I wrote this initially in Patrice's diary, in response to some difficulties she was having when attempting to ride Cali with previously trained PNH methods, after some time of using AND type methods of groundwork.
I"ve moved it here because it got a bit long...
Anyway, I think this is a pretty common point for people to arrive at, when they find that their horse has really taken to the idea of playing with their human, and having a say, and then starts to demand that their human employs some other methods of riding communication too..
Please others, feel free to add in your ideas, methods, thoughts..
Re: Playing with Cali & Shaman
Or backup when I'm riding her...that was her default when I would use the cue of a light squeeze for forward which she has been quite responsive to for a couple of years now!!! So it is frustrating that she is not wanting to listen to that cue now. I'm hoping this was just a weird day and that won't be lost completely
she didn't respond. Now the game that is more interesting to her is the one that gets the treat. She had been rewarded for a back up cue early on that day's riding and she wanted to do that for all the regular cues I was giving. She was looking for that treat.
So my response was to go back to more pressure....so I got off and put the Parelli hackamore on so I could swing the mecate rope end for motion around my shoulders and then on Phase 4 it would lightly tap her hind. So then she did respond.
Hi Patrice, I was thinking over your difficulties as I was going to sleep last night, and the differences between Parelli's idea of "natual" and the horses idea of natural, with regard to riding. And I found these two quotes from you this morning that are the starting point for where I head off in a different direction.... So I"m going to offer up an alternative diagnosis of your riding problem, and you're free to consider, debate, adapt, or toss out as fits!
As I understand the horses natural motion and balance now, a light squeeze combined with a slight forward weight shift will cause even a totally untrained horse to curl up and move backwards. Horses can of course be trained to go forward off a squeeze and a lean forward.. but they have to be trained to it.. and that's where the phases of pressure and the final, much more direct because it IS a natural cue for forward, cue of a tap on the rump, come into play.
The phases of pressure that Parelli teaches to make a horse go forward; first squeeze the bum cheeks, then the thighs, then tighten the lower leg are I believed GUARANTEED to make a well balanced horse go backwards, and or bunch up... if they haven't already been trained to it. It's possible to train a horse to go forward from any cue.. dangle a feather duster round their ears, if you want.. And after horses HAVE been trained the Parelli way, and usually with the final tap on the bum providing the clarifier in the earlier stages, the may well move off really smoothly with just a kiss and the forward thought.. But if they don't,,,... that's where novices and un-centred riders.. and even lots of experienced riders.. get into difficulties. In trying to pressure the horse to move forward, they make it more and more difficult for the horse to balance and move freely in the direction they want the horse to go.
I used to just ride "my way" for thirty years. Then when I had to start teaching others, I began to worry about how to teach what I just did naturally. So I began to look at Parelli, and thought it might be a nice simple idea to use his "natural" system. Hmmm.. didn't work out that way for me. Although I do still like some of his methods, I've become very selective about which ones I use.
The people and ideas that have really helped me to find a way to teach others to ride "naturally" are (not neccessarily in order of importance.
A couple of concepts from Dr Bruce Nock, in his book the Ten Golden Rules of Horse Training.. most particularly his ideas on "primary and supporting signals". Although I don't apply the rules quite the way he does. , it's an important distinction to make: some cues have an intrinsic ability to provoke the desired response, (what he calls supporting) others, which he terms primary, have to be trained.
He starts with the trained signal, followed a moment later by the "supporting" signal. So, he follows a similar system to Parelli, of using the primary signal of a leg aid, followed a moment later by the supporting signal, the tap on the rump, until the primary signal has been conditioned.
In classical conditioning theory, these signals are termed as "conditioned stimulus" and "unconditioned stimulus".
If you are going to use the Parelli/Nock method of training this, then " The primary and supporting signals should continue to be given in tandem until the horse makes an acceptable response. As a general rule, the supporting signal should be given half a second to two seconds after the onset of the primary signal. The intensity of the primary signal should remain unchanged while that of the supporting signal increases until the response is evoked. With repeated and persistent pairing of the primary and supporting signals, the horse will eventually learn to respond to the primarly signal alone." (Bruce Nock) (And I would add, with regular brush ups as the neccessary, when the horse becomes less responsive to the primary signal.)
There's a slight difference in there that I think makes Dr Nocks method a little more sophisticated than Parellis.. No increasing phases of the primary signal... It dispenses with unneccessary confusion on the part of the horse, and ugliness in the rider, I think.
