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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:50 pm 
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Donald Redux wrote:

Your question above uncovers one of the most profound of challenges in AND.

If you "own" the horse and rely on pressure for results, and performace at the goal, as I did for over 20 years, switching to "relationship," is a difficult challenge.
...
But when we determine, as so many AND members have, that we will rely solely on relationship as our goal with our horses, the change is drastic. Dramatic.
...
So your question is now profound, and will, because of the very nature of it, will always be profound when asked, even a thousand years from now.
How do I conduct my relationship with a dear friend.


I think this is the key to everything:
If I put the relationship always first, I can't to anything wrong, can I?
If I always have in mind to care for and improve our relationship, it doesn't really matter wehter I use treats or not, and what "methods" I use.

As you sax, this switch to relationship as the main goal in the interaction with your horse is really a challenge!!!

Although this was what attracted me to NHE and attracts me to stay on this path with AND, I catch myself again and again how I have Performance of things as goal. :blush:

I think for this reason the "doing nothing"phase is really important. It gives you time to realize what it really means, to let loose your agenda, to think all that new thoughts through.
On the other hand I agree with (I forgot who mentioned it in this thread) that "doing nothing" is not helpful fo rbuilding the relationshp itself. So Perhaps in this beginning phase I'm in, I'll have to go back several times to "doing nothing" to let go any arising agendas and then go back to interact with my horse to experience each other and work on our relationship.



Donald Redux wrote:
AND has no fixed boundaries as to method. Nor, I hope, will it ever. That we, like true scientists, adhere to the axiom, "There is no final answer, only the next question."
Welcome to AND, where we do not really know what is going to happen next. But it will be magical.
Donald


I appreciate this fact very very much! One of my greatest masters I had yet in horse (and life) stuff always said this: I never know ultimate truth. What I say today can have changed tommorow. I'm willing to learn and improve my actual insights every day."

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:37 pm 
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Franziska wrote:
[
I think this is the key to everything:
If I put the relationship always first, I can't to anything wrong, can I?
If I always have in mind to care for and improve our relationship, it doesn't really matter wehter I use treats or not, and what "methods" I use.
"


Ooooooh...the million dollar question, eh? First do no harm...

Relationship is an undefinable term isn't it? What it is to me could be completely different form what it is to you!!

So I think that the method you use is VERY important, and understanding whether you are using positive or negative reinforcement (or positive or negative punishment) is also important, cuz IMO the 'relationship' from the former VS the latter is COMPLETELY different, i.e how the animal sees me, the trainer?, in the learning process. If you are not using negative reinforcement, then I think it is important to identify the positive reinforcer that is working, treats, scratching, chasing, ???.

And yes, with negative reinforcement (-R) the animal has a choice, but there is a compulsion there that is not present with positive reinforcement (+R) via pressure (escape) or threat of pressure (avoidance). With positive reinforcement, I can give the cue or prompt or wait for the animal to offer behavior, and if she doesn't she doesn't, no consequence. But as soon as I move beyond that, and force the cue (asking), I am now using pressure, and thus applying a release as the reinforcer.

And this is not to say that +R or -R is better, just to be aware of what IS driving the behavior that is increasing (or decreasing), as pressure between predator and prey can be VERY subtle! Pressure is there at all times when we interact with another creature, so being aware of that is important, so the methods I choose are as well.

Brenda

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:36 am 
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I guess the problem with 'methods' is that for us humans they indeed don't seem to have that much of an impact on the relationship. The problem is that I don't feel pain when I hit my horse with a whip. So I start reasoning that I know I love my horse and I know I don't hit him out of anger but just to teach him something, so it doesn't matter that I use force, our relationship is still wonderful.

Of course, the horse probably has a different view on the situation. See it this way: the way our horse treats us has a direct effect on how we see the relationship: if he comes running at a canter towards us, we feel happy, if he bites, kicks, ignores us, we feel sad. In the first instance we feel like we have a great relationship, in the second we feel that our relationship isn't 100% perfect at all.

