of power usually doesn't come up that much in my relationships. If I acknowledge that there are social rules in any interaction, I don't see an additional value in the concept of leadership here. Consequently, being a reductionist I simply throw out what I don't consider to be necessary for explaining things, so for me personally any leadership that is not purely situational goes out. 8)

To me the thought of dominance as a question over who is controlling the resources is a very appealing one. Brenda once brought that up and now you mention it as well. For me personally that only puts more emphasis on my need for balanced, mutual leadership (or lack of leadership if you wish), not less. I don't feel that in my life there are that many relationships where one part is controlling the resources. Not my relationship with the horses, anyway. This is because when thinking back to what they have taught me, what they have given me and continue to give me every day, I feel almost ashamed of considering a few grains of oat as a meaningful resource. Maybe if we were sharing an interest in the same resource, I could perceive myself as the one controlling it and thus being able to manipulate the other side more than I am subject to their manipulation. But as long as I don't eat oat and they are not striving for those fuzzy things in our communication that I am interested in, I feel as far from being in control over THE resources as I could be. Maybe I am controlling a resource that they want, but at least as much they are controlling the resources that I want. And they are good at making me work hard to earn them. ;)

I would not want a husband or friend or family member be in control over my cookies, either. Still in my own life, any social interaction seems to be based on reinforcement and punishment, only that the reinforcers differ. Meaningful people in my private life don't give me cookies when I am doing fine, but they give me other more subtle rewards and punishments. This might be obvious actions but also things like that I see I made them happy, they feel empowered, they feel challenged, they feel sad because of something I did - this is all feedback which is increasing or reducing my behavior and with this, I consider it to be just as much a form of manipulation as when an official person gives me food or money. They still are in control of the resources I want, the only difference to me seems that I want other resources from some people than I want from others. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:01 pm 
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Now wait a second - I think we are just about to mix up some terms here. ;) For me it´s very important to differentiate between "leadership" and "dominance". To define these two terms properly usually solves all the questions for me.
"Dominance" is usually the easier one to define. I like this one from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy wrote:
A dominance hierarchy (in humans: social hierarchy) is the organization of individuals in a group that occurs when competition for resources leads to aggression.
I think the important point is that dominance is the upkeeping of social status via aggression. That means that an individual is taking a position in a social hierarchy that it couldn´t take by other means (for example by knowledge, skill or physical prowess).

I guess "leadership" has been described by a thousand authors, scientists, managers and others. But again a quote from Wikipedia is enough to show the vital difference to dominance:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership wrote:
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith of Genentech states that, "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen." According to Ken "SKC" Ogbonnia, "effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals."
I like the description of leadership as "process of social influence". Leadership as I see it can and should be variable according to the given situation. Leadership must be accepted by all participants of the current common task or else it wouldn´t work. A horse might make way for another because of a dominance hierarchy between them. When a situation arises though where a leader is needed, that same horse might look to a different horse for guidance, because of its leadership skills. When there´s water to be found, all will look to the lead mare, who is in that position because of her skill to lead to food and water. That says nothing though about her position in the dominance hierarchy. Which, I´m convinced, is also flexible and situationally determined.

So the human-horse relationship is quite the same. I think all of us, even you Romy ;), exhibit leadership when being with our horses. Otherwise they wouldn´t even bother to come with us. Especially if one works without punishment, but with positive reinforcement and tries to minimize pressure, one has to be a good leader in order to do anything with a horse. After all we lead the horse, not drive it in front of us, aren´t we?
That doesn´t mean of course, that there aren´t times when the horse leads and we follow. But as soon as the horse follows us, plays the game that we set up, we are in the position of a leader. But that says nothing about our hierarchy.

Romy wrote:
But as long as I don’t eat oat and they are not striving for those fuzzy things in our communication that I am interested in, I feel as far from being in control over THE resources as I could be. Maybe I am controlling a resource that they want, but at least as much they are controlling the resources that I want. And they are good at making me work hard to earn them. ;)
There is one important difference between your wanted resource and the one they want. The one you want from them is expendable, the food and water you have the power over is vital for them. That alone puts you into a much more powerful position.

