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Joe
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Posted: Fri Jul 27th, 2007 03:38 pm
Pauline Moore wrote: The brand of collection currently favoured by the dressage world is different to the collected posture adopted by a horse at play in the paddock, so is not relevant to what I was thinking about.  
Pauline, how can yo fail to see the natural grace in todays dressage?  Is it the overbent "collection" driven by leg aids that wave around like upside down windshield wipers in a really bad rain storm?

Joe


Zareeba
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Posted: Thu Feb 7th, 2008 01:01 am
Hi all,

This is a very interesting thread, although I think it teaches us more about humans than about horses!

There is a lot of talk about 'dominance' and ‘hierarchies' in this thread, but in my view these are red-herrings. When we talk about what is 'normal' for horses, how do we define 'normal'? Do we mean normal as in the way they behave in natural family groups (not 'herds') as seen in feral horse societies, left to get on with their lives without interference? If we do, then the concepts of 'dominance' and 'hierarchies' are virtually meaningless, and aggressive behaviour is minimal - friendly behaviour is much more common (see Joel Berger's 'Wild Horses of the Great Basin' and Marthe Kiley-Worthington's 'Horse Watch - What it is to be Equine' and my own books 'Let Horses Be Horses'  and 'Understanding horse Behavior' for starters).

If, on the other hand, we mean 'normal' as in the behaviour of horses in domestic settings, then a great deal depends on the management of a particular group. It also depends how you define 'dominant'! As for the so-called ‘alpha’ horse – this is another red-herring. If one horse is consistently more aggressive than others, then it may tell us a great deal about that horse, and possibly about how the group is constituted and managed, but it means nothing in terms of ‘leadership’ or social dominance.

As D.A. Welsh points out, ‘An important distinction is to separate true leadership from forcing, and from being first; just because a horse forces others out of his way does not mean that he is the leader, nor is the first one in a walking group necessarily in charge.’ ([size=D.A. Welsh, Population, behavioral and grazing ecology of the horses of Sable Island, MSc Thesis,  ]Dalhousie,  USA
,  1973  pp.205-206)

 This is borne out by the findings of various studies of feral horses.  For example, Telane Greyling, a zoologist who has spent the greater part of the last 13 years among the feral horses of the Namib desert, observing and recoding the behaviour of these horses, fully concurs with what I have said in the last two paragraphs  (Greyling, T.   The behavioural ecology of the feral horses in the Namib Naukluft Park   MSc Thesis  University of Pretoria   1994; also various personal communications with me on this subject)


 

Furthermore, I do not believe that horses can ever think of us as just another (rather funny-looking) horse – unless they are malimprinted (and ‘imprinting’ does not mean what popular ‘gurus’ say it does!).

I do not think that frequent expressions of aggression can or should be regarded as ‘normal’ – they are a sign of something amiss in that particular equine society. Aggressive behaviour is many times more common in domestic groups than it is in feral groups - there are many reasons for this - see the books mentioned above for more detailed explanations than I can give here.

Also there seems to be some confusion about what constitutes punishment. Sam I Ain’t says:

‘If I bump a horse, smack, whack or whatever its NEVER a punishment. Its not anger or given with malice, its just meant to be an unpleasant result to his undesirable action.’ But, Sam, if a horse perceives your action as unpleasant then it is punishment , regardless of your state of mind. Punishment given without anger or malice is still punishment. It is the perception of the animal – and how it affects the animal – that counts, not the intention behind your acts.

In 'Understanding horse Behavior' I wrote:

‘Punishment is often confused with negative reinforcement, but as I said earlier, they are not the same thing. In fact they could be said to be opposites, because negative reinforcement acts to increase the likelihood of behaviour being repeated, whereas punishment (in theory at least) acts to decrease it. We can either introduce something unpleasant as a punisher (positive punishment) or we can deprive the subject of something he or she likes (negative punishment).

‘Many people believe in punishment-based training, either because it is what they have been taught, or because they believe the use of punishment is an effective way to train animals. However, punishment is not really a very good training method. We can use it to tell a human or non-human what not to do, but we cannot convey by this means what we do want them to do. Even if we use it just to get rid of an unwanted behaviour, that behaviour may simply be replaced by another, equally unwanted behaviour; the punishment will do nothing to motivate the subject to switch to the kind of behaviour we do want. In terms of motivation, punishment is therefore rather a hit-and-miss affair. It must be administered immediately and be sufficiently strong to act as a deterrent. The degree of punishment has to be greater than the animal’s desire (or need) to do whatever he is being punished for; or, as with excessive negative reinforcement, the subject may do as we wish, but make only sufficient effort to avoid punishment or the stimulus. Or he may simply make greater efforts to avoid being caught!