Turn the table around, and the horse is just as effected by how we treat him, as we are by how he treats us. If his human only comes to the horse in order to do free, fun stuff, then the horse feels like the human really understands his needs. On the other hand, if the human comes and starts demanding stuff, using pressure or corrections to make saying no very unpleasant or impossible, then he will have a very different view on training, the personality of his human, and aboev all the kind of relationship he has.

I think that inside of all of us, there's the woman-beater who hits first and then apologises by saying 'But you know I don't mean it that way, it's for your own good - and you know I love you, so why are you crying?'. The thing is that some let that personality come out when confronted with people they love, more let that personality come out when confronted with the children they love but who drive them nuts occasionally, and a very large group uses that kind of reasoning when dealing with the animals they love, because that's how traditionally we're taught to act around them.

For me, a large part of the relationship your horse has with you, boils down to two questions:

1. What do you do when he does what you want him to do (ranging from lying down, entering the stable, not-biting, standing still while you pick his hooves - everything)
2. What do you do when your horse doesn't do what you want?

The interesting thing is that the answer on the latter question is always the most important for the horse. The same with people: when a teacher gives you a compliment whenever you do something right, then that's great. However, when he also punishes you every time you do it less good, then you still get scared because the effect of doing it wrong is (mentally, not even that much physically) much stronger than of doing it right.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:08 pm 
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Brenda wrote:
Franziska wrote:
[
I think this is the key to everything:
If I put the relationship always first, I can't to anything wrong, can I?
If I always have in mind to care for and improve our relationship, it doesn't really matter wehter I use treats or not, and what "methods" I use.
"


Ooooooh...the million dollar question, eh? First do no harm...


I don't understand this comment - is it meant ironically or serious?

Brenda wrote:
Relationship is an undefinable term isn't it? What it is to me could be completely different form what it is to you!!


I agree partly, I should have said "good relationship" and with that I meant mainly mutual respect and thoughtfull handling.
What I meant is: If I have that always in mind as superior goal my method will be automatically be one that benefits a good relationship. (because I will surely not punish or hit a horse then or in other words use negative reinforcement).


Perhaps I should have been more clearly, I didn't really mean "any" method but more "which way of positive reinforcement".

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:28 pm 
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Boy, there are some really wonderful, meaty conversations going on here these days!

(My diary is a lot less interesting than these threads at the moment!) :)

Franziska (have I told you how beautiful I think your name is? I love how it's spelled...rolls off my mental tongue beautifully when I read and type it!) :smile: --

One of the things I find fascinating here is how differently our paths shape as we each explore AND -- there are some deep connecting threads (of kindness, of listening, of mutual respect and learning, of relationship, etc.) and within that, a multitude of interests and styles and personalities that shape what each of those things look and feel like for us.

As I look at my self and my journey with Stardust and Circe, it is more psychologically motivated then some, because that's so interesting to me. I also, as a former dancer, find myself beginning to think about this process more and more as a dance -- a pas de deux -- and that is shaping my perceptions and my actions. I'm also NOT the most disciplined person in the world (I hate rules! :twisted:) and so our time together is increasingly feeling like an extended improvisation session -- I'm having a blast blasting through old teaching about the "necessary" rules and structure about horse and human interaction on every level I can -- how I interact with them, how I give to them, how I do or don't ask things of them (and what I do about their response), how I'm physical with them, etc. For us, right at the moment, the more in the moment we are, planless and letting it evolve, the better! So our method is as non-methodical as possible, while still looking to move forward. (I see our work together as a spiral, rather than a straight line.) This shifts all the time, of course, and a year from now I may have a very different sense of what we're all hungering for.

I look at Brenda, for example, who has massive kindness and openness, and at the same time, a sense of precision about what she's doing with Lucy and Jack that I don't know if I could recreate in this lifetime! And I look at Miriam, who has evoked miracles from her ponies even as she finds clear and friendly ways to engage with them and the rest of the world -- again, I don't know that I could do what she does! Or Donald, who brings decades of rich horse experience and professional teaching experience, who works ideas in his own particularly magic insights from the perspective of someone who has spent a lifetime helping people (and animals) around him feel included and cared about.