I´m afraid as long as we are keeping our horses on fenced territory with regulated access to food and water, we´re always in some kind of power position, if we want it or not. I don´t know how much they know it, or feel bad about it, but we have to be aware of this in order to not abuse our power. Our position becomes dominant as soon as we abuse it to reduce the rights of the horse.

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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:49 pm 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
Now wait a second - I think we are just about to mix up some terms here. ;) For me it´s very important to differentiate between "leadership" and "dominance"..


I know that there are hundreds of definitions of leadership, dominance, alpha etc. For current purposes with dominance I just meant "above the other one in some relevant aspect". Sorry if this hasn't become clear enough.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
I think all of us, even you Romy ;), exhibit leadership when being with our horses.


I hope this doesn't sound unfriendly now, but I would really appreciate it if we could stick to writing about ourselves when expressing how things are being done and especially when describing more abstracts concepts, instead of making conclusions about someone else's actions, feelings or thoughts. I think there are few people who know me and my horses well enough to be able to analyze what's going on between us. :smile:

Houyhnhnm wrote:
Otherwise they wouldn´t even bother to come with us. Especially if one works without punishment, but with positive reinforcement and tries to minimize pressure, one has to be a good leader in order to do anything with a horse.


Unfortunately I really don't understand this. :blonde:

Houyhnhnm wrote:
That doesn´t mean of course, that there aren´t times when the horse leads and we follow. But as soon as the horse follows us, plays the game that we set up, we are in the position of a leader.


Maybe, but when our interaction doesn't work that way? Have you seen Bianca play with Evita for example? She is going with Evita's ideas most of the time, just running with her and rewarding whatever Evita offers. Josepha's interaction with Jamie and Owen also works like that to a large degree and I think so does mine, at least some of the time (although in all three cases there are situations when it's the human who is making more of the suggestions and some when the horse is suggesting more). That also is part of the background why I don't understand the statement above - in two people who are among my biggest inspirations I just can't see this.

On the other hand, if "leading" is conceptually decoupled from the power to influence and reduced to determining who is making a suggestion at any given time, I wonder if it doesn't completely lose its value? This is because in this case I would have to conclude that in a continuous two-way communication leadership shifts every few seconds. But probably I am understanding something wrong here.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
Romy wrote:
But as long as I don't eat oat and they are not striving for those fuzzy things in our communication that I am interested in, I feel as far from being in control over THE resources as I could be. Maybe I am controlling a resource that they want, but at least as much they are controlling the resources that I want. And they are good at making me work hard to earn them. ;)
There is one important difference between your wanted resource and the one they want. The one you want from them is expendable, the food and water you have the power over is vital for them. That alone puts you into a much more powerful position.


The treats I give them have nothing to do with their vital needs, I think, because I don't train with them without plenty of hay/grass and water being present. And the regular food and water I give them is unconditional and has nothing to do with how we interact. Even if they decided to never look at me again, or attack me whenever I come too close, this would not result in a change in their food or water supply. So I don't see how my responsibility for their food and water relates to our training/communication?


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:48 pm 
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Quote:
Houyhnhnm wrote:
Quote:
Romy wrote:
But as long as I don’t eat oat and they are not striving for those fuzzy things in our communication that I am interested in, I feel as far from being in control over THE resources as I could be. Maybe I am controlling a resource that they want, but at least as much they are controlling the resources that I want. And they are good at making me work hard to earn them.

There is one important difference between your wanted resource and the one they want. The one you want from them is expendable, the food and water you have the power over is vital for them. That alone puts you into a much more powerful position.


