The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Food Focused
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:19 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:25 pm
Posts: 18
Hi, I am new to horses and new to training. I lease a horse at a facility where I am taking riding lessons. I lease Bella so I can take extra time to play and learn to communicate better with her.
During our ground work, Bella is focused on eating loose hay that is is scattered around the arena. How do I get and keep her attention?
Bella is a 5 year old, Appaloosa. She is a school horse used in in therapeutic riding.

 Post subject: Re: Food Focused
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:31 am 
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Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:20 am
Posts: 6231
Location: Dresden, Germany
Welcome to the forum! :) I have no time to answer right now, but perhaps you can look into this sticky first: Possible ways of starting to interact with your horse :f:

 Post subject: Re: Food Focused
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:34 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:42 am
Posts: 2147
Location: Vienna, Austria
Welcome! :f:
I also recommend the topics that Romy linked, as they immediately give you some things to try and think about regarding that topic. Another, but much more time consuming, would be to read the beginnings of the diaries. The real gems are hidden there :).

Your question is a very fundamental one and as such it goes deep into everything that builds up relationship with the horse. I'd say it depends very much on the horse and her previous experience with humans. It can be a very lengthy process to develop a bond with a horse that is stronger than food on the ground. And that is already the core of it: you basically have to be more interesting than the food. You cannot force the attention, otherwise you won't have an open, curious attention next time, but a very avoiding one.
Luckily, horses are very curious and social by nature, so that can play into your hand if you wait for the horse to become interested on her own. It might be harder with school horses, or horses trained with a lot of negative reinforcement, but basically it's a matter of time and creativity on your side. If you are in the arena you can try to get her attention by focusing intensely on something like running in circles, doing hops, side passes or flying lead changes (Mucki likes that for example). It has to be something that you do with genuine fun and with focus. Ideally you should be able to forget the horse in the process. Especially with young horses like your Bella, the chances are good that they get drawn in by that kind of genuine playfulness.
Of course you could also try objects like balls or something, but for some horses they are just scary at first.

What is almost as important for me is to establish a way of communicating with the horse that is understandable and above all: rewarding. If my presence is rewarding to the horse, it will seek me out. Simple, isn't it? ;) Like a good friend with whom I like to chat for hours, because it just feels mutually good.
If you answer basically every reaction (at first) to you with a positive reward (food works best here), you will soon get a very interested horse that will love to interact with you.
Then comes the matter of food manners, but that's another topic ;)


The horse owes us nothing.

 Post subject: Re: Food Focused
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:25 pm
Posts: 18
:smile: Thank you both for your reply. I will look into both of your suggestions. I think you've hit onto something as well. Being new to all of this, I don't have creative games and things for Bella to do handy right off the top of my head. So, I know our routine has become pretty dull. She is such a quick learner that I will come prepared (Using Parelli right now) to work on a couple of things with her in an hours time and she"ll figure out what I'm asking in just minutes. Then I'm left with, "ah, what do we do now?"
I am excited to get out there and do some new things with her to get her interested in playing with me again.
I'll keep you posted.
And thanks for the warm welcome. :D

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