There are moments when I feel true envy about what they do, ;) and want to get closer in my work/play to what they're doing, and other moments where I see how it's working for them, but not something that I think my guys and I will do well together. But I'm always learning!

So -- I think what Donald and Brenda were saying was simply that -- we all find our own paths on our journey towards the center -- and were welcoming your wisdom and insights as you share yours! We look to learn from you, too!

All the best,
Leigh

PS Edit: Oops, just to confuse the issue further, I'd thought the "million dollar question" line was from Donald -- so now I'm not only answering for other people, I'm attributing things incorrectly as well! :blush: :x

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Last edited by Leigh on Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:40 pm 
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Franziska wrote:
If I put the relationship always first, I can't to anything wrong, can I?
"


I wrote: Ooooooh...the million dollar question, eh? First do no harm...

Quote:
I don't understand this comment - is it meant ironically or serious?


Oh very serious! It was my thoughts in response to your question above!! IOW, how do we know we are not doing anything wrong? Sometimes I guess we don't??

But for me it is to try and analyze what I am doing, and what the driving consequences are behind my horse's behavior, to try and use positive reinforcement, and to be aware when/if relief from pressure becomes the motivating reinforcer. So IMO the method is very important for the 'relationship'.

In contrast, many folks think they have a great 'relationship' using natural horsemanship, cuz they say they get respect, compliance, a safe horse, etc. but I find the methods, mainly negative reinforcement, would not be what the horse would choose if he had a say????


So again I was just saying that the methods are important, is all. And these are just my thoughts about pressure/release, treats, reinforcers, etc.

Hope this helps???

Brenda

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:42 pm 
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Franziska wrote:
[
Perhaps I should have been more clearly, I didn't really mean "any" method but more "which way of positive reinforcement".


Ah yes! I agree! Much less potential for harm when using positive reinforcement methods, I think?

Brenda

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 5:17 pm 
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Hi Leigh and Brenda,
thanks for your posts gain! That helped me a lot! Leigh, how you described your way with your horses that is quite inspiring. Especially because I'm one of those analytic, target-oriented persons :sweat:

I was a little bit ditzy because everybody seemed to believe I would now return to beat my horse :^) and felt a little bit misunderstood. So I was also not shure if that comment of Brenda was serious or ironical. I'm happy it was serious!
But I think this is always the danger with communication in Internet-Forums, especially as you don't know me yet because I'm new...II dont know you.
I really should start my diary so that I can tell more abut my experiences, my motivation, my thoughts etc
:) :) :)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 5:59 pm 
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Franziska wrote:

Especially because I'm one of those analytic, target-oriented persons :sweat:

:) :) :)


Me too!!

And tho I think that it is a good thing, I think we sometimes tend to drive others nuts with details?

And yes, do start a diary, would love to hear more of your adventures!!

Brenda

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:08 pm 
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Franziska wrote:
Hi Leigh and Brenda,
thanks for your posts gain! That helped me a lot! Leigh, how you described your way with your horses that is quite inspiring. Especially because I'm one of those analytic, target-oriented persons :sweat:

I was a little bit ditzy because everybody seemed to believe I would now return to beat my horse :^) and felt a little bit misunderstood. So I was also not shure if that comment of Brenda was serious or ironical. I'm happy it was serious!
But I think this is always the danger with communication in Internet-Forums, especially as you don't know me yet because I'm new...II dont know you.
I really should start my diary so that I can tell more abut my experiences, my motivation, my thoughts etc
:) :) :)


Hi Franziska!

I don't think there is anything wrong at all with being target/goal oriented! :smile: For me, it's been important to step away from that, at least for a while, because I found myself so caught by it that it was getting in our way -- I was having trouble getting past underlying expectations and it was interfering with my ability to listen.