There is another difference. You know the value of the oats to the horse, and you deliberately use it as currency.
But you, or me, or Bianca, or Josepha, or any of us, choose what we're going to reward, and choose what behaviours we are a going to "extinguish". Therefore it is us that assigns the value to the "fuzzy" things we want from the horse. Hence, we hold the power, and we claim leadership. If the horse will accept it.

Ocassionally a smart and self-disciplined horse decides to devalue our currency and refuse the proffered food reward. How helpless we feel then! :funny:

I do believe, for whatever reason, some horses resent feeling manipulated.

And if we're honest, we are manipulating them aren't we? Even if we train completely through capturing behaviours that the horse naturally offers, the whole point of the positive reinforcer is to increase the odds of that behaviour recurring. That must be manipulation. If the horse feels good about the whole transaction, it doesn't mind. But if there's something in the transaction that the horse feels stinks a bit, then they can feel pissed off. Pushed around, just as much as if they were being trained with pressure.

If the horse was truly training me, I'm sure they'd choose different behaviours to reward me with than spanish walk or passage. Although if they were a good trainer, they'd probably throw in the odd one as a jackpot! :funny:

In my experience, when I have the horses acceptance and approval as a leader (in that moment), they are happy in the transaction and feel like willing partners.When I don't have their acceptance, they're likely to show me somehow that they don't feel so good - even if they take the food. Ironical really. :huh:

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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:13 pm 
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All I can say for now is that this is a very interesting discussion in which I'm tossed one way to the other and back again... and for now I end up somewhere in between all things said and quoted here with a big question mark above my head.

And I must say: thank you for putting me in this position... it opens up a while new world to me which deserves some thinking before a I can even start to have an opinion about this.

About the position of a leader... one thing came to mind. I once had a discussion with a teacher about leadership, amongst humans, amongst animals and in a human-horse relationship.
His believe was that a situation without a leader is one to fall apart. The leader does not have to claim its position, it gets it handed to him. The one that has the best (or simply a) idea about what to do in this situation. As what Volker said: when the horses seek water, they'll look to the horse that is best in finding water. But in a different situation a different leader will be picked.

In this case, the leader is not so much as the one 'telling what to do' but maybe more an 'initiator'.

And that's the way I try to see it with me and Ruphina.
In cases she is the initiator because she knows what to do (she knows the way better, knows better where to put her feet for instance) so then she gets to be 'the leader'. In other cases, crossing a street for example, I know most about it so I am the initiator about when to stop and wait and when to cross it.

But, then again, in training who knows best?
She knows in which ways her body can move, I try to know as much as possible about what movement her body should make to heal from old injuries.
So: we both know something in this situation that might be helpfull.
Are we both initiators? I hope to think so, I give her a suggestion about how to move and she tells me that she either can't or that she'd prefer it any other way or simply wants to do something else.

But I'm still struggling with the leader 'term'.
When I replace it with initiator I'm much more at ease with it.

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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:28 pm 
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windhorsesue wrote:
There is another difference. You know the value of the oats to the horse, and you deliberately use it as currency.
But you, or me, or Bianca, or Josepha, or any of us, choose what we're going to reward, and choose what behaviours we are a going to "extinguish". Therefore it is us that assigns the value to the "fuzzy" things we want from the horse. Hence, we hold the power, and we claim leadership. If the horse will accept it.


I think that's a very good point, but at least for my own training, I don't feel that it works that way exclusively. For example if I want Pia to move her frontquarters away from me, she only does this when I have given a body language cue that she likes. In that way she simply extinguishes the bad ones. If she does not like being touched and I don't react to her small signs, she threatens to bite and I will listen better next time. Or she just leaves me standing alone. So she rewards certain behaviours of me and punishes others.

The only difference I see is the degree of consciousness. Whereas I might plan what I want to achieve in her behaviour and use my rewards delibarately, she might use hers just based on her feelings at any given moment, perhaps. But in the general principle I don't see that much of a difference.

windhorsesue wrote:
And if we're honest, we are manipulating them aren't we? Even if we train completely through capturing behaviours that the horse naturally offers, the whole point of the positive reinforcer is to increase the odds of that behaviour recurring. That must be manipulation.


