The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:06 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
http://youtu.be/ClvDZRGJ9hQ

This is 2 geldings meeting and interacting. Both clips were filmed on the same afternoon.

These horses actually likely grew up together years ago - the grey is a few years older. They are by the same stud and out of similar mares.

Let's talk about this - please share your thoughts :)


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:08 am 
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Well, to me the video speaks volumes about the way I want to interact with my horses. I think it illustrates what are promising versus not so promising ways to reach not only the fuzzy stuff like "get them to be proud and strong" but also very specific exercise goals. It's what I always meant when talking about the mental aspect of collection, and why to me that mattered most of all - or what Josepha was talking about when she said that the most important muscle to train in a horse was his ego. I'll just copy my reply to the video from Zuzana's diary:

Romy wrote:
Oh, I loved that video of Will and Special. Give them a reason to be beautiful and strong, and they will be. :)

It also was quite a nice reminder for me again to observe how Special affected Will's way of moving. No matter how precise Special was in directing Will's moves, no pushing whatsoever got Will to move in that nice, collected way. It looked very controlled, but not self-controlled. And then comes this lovely little mare, and everything changes as Will gets a reason for all this awesomeness to come out of him all by itself...

The reason why I love this video so much is because this has been a recurrent theme in my thinking and interacting with horses, in the last year more than ever: Whenever possible, I don't want to try to get or persuade or even inspire them to do something, but instead just create the right conditions, and then the learning will emerge. Not make it happen, but let it happen. So I see my current job more like that of the technican in a theatre (who is in charge of providing the right context for the actors to excel), not the director of the show. :f:

Thanks for posting this lovely video, Zu! :)


Is there anything specific that you want to discuss, Zu? :smile:


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:07 am 
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I like the video very much. I also feel similar things as Romy when I watch it. And it reminds me a lot of my Mucki. He would react the same as Will does. And that shows me exactly how good training should look like - at least with those kind of horses.

Special approaches Will almost like a pressure/release horse trainer would. He uses lots of pressure right from the start, a clear intention and the strong will to dominate the movements of the other horse.
Will's reaction to that approach seems to be half-hearted at best. He clearly avoids confrontation, but all the time Special is not really able to control Will's movements in a way like a trainer would like. There's no synchrony whatsoever and - as Romy already pointed out - there's no real engagement from Will's side. He's complying, but in a defensively avoiding way.

When there's finally some real motivation like the mare, Will changes completely. His expression, his gaits, his engagement. With that kind of energy, one could do haute ├ęcole - any energy that resulted from pressure would just yield mediocre results.
That change in Will's energy shows to me what he really thinks of Specials displays of power 8).

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The horse owes us nothing.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:58 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Yes, Romy and Volker,
there seems to be no question which movement is what we are after. (perhaps that is unfortunate choice of words - i know you are not "after" anything you guys, just welcome it if it happens :smile: )

But the question is how?

For it is the "dominant" horse that expresses himself in the Haute Ecole way, as you put it Volker.

Yet I want the horse (more so than you guys) to follow, to move with me, following my suggestions. And yes, I would say submissive. And I am sure there are other threads on this forum dealing with the submissive/dominant words... I think the bigger problem is semantics and what those words mean to each one of us. So let's leave it be for now - In my way of being with my horses, I call it submission, but willing, respectful (from both sides) submission.

I think the word that is important in this video (and with horses always) is dignity. Klaus Hempfling has been mentioning this so much lately... And it's not only leaving the horse with his dignity, but increasing it somehow.

I get glimpses of these kind of postures from the horses when we work. And there is an element of challenge in them. Which I do not perceive as "questioning my authority" in any way, rather (and I hope to be correct) as responding in a dignified way.

I would love to understand more about the horses way of expression. I mean they didn't really fight, yet from one moment to the next, the dominance relationship changes completely.... I think we go to true strength, inner power and dignity here.
For anyone following Klaus and his characterization in the book "What Horses Reveal" - Will is by far the stronger horse. In fact Special has not acted like this before - I think part of it is that he got stronger through training with me. - or maybe he just got older... who knows. But if I had any part of this, I am happy and proud.

I want all my horses to develop into horses like these!

The other question this brings is about male vs female horses. For the High School work, anyway. I think it takes a rare mare to express herself in these ways by herself - without training. Natural behavior for a mare is either to kick or not. There is very little posturing.

well, these are my thoughts for now :)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:27 pm 
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Zuzana wrote:
For it is the "dominant" horse that expresses himself in the Haute Ecole way, as you put it Volker.
That's not exactly what I meant. A dominant horse might display the collected movements I want to achieve, but in fact I believe that dominance is not what's causing those moves. As I see it, dominance is a behaviour not a character trait.
What I said was causing Will's change of posture and expression is not dominance, but the right motivation. I think he didn't want to be any more dominant than in the situation before, but he wanted to convey that he really meant it.
Such a motivating factor can come in a lot of different flavours. Defending a mare, a foal, a herd. Guarding food or space. But also play, exuberance, friendship.

With Mucki I mainly try to tap into his pride, his will to show off his best moves. Some may interpret that as display of dominance as well, but I just like to see it as play of two equals...

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:41 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
Posts: 250
Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thank you for explaining further, Volker.
I think I agree :)

it's so difficult to communicate with words, isn't it? :smile:

Yes, pride is a good way to explain it. And probably a better one, too, because I don't think either horse while being more collected/proud (first Special, then Will - red, then gray) - well, I don't think either horse was trying to take anything away from the other. It wasn't about making the other submit, as I saw it. It was just an expression of that moment and motivation.... thanks for helping me understand!


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