So our pendulum has swung waaaaay out the other way and we're partying and eating cake. :D We'll see when/if/how much it swings back...I truly don't know! And I absolutely don't think this is something that everyone must do -- it just unfolded that way for us. Doing this allowed me to find a much more organic way of interacting with each other than I'd known how to do before, because our truths were able to start emerging from our individual interactions, rather than from some external "this is how it should be done" structure. It's made me open to questions, open to possibilities, and open to imagination in some really important ways.

I think other people don't necessarily need to do this -- that they come with a deeper understanding of what they're after and how they want to get there, or they come with a better internal off switch for the pushiness/nudginess that I seemed to be caught by, or, even, they come without any traditional training/expectations and can step into this without that echoing in their heads. (Some of the most beautiful work being done here is happening with people who are quite new to horses, bringing their wisdom and experiences from other contexts -- and I love the fact that is respected here!) Etc., etc. And we all come with a slightly different version of what success looks like.

And I so understand the confusion that can arise when we're communicating online -- especially when we don't know one another yet. (But we will! :smile: ) When I first joined, I was feeling battle weary from other lists and fora, where people seemed intent on proving they knew more than everyone else -- it took me about a month of being here and writing in my diary to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and trust I'd actually get an answer to them, not a bunch of assumptions that I knew nothing!

I'd love it if you started a diary -- I'd love to hear more about how you think and work. And the very cool thing about diaries is that they ground the conversation in the details and realities of each of our experiences -- people respond, share ideas, sometimes suggestions, but it lands it a bit more than even these more theoretical conversations (as intriguing as they are) because they're happening against the backdrop of your story -- not just a dialogue about a particular approach.

No slamming here, ever. Which is such a relief and joy -- one of the best descriptions I've seen of this forum is that it's a study group -- we're all thinking and learning together. It's as non-power based and non-hierarchical a conversation that I've seen pretty much anywhere -- online or off.

I'm glad you're here, and being a part of it!

Best,
Leigh

PS: Brenda, you don't drive me crazy AT ALL with your attention to details...you have been a huge part of my learning how to break down my thinking into tangible pieces. And while I may never get there, I do admire your precision! It gives me a beautiful, maybe obtainable goal... 8) ( Or at least a glorious counterpoint to my broad brush grand philosophizing randomness...) ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:06 pm 
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Franziska wrote:
Hi Leigh and Brenda,
thanks for your posts gain! That helped me a lot! Leigh, how you described your way with your horses that is quite inspiring. Especially because I'm one of those analytic, target-oriented persons :sweat:

I was a little bit ditzy because everybody seemed to believe I would now return to beat my horse :^) and felt a little bit misunderstood. So I was also not shure if that comment of Brenda was serious or ironical. I'm happy it was serious!
But I think this is always the danger with communication in Internet-Forums, especially as you don't know me yet because I'm new...II dont know you.
I really should start my diary so that I can tell more abut my experiences, my motivation, my thoughts etc
:) :) :)


Oh, I hope you do. I look forward to that.

I think too, you will find that the danger of miscommunication, while possible, has virtually no painful effects here in AND. I've "miscommunicated" a number of times, and been politely corrected, sometimes privately. We simply do not get into beating each other up if we disagree.

I hope you enjoy and benefit as much as I have by joining AND.

Donald

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:33 am 
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Wow! There's been so much wonderful stuff written here after my hastily written and unproofread post that was quoted! (Thanks for the correction of terms Brenda!) Too many things of interest caught my eye to respond to... and it seems that they've all been talked out anyway. :f:

So I'll just add this little story, and you can take from it what you will. :f:

Those of you who have seen the beginning of my diary probably remember seeing photos of my family and horses hanging out together at the beach.