Don't know about the "we" as I prefer to speak for myself only, but I completely agree that I am manipulating them. Absolutely. And I have to say that I am manipulating EVERY human or animal I am interacting with. I think that's an unavoidable consequence of any social interaction, and at the same time I see it as the basis for social interaction to be possible at all.

My argument, however, was not that in my relationships with others I see no social influence taking place. I was just intending to say that I don't feel that I need to be the boss of my horses, at least not in a form that is decoupled from the particular situation. If this discussion about leadership is intended to argue that leadership is just another form of R+ training or free shaping or working with the horse's initiative, then indeed we might not differ in our attitude towards it. But I think this was not the original point, was it?

windhorsesue wrote:
If the horse was truly training me, I'm sure they'd choose different behaviours to reward me with than spanish walk or passage. Although if they were a good trainer, they'd probably throw in the odd one as a jackpot! :funny:


Yeah, but what if these are the only ones that influence your behavior for the better? :funny: I don't know about other horses, but with mine I cannot vary the rewards just as I wish, either. If for example I come with sunflower seeds, all except Titum refuse to do anything for that. And in the same way there are exercises (or behaviours in general) that I simply don't respond to. Oh, and Titum does try to vary the reinforcers quite a bit... he has done countless efforts to make me accept turning his head and neck around its own axis for example, but for some reason that spoiled human just doesn't take this as a treat. :funny:

windhorsesue wrote:
In my experience, when I have the horses acceptance and approval as a leader (in that moment), they are happy in the transaction and feel like willing partners.When I don't have their acceptance, they're likely to show me somehow that they don't feel so good - even if they take the food. Ironical really. :huh:


That's really great and again I want to emphasize that I don't mean to speak against leadership per se and especially not against other people's decisions to use it. It's just that in my own way of interacting with my world I don't feel that it's something I need.


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:06 pm 
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If the only thing that influenced my horse for the better was a whole bag of apples, I'd probably give up training her. :funny: Luckily, she can be manipulated with a single sliver of carrot when she's in the mood.

Yes, you're right - leadership as R+ training was not the original point. :D

Quote:
I was just intending to say that I don’t feel that I need to be the boss of my horses, at least not in a form that is decoupled from the particular situation.
I really don't understand what you mean by leadership, or being the boss, in a form decoupled from the particular situation. Is this what I do? :blonde: But yes, I was talking about sometimes taking on an active "boss" role with mine. :)

However, that is off on my own tangent. Sorry! :D

I guess the only relevance that is has here in your diary, is that thinking about this in my horses got me to wondering aloud whether you think that Titum might ever feel that he is being manipulated and feel not so good about that?

D
Quote:
on’t know about the "we" as I prefer to speak for myself only, but I completely agree that I am manipulating them. Absolutely. And I have to say that I am manipulating EVERY human or animal I am interacting with. I think that's an unavoidable consequence of any social interaction, and at the same time I see it as the basis for social interaction to be possible at all.


I can see how you can stretch the point to show all interaction as manipulation, and can see that without the ability to influence each others behaviour we would have no social interaction, but I do think that very little of it is as calculated and deliberate as the operant conditioning that we (people in general) are conciously engaging in when we use treat based R+ training with horses. Personally, I don't feel manipulated when someone smiles at me. Although in essence that is what is happening right? But in general I don't really like that kind of deliberate giving and withholding of favours from friends. I much prefer my friendly interactions to be largely unconditional, as long as I'm respectful and pleasant. :)

It sounds like I'm arguing against R+ training now! I"m not! I love it! It's just that I think some animals can sometimes get to feeling manipulated and resentful of it, for some reason. While others never do. I don't know Titum well enough.. or at all really! So can't judge whether I'd get this impression from him if I met him in person. :) But I just wanted to ask you what you thought.

