The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:22 pm 
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Location: Scotland
My horse can sometimes get really spooky and high energy , when i lead him he sometimes just forgets me and rushes ahead so i am left by his shoulder when i ask him to stop he spins around so he faces me .... any advice would be much apreciated :cheers:
Ali :f:


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:20 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
This is an interesting question.
Leading is all about having the horse pay attention to you. Romy has lots of wisdom in this area and keeps the focus by tiny micro body movements. For the rest of us it's harder! You can play with having your horse mirror your movements, so speed of walking, direction, stopping and starting all whilst using body language. Play with tiny movements in a known relaxed area and then practice that on a short walk and then longer etc. Of course the further away you lead from the herd and safety the bigger the test. If your horse trusts you to take the lead role (I am safe if I stick with her) then the spook should happen on the spot and immediately the horse should look to you for the answer. This is built over time spent together and good decisions on your behalf. If you are struggling to "control" what happens when out then go back to baby steps and increase the distance bit by bit until you are sure you have your horses attention. I like to use a slightly longer lead that I can let out should the horse want to charge ahead or spook. That way you don't frighten the horse more by pulling or snagging the rope. If you know your horse well you should be able to pick up when the body language/brain starts to be uneasy before the incident happens. Listen to that and turn around and avoid it happening. Once the horse realises that it is headed back to safety it normally calms down quickly. Treats and lowered head can be a good default you can build in for an emergency.
As for where you walk in relation to your horse would depend of what you want to do. You should both be comfortable with you on either side, at the head, shoulder and even walking behind the horse. The line should be loose anyway and if the horse has you in his attention and consideration he will adjust accordingly whist keeping one eye on where his human is.
So from what you wrote, take a step back and practice leading when he is calm and work up to calmness just outside the gate, then a trip down the drive and back etc. Reward, reward, reward for calm state of mind (don't forget this as most people ignore their horses when they are doing what they want and the horse has no feedback to tell them that's what you want!)
For me leading is a skill all on it's own and the starting point for all interactions. Horses that don't lead well/happily are difficult to move around/box/introduce to scary things. So it's well worth the effort to practice leading skills and eventually no lead is needed at all :-)

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:33 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
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Location: Devon, United Kingdom
I'm sorry Ali, I don't have much input, but am struggling with the same thing with Skylark at the moment. Thanks very much Morgan for the good reply! I think I need to take some steps back and focus on this with Skylark, but it seems like we are getting nowhere! She regularly rushes ahead and ignores my 'micro movements', until they get bigger and bigger and I have to tug her back :ieks:. The complete OPPOSITE of what we both want!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 3:55 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
It helps to use a time/place that works in your favour to begin with. No horse is happily going to leave it's friends/ go out of sight of the herd/ move away from a food source etc. So by using what the horse IS motivated to do (walk towards a pile of fresh hay, go towards the stable at feed time, join a friend in the arena), you already have a horse happy to go in the direction you want and rewarded by something they want when they get there. Horses have a very strong sense of herd and certain horses they follow and look for, to see where they should be. It takes a long time to build the type of relationship where the horse feels safer with you than it's herd members.
In a training set up you can try offering a bucket of something at the end of where you are going, a grazing stop and rewarding along the way. The picnic game where you pre plant some apples or carrots along the route and help your horse find them can sometimes work wonders. The bottom line is that the horse has to feel there is a reason to go where you want to go. There has to be a pay off. Horses are creatures of habit and will do what works. So if you are leading them somewhere that requires effort and work they are not going to be inclined to walk along happily to get there and will display annoyance (pulling/turning/rushing) to get you to quit what you are doing. If they learn that every time you come with a halter they get to go out and graze, find snacks, get to an area they want to be they will come running to get that halter. Get the fun back and they will happily go with you as you are providing something they want. Focus on what your horse likes/enjoys and asks for and try and fill that need. They are extremely smart. My horse will not allow anyone to catch him but I can walk freely with him and he never leaves me. He has learnt (at various yards when I have not been there!) that humans and halters means being forced to do something he doesn't want to. Even the vet can inject my horse if I am standing there and he won't leave because I ASK him to stay. Take the agenda out of the equation and work one on one with just your horse and no distractions. You must have total attention on him for him to have total attention on you. Good luck and keep practising with your horses motivation in mind :D

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Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:36 pm 
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SunLily wrote:
She regularly rushes ahead and ignores my 'micro movements', until they get bigger and bigger and I have to tug her back :ieks:. The complete OPPOSITE of what we both want!


