The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:20 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:05 pm
Posts: 20
I’ve got a problem. My horse got a leg injury again. It would be good for her to walk with her regularly on solid ground like concrete. We should avoid turns as much as possible and all the other movements that are aggravating. The problem is that when we go outside the gate she gets on adrenalin and I lose her attention completely. I can’t find a way to calm her down and all she does is dragging me along. There is no way I can reach her and I don’t know what to do about it.

I already read some topics about the subject but I couldn’t really find the answer I am looking for. I already did a lot of preparation like dealing with scary objects. She is able to remain calm when I put a giant ball on her back, wave a big plastic bag around her body and over it, crossing, standing and backing over plastic tarps etc. So touchable things like scary objects are not the problem but unknown environments are and I don’t know how to deal with those situations. I know I cross a lot of thresholds when I take her for a walk or a ride and it probably would be better if I stay close to home and to increase the distance with small steps at a time. But I am sure even then I am going to end up in a situation where she gets unreachable again one day.

Also when I don’t go outside the gate for a while I have to start all over again. Even when she was perfectly calm she gets into that unreachable state of mind when she sees other horses or white dogs. Sometimes she would even jump on the road whether there is traffic or not. Dangerous for both of us so I would really like to know what to do when she is already in this state of mind. Food doesn’t work, asking her to lower her head or standing still until she calms down doesn’t work and I feel like I tried everything. I would really like to take her for a walk to strengthen her leg but don't know how to do it savely. I could have missed a topic that could be helpful (there are so many) so links to topics are also welcome.

I would really like to know what you do when your horse gets on so much adrenaline that it doesn’t even notice you are there anymore and drags you along from the ground as well as while riding.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:32 pm 
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Hi Tabitha, what I do in these situations is not trying to get the horse calm down but to match his energy level, be even faster - not in terms of walking speed but in my actions, anticipating the horse's actions instead of reacting to them, and offering alternatives instead. It's all about being fast in directing the horse's attention, so that he does not even have time to disengage. This can be hard for the human at first because many humans have a tendency of trying to avoid high energy in these situations. But in my experience, if there is one thing that helps, it's being faster, faster, faster... and unpredictable in terms of direction and speed, so that the horse really has to focus. ;)

Unfortunately I have no time at the moment, but you could type "energy mimicry" into the search function and this will get you to some of the posts where we have discussed that principle. More tomorrow, hopefully... :smile:

All the best for you two! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:20 am 

Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:05 pm
Posts: 20
Thank you!
Very interesting. I always tried to calm my horse down never thought of doing the opposite.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:04 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:00 am
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Location: Scotland
For me I do not mind so much if the horse is on adrenaline , but I would not feel safe , or happy , unless the horse is being attentive to me. This is something that I have learnt again just this morning , MrC jumped abit , but he stayed attentive to me , some what , so I did not feel scared or worried at all .
For me , if I was in a situation where I was scared of some danger . I would want to watch for any potential threat and would be angry and even more scared if my companions kept trying to distract me from watching and looking for a very potential danger . Also , I would feel so much more afraid if my friends appeared to totally not see the threat . Basically I think I am just explaining what Romy has written , being faster , faster , faster than the horse in moving , and being aware of the danger...
I am probably making no sense at all ...

I never want go against the horse , instead if I didn't want to go in that direction , or do what he wanted . I would go along with him and then happily suggest another direction , and show that it is more fun and interesting over there , and , that going in that direction does not mean that we will never go in the direction that he wants . So we go in many directions and eventually forget which way we wanted to go in the first place ;)

For me , spook busting with objects at home , never works in a non-controllable context , such as it is out on a walk , and , like you say , scared-ness of specific , partially immobile , objects is very easy to explain and overcome .

To me , there is a big difference between awareness and attentiveness . As I can see , out on the very few walks we have been on . That MrC can be very aware of something else yet still attentive an conscious of my micro movements . I suppose awareness and attentiveness are technically close , but to me the difference is vast .
With the fact that ; keeping an attentive micro movement connection does not prevent MrC looking , being aware and assessing his environment .Thus I am able to ask and suggest things without stopping him from keeping a clear notion of the environment . I know that I can ask for his complete and utter attentiveness and awareness , but I know that this is not very productive , as it only allows a very small area that we can walk . As once you break the complete world-blocking-out concentration on each other . He is flooded with stimuli that he missed when was just focused on me , so then it is near impossible to ask for his ,even remote , attentiveness - as there are now way to many thing he needs to look at , at once .
There are many wonderful threads on establishing a body language awareness and micro communication with each other . So I wont go into this , but reading the Encouraging politeness sticky , and this What to do to prevent bolting < which is part of the politeness stick ) might be helpful .
I see that I have gone on a bit , but this is all very present in my mind , and writing it down has helped clarify it , some what ;) But I hope this helps
Good Luck :smile:


Last edited by Ali on Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:13 pm 
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The most important things have already been said by Romy and Ali. So just a few additions from my part...

Tabbladen wrote:
I always tried to calm my horse down never thought of doing the opposite.
I tried calming my horse down for a long time. Until I realised that by doing what I thought was calming down, I effectively removed myself from the conversation. I tried to be as calm as possible, not getting my energy high, acting as if there was no danger at all. By doing that all my body told Mucki that I basically don't care for his worries, but am doing my own thing.
Now I also rather mirror his energy level when he is excited. I try to emulate a collected state with high energy, prepared to act decisively. That is also much more helpful, should Mucki really try to bolt or jump. It also tells him that I am aware of his state of mind.
After a while, depending on the source of danger, I visibly and audibly relax myself and ask Mucki to follow me away. If I timed it right, Mucki relaxes as well and happily follows my lead. That's when I reward and try to engage in a happy conversation that is supposed to remove the last traces of fear. That is, I ask some simple things with a strong reinforcement history, or which are instrinsically rewarding. For us, that is shoulder-in, some body targets, Spanish walk or lowering the head.
Lowering the head is by the way a nice exercise that can help the horse relax. Since the horse associates the low head with a state of relaxation, it can reciprocally induce relaxation in stressful situations. I ask it on cue in relaxed situations, like when grooming, and reinforce it strongly. I then use the conditioned relaxation when needed and recently Mucki has started to use it for relaxation all by himself :).

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:09 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:05 pm
Posts: 20
So what you all do is putting you energy level up to the same level as the horse and then you kind of shape it? Like asking the horse to put its energy into something else, like putting energy into stopping or backing or going sideways instead of putting energy into the scary environment and pulling me forwards towards home? And when I regain its attention I can decrease my energy again and see if my horse will mimic me. And then I reward her and try to keep her attention by asking some simple exercises.

Did I get it right like this?


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