xx

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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:14 pm 
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Quote:
I really don't understand what you mean by leadership, or being the boss, in a form decoupled from the particular situation. Is this what I do? :blonde:


If my post from this morning (fourth post on this page) did not make it clear enough what I mean by this, I see myself unable to explain it more clearly, alas. And I have no idea if you do it. I don't know you that well, and I tried my best not to make this discussion sound as if it was about you. Sorry if it still did. :kiss:

windhorsesue wrote:
It sounds like I'm arguing against R+ training now! I"m not! I love it! It's just that I think some animals can sometimes get to feeling manipulated and resentful of it, for some reason. While others never do. I don't know Titum well enough.. or at all really! So can't judge whether I'd get this impression from him if I met him in person. :) But I just wanted to ask you what you thought.


I think it's possible that you would get that impression from him, but I don't know. We had the same problem, only much worse, in our R- (mixed with some occassional R+) training time, so to me it doesn't seem very likely that it's just the R+ that triggers it. But honestly, I don't know. I just know that at times Titum seems to like structure and a clear task, whereas at other times he does not seem to want this at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:38 am 
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Romy wrote:
But honestly, I don't know. I just know that at times Titum seems to like structure and a clear task, whereas at other times he does not seem to want this at all.


I am going to elaborate on that a bit more, because I really mean what I say: I don't know. In the past I have often argued for boundaries, and that a maximum of freedom (or options, actually) does not result in a maximum of happiness, because it usually reduces safety. I have seen it so many times that a child, or even a horse, was doing better after having been confronted with a clear boundary. And even happier: I am not talking about a case where the person is being intimidated and thus performs well because he has no other choice. I think that boundaries are great and there is nothing worse than moving around in a sort of vacuum, where nothing that you do has any consequences.

Thinking about the whole leadership thing again (thank you, Sue! :kiss:), I have been wondering (again), why my feeling is that we are talking about the same or a similar phenomenon (the horse's reaction to a decrease of the vacuum by setting some boundaries, to express it a bit more neutrally, perhaps) but still we seem to differ in such a central aspect as the belief if leadership as a necessary part of that. Again, I do not mean to put any words in anyone's mouth, so you could as well describe it as a struggle within myself: why am I so wary of acting as a boss for someone, when at the same time there seem to be such good arguments for it?

To anticipate the point I am trying to make, I guess it's that a similar thing (structure - safety - motivation) can be achieved by something that is carrying less danger for ME. But after the long introduction I think I will just briefly describe what we did, so that maybe the context of what I am actually talking about will become a bit clearer.

Yesterday we went for a walk, Titum, Nora and I. We did some adventure walking, actually: in the forest where we live, you will always find tree stumps to climb on, tree trunks to jump over, hills to run up and down, streams to cross or to walk in them, sand areas for the horse to roll in etc. We have those opportunities all the time, but often I don't use them but just walk a normal path, with either the horse leading or me leading or none of us. But no matter who is choosing the path, for us staying on the same path at approximately the same speed remains boring, unless we have a really interesting conversation going on. But yesterday we made use of all the opportunities for having fun. Whenever Titum became a bit lame, we ran down a steep hill which got him going, whenever he felt bored we offered something to climb on, jump over or wade through.

Maybe we will do it again today and if so, I will take some pictures, so I won't write about the details right now, but just the effect: I got a highly motivated horse who was having so much fun! And this wasn't just during the times of crossing the actual obstacle, but in between as well, on our way back home as well, and it even lasted for the whole evening on the pasture, where he was cantering with me when I was running somewhere. It really felt like Titum had woken up again. :)

There was another change that I had made before but didn't tell you about, yet. After the fourth Aylin lesson,
Romy wrote:
Fourth, she LOVES movement. She doesn't run with the horses because she wants them to run with her, but because she wants to run with them. The difference might sound very negligible, but I think that's basically what it all boils down to, and it makes a whole world of a difference to my horses.