These photos, and the experiences that went with them, epitomize to me "relationship" and "friendship". The horses accepted us as one of the herd, enjoyed our company, felt safe around us, and with minimal management could be relied upon to stick around, and follow most of our whimsies... unless there was something MORE motivating than hanging out with us to consider. :) It was a wonderful, summery, loving time of learning... but incredibly stressful. ;) :f:

Yesterday, I took four horses over to an unfenced field to graze. They played wildly for the first ten minutes. At the end of the play, as the other two were blowing and sticking their heads down into the lucious grass to munch out, Harlequin and Sunrise slowed from gallop to canter, spun around and lazily ran back to me. I smiled at them, praised them, fed them a treat, and scratched their necks for a minute before telling them to go graze too. :f:

My horses live in a bare hard packed paddock. No grass, no soft area in their living quarters to run. This field is about three acres and absolutely LUSH with delicious fresh "spring" grass (although it's autumn here, it's like most countries spring), a particularly tasty weed with white and yellow flowers, and tall plants and trees of all varieties. :f:

What on EARTH could they find so motivating about a small handful of hohum alfalfa pellets and a scratch that they would RUN to me to receive them BEFORE going off to indulge in their passsion for green? :huh: :huh: :huh: :f:

The two horses who didn't run over, I believe, like (love?) us just as much. We're all the best of friends. But they haven't had this intensive reinforcement that S and H have had. So does that mean S and H are behaving robotically? They've been "Programmed" to come? Maybe.... but they've been programmed with love and praise and friendship. :f:

When they run to us, they do it because it FEELS good! It feels good to run, it feels good to do what we suggest, it feels good to be smiled at by a friend, it feels good to be given rewards of scratches and food, it feels good to know that you can understand, respond and feel good...... It seems to me that in the later stages of R+ training, there is SO MUCH MORE for the horse to feel good about than just "eat treat". :f:

Although, in the beginning, it is the "eat treat" that we usually rely on to provide the "hook" to get them started, and begin to make all the pleasurable connections. :f:

Now.. the two who found the grass more motivating, actually, if S and H hadn't been there providing motivation to run, would NOT have even chosen to run around and play first. Without S and H, the grass would have been instantly more motivating than play. :f:

So why do S and H not place "graze?" at the top of their priority list? H, probably because he's a young boy and still finds play intrinsically motivating. S..... NO WAY! She decided a couple of years ago that play was hard work with low returns.. she was fat, unfit and not comfortable. By using reinforcement to increase the returns, I was able to motivate her sufficiently to the point where she was no longer fat, unfit and uncomfortable. Play then became enjoyable in and of itself! It moved up her hierarchy of desires. :f:

So... Sunrise's priorities now go: PLAY!, Visit Sue for reinforcement, food! F and B's go: STAY SAFE! Eat food, come to Sue for reinforcement/friendship when you're full. :f: :f:

After a couple of hours grazing, while I walked around the boundary counting the posts I'll need to fence it, it was nearly dark and time to go home. The horses were out in the middle of a sea of tall grass and weeds. I called; "COME ON!" Sunrise and Harlequin stuffed in a couple more mouthfuls, and then both together in the same instant, turned and galloped! to me, to have their halters put on for the walk home. How I love my robots! :love: :love:

Footie and Bella, once they realized they were on their own and the two young ones weren't coming back, reluctantly left their grazing and trotted over. :D

Cheers!
Sue

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:24 pm 
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I just found this article by Leslie Desmond about "Rewards":
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Bill ... ssage/6654

I thought it does fit well with this topic here.

Some quotes from the text:

Quote:
... I learned that the joy of
simply being together with a horse in a state of shared awareness of
the things that matter to a horse, things that keep his curiosity
about what I am thinking, doing, and asking . . . unusually high.

When I stopped creating unpleasant situations that necessitated a
reward, I soon observed that my movements, mood, focus (line of
sight), and tone of voice attracted an unusual amount of attention.

Quote:
The reward most horses seek, in my experience, is the satisfaction of
clearly understanding and implementing a well presented intention.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 6:43 pm 
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Andrea, what a lovely article that is, and so many AND-like ideas in there, including the acceptance of a horse saying NO, and giving that horse the "gift" of your acceptance. Very lovely indeed.

Quote:
When I stopped creating unpleasant situations that necessitated a
reward, I soon observed that my movements, mood, focus (line of
sight), and tone of voice attracted an unusual amount of attention.
Soon after I made the switch with two horses that ignored me in
former times, I had my two most reliable mounts.