In my experience, horses often ignore micro movements in situations of excitement unless these movements and the reactions to them have been introduced in a calm context and in a stepwise manner. Once this has been done, it is much easier to gradually transfer this type of communication to situations with more distractions. To do that, I first do the Encouraging politeness type of work in standstill. Second, I need to get into that area right between standing still and rushing, so I slowly work my way forwards from one end of that spectrum (standing) to the other one (rushing). I don’t simply start walking with the horse and wait for him to rush before starting to communicate. Instead, I stand still with him, walk one step, and as soon as the horse is in the process of setting his first step, I interrupt him and ask him to stop via body language (taking my focus back, standing straight etc.). When he stops, I reward massively and then we walk two steps, we stand, walk three steps, and so on. Once this stopping works, I minimize my cues so that the horse does not completely stop but merely shifts his focus back and onto me, which I reward and then directly walk on. In that way, we have established a fluent, constant communication that we can use while walking together.

Also, I make sure that a situation of rushing and pushing does not occur in the first place. As soon as I feel the least bit of resistance or that they stop attending to me, I stop in my tracks, freezing completely. I stand there and wait, and don't move on unless the horse has turned back to me and made a step out of my space. I reward this and only then we walk on. After that, I frequently check the horse's communication by giving little body language signals and rewarding the reactions to them. If there is no reaction, I stop walking again. Thus, I make sure not to walk without the horse's attention at all.

By the way, we have discussed a similar thing in the Encouraging politeness sticky before. :f:

AliMrC wrote:
so i am left by his shoulder when i ask him to stop he spins around so he faces me


When my horses don’t stop when I stop but run past me and cut me off, there are a few things I can do. First, I do what I have described above, i.e. making sure the horse slows down and stops in accordance with my body language. Additionally, I use my body to block him, if he gets too fast. To do that, I walk beside him and then turn my upper body and shoulders towards him. If he has learned to react to small body language signals in standstill (Encouraging politeness), this will most likely make him yield away from me with his shoulder. In terms of exercises, I do lots of direction changes and reward them. Now if I suddenly change direction, it will be very hard for my horse to follow me (and get rewarded) if he has not attended to my moves before, so he learns that he can make it easier for himself if he stays attentive and close to me. :smile:


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:14 pm 
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Location: Devon, United Kingdom
Thanks Romy... It looks like me and Skylark have some work to do.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:26 am 
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Location: Scotland
please keep us updated sunlily .. I would love to hear how you are doing :)

cheers :f:
Ali&Mrc


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 6:50 pm 
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I myself like the horse next to me, bend towards me, while lifting the shoulder away from me. This is also the way you see horses interact with each other, when they have attention for each other and or want to make room, or ask an other horse to follow. If a horse pushes the shoulder out to you, and looks away from you, it means pretty much the opposite.
So trying the shape the horse into a more of shoulder in shape towards you should help resolve a lot of problems.

In the old days, all stallions were lead on the cavesson or serreta in shoulder in, for that very same reason :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:08 pm 
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Wow Josepha that's really interesting Charlies been doing that all along .... and I have been thinking that is wrong :blonde: Arghhh the stupidity of humans :evil: poor Charlie :sad:


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:19 pm 
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"The horse is always right"
Cazaux de Nestier 1684-1754

:yes:

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:41 am 
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Josepha wrote:
"The horse is always right"
Cazaux de Nestier 1684-1754

:yes:


How true :f:


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