I wanted to run with the horses like that as well. But instead of telling myself that I needed to run because running was fun, Fun, FUN!! :evil:, I simply made it my default behavior during my everyday life. Whenever I had a distance to cross and there was no reason for not running (like carrying a heavy thing, walking on the floor of our office building with many normal people around me, having pain in my foot, being very exhausted, walking on a difficult path etc.), I ran instead of walking. After only a short time, now I start feeling itchy when I see a path before me and don't run. This is great, because now I never need to make myself run with the horses because I want them to run with me, but suddenly I have this genuine interest in running - and they just run along. So I have become a more motivating person, without even asking my horses to be more motivated in face of the same old and unmotivating situation. :)

To sum I up, I guess my point is this: at least in the field of getting the horse going again, for us the essential part of giving the horse some structure and push can be handed over to the task itself, or more generally speaking, to the environment. I include myself in this environment, because with a better attitude towards movement, I can act more like an example instead of the one who is pushing the buttons.

Maybe I could have achieved the same level of motivation and contentment in Titum by suggesting to him that I was the boss? I don't know. What I know for sure, though, is that if I had gotten him to wake up in this way, MY own flaws would have persisted: I would still be a lazy person asking for boring things that the horse sees no meaning in. And in this way I am afraid I could have produced a response that is contradictory to the stimuli. So I guess that as long as I am as far from perfect as I am now, I will refrain from using any "because I said so" arguments as much as I can. It just happens too often that what I said is not reasonable enough. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:11 am 
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I´m sorry for not responding sooner, but I couldn´t find the time before for a more elaborate answer. I wanted to think this whole leadership topic through again, but when I read your last posting now, I find that the answer is all so easy! :) Because you have given it already:

Romy wrote:
Maybe I could have achieved the same level of motivation and contentment in Titum by suggesting to him that I was the boss? I don’t know. What I know for sure, though, is that if I had gotten him to wake up in this way, MY own flaws would have persisted: I would still be a lazy person asking for boring things that the horse sees no meaning in. And in this way I am afraid I could have produced a response that is contradictory to the stimuli.
Now I was convinced before that our different views of this leadership topic is based mostly on differing definitions of the term "leadership". And I know that there are tons of defintions for it.
For me, GOOD leadership is exactly what you did with Titum! You defined a common goal to achieve, you took the initative and motivated Titum to join in. The result of that GOOD leadership was: two motivated participants having fun. That´s all it is, but quite an achievement isn´t it?
Now BAD leadership in my opinion would have been to act like a boss. To just say "do this just because I say so". That´s misuse of a power position. Now what we could debate about is whether you are in a power position at all or not, but that´s another point. My point is that just because you show leadership doesn´t mean that you have to act bossy at all - quite the contrary I think.

The term "leading" always implies a direction to go to. A goal. So a leader would be someone with initiative, who has initiated the progress toward that goal. That can be a child yelling "Let´s play football!", or a manager trying to raise the morale in a big company. The quality of leadership is defined by the quality of the outcome. And that is in my opinion very highly dependent on the motivation of all participants in that process. For me who has just dipped his nose into the wonderful world of R+, the only way to REALLY motivate someone is by R+, not by bossing around.

So many words - did I make myself clearer a bit?

BTW a wonderful playground you have there in the forest with all the tangling roots and water and all... Unfortunately we are not supposed to enter the forest apart from the part that belongs to our premises :(.

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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:18 pm 
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Thank you very much for your reply, Volker! I wanted to reply to your lovely video and pictures as well but just didn't find the time. But now I have finished something here at work and can take some minutes off to write in the forum. :)

Houyhnhnm wrote:
Now I was convinced before that our different views of this leadership topic is based mostly on differing definitions of the term "leadership". And I know that there are tons of defintions for it.


Oh, there are tons of them indeed, and I could not even say that I have a single definition of leadership, either. But still, no matter if I see leadership as "being the boss" or as "being the initiator", and even if I look at it within a purely R+ or free choice based framework, I believe that leadership is way overrated in several areas of life. My reason for this is not just because I think it's wrong to push someone against his will - this, I guess, is only one possible aspect of leadership. Perhaps, as you say, not even of good leadership.