(I prefer to call these signals direct and indirect.. because I don't neccessarily teach them in that order, and where possible and practical, I try to dispense with the indirect signal altogether, and go with the one that is natural, "supporting", direct, unconditioned.. because this is usually the one that will flow best with the horses natural movement, balance and self carriage.)
Then.. also from Bruce Nock:
" Leg aids, like voice cues, also have little inherent power. This is, they do not naturally make horses go forward or faster. At the beginning of training, many horses either do not respond to leg pressure, or they might even go backward. Thus is a horse does not respond to a leg aid, there is no reason to increase pressure or to spur him. Contrary to popular belief, spurs (or greater leg action - sue) are not a natural forward driving aid. Instead, spurs tend to cause horses to tuck their croup downward and to step further under thier body with their hind legs."
Okay.... so I'm going to insert my diagnosis in here:
I think that Cali was responding to what she thought was your cue to back up..
Perhaps because you've had a break from riding her, or perhaps because she's been learning to respond to you more naturally, rather than from her trained conditioning (PNH), or perhaps because it hadn't been as well conditioned initially as you thought, or perhaps even, as you thought, that she was remembering her earlier reward for backing up, and made the link that you were asking for it again.. she's "forgotten" her conditioning and instead she's just responding naturally. Upping the phases and swining the rope around your shoulders just added to her confusion and brought up fear.. And finally when you tapped her butt, adding in the unconditioned stimulus/supporting signal/ direct cue she got it, and moved forward.. but by this time not happily, and not trustingly.
So.. my remedy would be ... if you want to continue with classical conditioning method..
Ask with your leg cue again, do not increase pressure. If no response, relax, and ask again, with a tap on the butt coming a second or two after the leg cue.. that is, don't wait till you're frustrated and her confused and anxious to clarify. Reward if you want, or release. Then practice again and again, until she is clear on the link again, and moves forward off the leg cue.
OR>>>>>>> you could have a little think about how you want to cue her to go forward, and if there are better ways of preparing her to move off forward more freely and with better balance.. IE.. perhaps you could find some subtle ways to change you primary cue, to make it more of a supporting cue as well.. or put another way.. find a cue that suits both of you as a primary cue - one you're happy to continue using as you ride her.. (tapping on the butt gets a bit embarassing doesn't it???! ) AND AT THE SAME TIME is clear to her as a supporting cue.. that is, suggests naturally what you are wanting, and allows her body to flow in the way that you suggest.
This is the way of the centaur!!
So.. back to my story..
Ahah! Thinks I as I read this from Bruce Nock. YEs! This is what I learnt with my first ever pony.. a wonderful and wise little gymkhana pony, bought for a fortune and then "given" to me for $100 because I was the only rider who could figure out how to make him stop going flat out backwards and find his forward button again, after he'd had a training breakdown.
So.. thinks I... why not use this natural inclination to collect and go backwards off a leg aid to ASK the horse to go backwards......???? And use my old method to go forward.. But what was that method.. it somehow just involved the belief that we WOULD go forward.. like my flying dreams relied on me believing I could fly. But how to teach someone that? What was I actually DOING while I was visualising the horse and I moving forward?
Sometime later, I was watching Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling's first video. He's riding his little horse, tackless, out in the open landscape. They come to a place where the little horse is reluctant to go turn and go down. He crosses over and carries on ahead.. KFH leans slightly forwards, lets his legs slip slight back and squeezes.. The little horse stops and backs up.. and after a little dialogue of the same nature, with KFH alternately "opening" himself up to ask for forwars, and "closing down" to ask for backward, the little horse agrees.
I went to KFH's book, dancing with horses, and found lots of wonderful mindopening information on how horses actually balance, and how we can help them to move freely.
Also useful to me were;
Mark Rashid's video of "finding the try" where he also illustrates the leaning forward/backwards, opening up and shifting weight slightly back/forwards principles.
Dr Deb Bennet's work on straightness (available on her website)
Carolyn Resnick, who showed me through her movements with horses on video, that every movement we do with our horses, on the ground or on their back, should be performed in the same way that we would dance with a partner.
Okay... I'm going to post this now, because it's LONG already.. and I have to do some work! But I'll continue with the story and tell how I'm teaching it now, and hope that I'm not being too pushy!