I said somewhere else that horses may above all, value clarity. That some people can use a LOT of pressure with their horses, and those horses still adore them. Why? I think (how could I know for sure) that these people have knack for being very clear in what they ask. And for true masters of clarity, I believe less pressure is needed...to point you could indeed call it "feel" rather than pressure.

She also infers something about the necessity of rewarding the smallest try (at least I think...I'm still waking up...). That too is important.

Very lovely, soft hearted and well intentioned people can play with a horse and still be unclear. The horse won't hate them of course, but a lack of clarity can hamper teaching the horse. And some people end up using more pressure than they actually think they do, by being unclear. How much pressure is too much, depends on the horse.

Quote:
To an observant person, a horse, not unlike a person, usually reveals
most of the key things you need to know about them at the start of
the relationship, or connection. The horse's best reward, then, is
the human's ability to expand and refine you ability to observe a
horse, to read him accurately, and then to adjust (timing, body
language, angle of your approach, eye contact, choice of specific
task, energy level, choice of equipment, and feel) in whatever way
necessary so that it becomes impossible for the horse not to get
along with you! Put another way, being with you and understanding
your intentions feels so good, so meaningful to the horse that
special considerations of reward, praise for putting up with you, is
out of the question.


I know I lack some clarity. I hope I am getting better at it, but I'm still learning of course. At least I am aware that I'm not perfect.

But Leslie seems to equate using rewards with having failed to be clear with the horse. It's obvious that we can train a horse, using rewards, to ignore our shortcomings...making it easier for them to work with us despite our foibles. It can and often is, still an affectionate relationship, and "clear enough" for both parties to be happy with it.

Leslie deftly avoids using the term "food reward" but uses the term "special reward" as if to imply an extra reward isn't necessary. We know pressure/release works with the release as the reward. But again, if you have clarity, and you reward with food, then to me you only double your chances of success in what you are attempting. I can train with no food rewards, but clicker training has taught me more about clarity than anyone from a pressure/release based method.

There are a ton of great clinicians out there, but precious few of them know how to teach clarity in a simple way that makes sense to many people. It's inferred. It's danced around. Not many have landed on the fact that it's key to pretty much everything. So I would gravitate to those clinicians that can see what I'm doing with my body language and suggest ways to be clearer with it. Whether you use food rewards, or pressure/release, clarity is still a big key to success.

It is a nice article. Anyone who advocates clarity as a key component is worthy of attention. If she can teach it effectively, she's worthy of a standing ovation! :cheers:

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:08 pm 
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Good thing to post that article over here as well! I really enjoyed reading it and it also helped me getting things more clear in my head on pressure, release and feel.

Quote:
... I learned that the joy of
simply being together with a horse in a state of shared awareness of
the things that matter to a horse, things that keep his curiosity
about what I am thinking, doing, and asking . . . unusually high.

When I stopped creating unpleasant situations that necessitated a
reward, I soon observed that my movements, mood, focus (line of
sight), and tone of voice attracted an unusual amount of attention.


I do think that that is a very important point: in a lot of NH clickertrainers you see that they combine pressure with treats, the latter in order to let the horse still be somewhat enthusiastic about the entire training thing. I think it's great that Leslie Desmond writes about the choice she has made in her training, because it's such an important step for other trainers aw well. But I feel it's not as if she had a choice out of only two ways of teaching, she had a choice between thousands of ways, and just went from one method to another.

Using pressure and then adding treats in order to keep your horse from getting depressed ;) , is just one way of using treats. Why not not use pressure, and then add treats? The fact that you use treats doesn't mean that your horse won't do things otherwise, and it doesn't mean either that you will automatically use more force because now you can 'stop the tears with a cookie'. ;)

I would love to see more of Leslie Desmonds work and how the definition of 'feel vs pressure' works out in practice. do you know if there are movies of this type of training on the internet?

_________________

New horse book: Mandala horses!


Never stop making mistakes! Natural Dressage


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