The reason why I am wary of the leadership view is that in several fields of research, no matter if it's the brain sciences, the study of joint action or movement, or even more coarse-grained fields like organizational psychology, there seems to be convergent evidence that the old leadership-like models that were so popular during the last century just aren't fitting the data as well as they were supposed to, and there seem to be other accounts that explain the same phenomena much better.

Instead of assuming something like a central executive as some sort of superior instance that is coordinating the activity of certain subsystems, those models view coordination as an emergent phenomenon of rather spontaneous interactions between single subsystems. And although from the resulting activity you could assume that this coordinated behavior was produced by someone "pulling the strings", often it can be far better explained by distributed processing in dynamical networks, with the weights shifting depending on the needs of the situation instead of being a result of any static leadership instance.

Ironically, the very same day we started this discussion here in Titum's diary I was assisting my boss in an exam where he asked the student about different theories of organizational structures. The student who was not really prepared didn't know anything except the common hierarchical approaches, so my boss, a very wise and luckily also very talkative man, layed out a whole framework of heterarchical organization for him, both within the brain and in social groups. Good reassurance for me that I am not completely going crazy with these strange views, trying to transfer some of those more basic phenomena to my interaction with horses. :funny:

I don't know much about organizational psychology for example, but when you consider how prominent the idea of a central executive has been in the brain sciences over the last decades, I guess it will take several years for those more dynamical views to be spread in the applied fields of psychology as well, if this will happen at all. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the whole idea of a leader steering the system is so intuitive. And when applied to people's own experience of interacting with others, with our funny subjective experience of consciousness and agency it seems even more obvious that we believe we are the ones in control, so it will be even harder to question that view.

I am not saying that leadership has no point, and probably it's not one view or the other but a blend of different phenomena. I just want to be aware that leadership is not the only possible way to interpret social phenomena, and perhaps not even a necessary ingredient in some cases.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
For me, GOOD leadership is exactly what you did with Titum! You defined a common goal to achieve, you took the initative and motivated Titum to join in. The result of that GOOD leadership was: two motivated participants having fun. That´s all it is, but quite an achievement isn´t it?


It seems like it, doesn't it? But how do I know that it's me who defined it? What if it was just Titum who always ran after me when I went to the gate, always showed initiative when there seemed to be a purpose in our training, always seemed to fall asleep when I was asking for arbitrary exercises? Or in other words: am I still the leader when it's Titum who pushed and pushed and pushed, until I just couldn't pretend to be blind anymore? Maybe he was not consciously planning to make me go out with him, but what if everything he did was leading me there? Of course I feel like I was the one who set that goal, but then no matter how much people are being influenced, it's so hard-wired in the way we are built to see ourselves as the agent who freely decides over his actions.

We can drive this further and say that Titum couldn't have pushed me if I had not bored him to death. So my action triggered his action which triggered my action - you can repeat that as often as you wish - and not just triggered, but shaped. I guess that's what I mean with dynamic interactions, or at least one aspect of it: I just can't see where in this process I should put a leader.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
The term "leading" always implies a direction to go to. A goal. So a leader would be someone with initiative, who has initiated the progress toward that goal.


If you read this sentence from the background of my view of social interactions that I tried to sketch above, does it become in any way clear why I believe in mutual leadership? In a way, yes, I can agree with every word you wrote here. But I don't believe that in an interaction, at least not when it's a real two-way communication, a goal or a direction is usually set by one individual person.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
That can be a child yelling "Let's play football!", or a manager trying to raise the morale in a big company.


So cool that you use this example of the child, because in reply to your statement where I said I did not understand it at all, I wanted to ask you just this: If you believe that interacting with horses is not possible without being the leader, do you see the six-year-olds that come to my pasture and act as Titum's jambette slaves 8) as his leaders as well? No matter if yes or no, I'd love a short explanation why. I really want to understand your view, and I think I am getting closer, but I am not completely sure yet.

Houyhnhnm wrote:
For me who has just dipped his nose into the wonderful world of R+, the only way to REALLY motivate someone is by R+, not by bossing around.


Oh, and I sometimes see people being SO relieved when bossed around, and apparently so content. But I guess I still agree with your statement, because to me it seems that in these situations it's still the R+ that motivates them, although in the more abstract form of increased subjective safety and reduced responsibility, and with that less uncertainty and less chances for failure. As I tried to outline in older posts, I think you can also reach a similar effect by changing the activity within the environment. And still, even if this sounds contradictory to everything I wrote before, I can't completely dispraise bossing around - but this is something I still have to think about a lot more before I can write anything that makes some sense.


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 Post subject: Re: Titum
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 5:34 pm 
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Slowly but steadily the fog is lifting! :) I think I begin to see what you are aiming at. I will try to chisel out my point of view a bit more.

Romy wrote:
But still, no matter if I see leadership as “being the boss” or as “being the initiator”, and even if I look at it within a purely R+ or free choice based framework, I believe that leadership is way overrated in several areas of life.
I think that some types or interpretations of leadership or overrated and sometimes they are wrongly applied or the. But generally I still think leadership happens, whether planned or unintentionally. When I say that I like to define leadership as a direction towards a common goal, I don´t mean that there always has to be one individual doing the guiding and others the following. I think the distribution of leading and following can appear in all proportions between all participants. And of course it can shift at any time! I totally agree with you that a leadership approach that recognises only one static leader and others who follow is quite outdated. It can be, but it doesn´t have to be and it surely shouldn´t be like that in an positive process. And above all, it shouldn´t be that unbalanced in any learning process.
When one visualises a classical teacher-student situation, one would say the leader surely has to be the teacher, as he knows more about the subject to be learned. But what about the specific needs of the student? Maybe the teacher doesn´t know the student at all and so he has the be led by the student at least to some degree towards the common goal. Which might be at first to figure out the perfect setting for the learning to take place. At another time maybe the teacher will take a more active (leading) role in the process, but still it will always be a two-way communication, a give and take. I like your term "mutual leadership" a lot. Actually that´s how I see the perfect form of leadership - like a good relationship between partners.
In my opinion one cannot lead with disrespect of the other. If it´s really supposed to be leading as I see it, then it´s sharing common ground, going through the process side by side. Otherwise it would be just walking off alone.
On a side note: I think that´s one reason why the so-called leaders of our society like politicians or generals try to mingle with the "common folk", the "man from the streets" from time to time. They try to keep up the illusion that they are here with us, on the same level...

Romy wrote:
And although from the resulting activity you could assume that this coordinated behavior was produced by someone “pulling the strings”, often it can be far better explained by distributed processing in dynamical networks, with the weights shifting depending on the needs of the situation instead of being a result of any static leadership instance.
Ok, now that´s basically what I tried to say in the lengthy sermon above: not one person in charge, but a dynamical system with shifting proportions and responsibilities.

Romy wrote:
I just want to be aware that leadership is not the only possible way to interpret social phenomena, and perhaps not even a necessary ingredient in some cases.
I agree that it is certainly not the only way, but I also think it´s hard to avoid altogether.

Romy wrote:
If you believe that interacting with horses is not possible without being the leader, do you see the six-year-olds that come to my pasture and act as Titum’s jambette slaves as his leaders as well? No matter if yes or no, I’d love a short explanation why.
I hope I have answered your questions above, if not I´ll happily do so again :).

One important question remains though: Can we truly be equals with our horses? I think children can sometimes. I´m afraid it´s very hard for me as the owner of Mucki to be truly equal with him. I´m automatically put into a "boss position" by the fact that I control all his necessities and I have to take all care not to act as a boss.

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