‘People often use punishment illogically. One often sees a rider giving their horse a smack with a whip because he has refused a fence. Such riders will often justify their actions on the grounds that the horse was being naughty in refusing, and they want to ‘teach him a lesson’. Quite apart from the fact that the horse might have refused because he was afraid of the jump or unsure whether he could tackle it, how is he supposed to know that his refusal was the reason for his punishment? And how can he know that in order to avoid punishment next time, he had better jump any fence his rider points him at?

‘Another common scenario is that in which a rider will punish the horse for some misdeed when he is back in the stable. This is even more illogical than the rider hitting the horse for refusing a jump. How can the horse possibly know what he is being punished for? The same objection applies when people deprive a horse of his dinner because he has been ‘naughty’. Many people justify such actions on the grounds that ‘it worked because the horse never did it again.’ How do they know he would have done it (whatever ‘it’ was) again anyway?               ]

‘Behaviour analyst Murray Sidman has written at length about the damaging side effects of coercion and punishment, which extend far beyond the circumstances in which they are used. However, this does not mean that we must never use punishment. There may be situations – for example if a horse is behaving aggressively and we do not have enough information to know what is causing the aggression – where we need to take action in order to avoid injury. As Dr Sidman points out, in such situations “…common sense tells us that we have to use whatever effective means are at hand.” But as he goes on to say, the occasional emergency “may justify punishment as a treatment of last resort, but never as the treatment of choice. To use punishment occasionally as an act of desperation is not the same as advocating the use of punishment as a principle of behavior management.”’

So- except in circumstances which present a ‘clear and present danger’ - before resorting to punishment we should always try to find the cause of the undesirable behaviour. The horse may be trying to tell us that all is not well with some aspect of his world; if we punish him, he may simply stop trying to tell us, until the situation becomes so intolerable that in desperation, his behaviour really does become dangerous (so what do we do then? Punish him again?). Or – as in the case of many colts who nip – unwanted behaviour may simply be a form of attention-seeking, and a slap (or whatever) just encourages the behaviour. There are many better ways of changing or preventing unwanted behaviour than the use of punishment.

It is not a matter of being ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, but of taking the trouble to understand why horses behave the way they do – and in order to do this, we have to discard all the rubbish talked by people who say we have to take on the role of the ‘alpha horse’, make ourselves the equivalent of the ‘herd leader’ or similar babble. Read the books mentioned above (yes, I know 2 of them are mine, but I have researched the subject by making my own systematic observations as well as reading reams of scientific material). Then study the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how horses (or any animals) learn. There are at present no really good books specifically about learning in horses (Debbie Marsten’s ‘How Horses Learn’ is very good in parts but seriously flawed in others, especially in the definitions of reinforcements). So I would recommend Karen Pryor’s ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’, even though her notions of giving the aids in riding seem crude to say the least – even so, this is a good introduction to the processes of learning. I would also thoroughly recommend ‘How Dogs Learn’ by Mary Burch and Jon Hailey.

As for the belief that horses respond better to negative reinforcement than to positive reinforcement, I can assure you that this is not the case! But I’ve already gone on about this far too long…


horse an rider
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Posted: Fri Mar 14th, 2008 09:25 pm
it is always the goal to use a soft hand and work smooth an gentle around our animals this does not always happen an some times we get caught of guard we just like with our animals should get out self back into that frame of mind an workmanship all good old horse handlers have made their mistakes and learnd from them
Karrina
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Posted: Mon Mar 17th, 2008 02:52 pm


Hi Pauline



I love reading and hearing about your horse encounters, I was very sad to read about the loss of your old TB, he held an amazing presence, that impressed me very much.

I was'nt going to leave any comments, but reading through the last dozen or so threads, I just had to put my tiny 2 cents worth in (for those mentioning horse smacking) about my own gelding, whom guaranteed will give you a double barrel in the blink of an eye if you dare raise a hand to him, but give him a clear and confident instruction and he will respond with the upmost respect and grace.

I have watched him time and time again respond to people who dont "speak his body language" come off second best (myself included in the beginning), and watched him respect those who do understand, but as I said earlier I only have 2 cents worth to add and maybe my boy is one of a kind, but you certainly couldnt get near this horse if your intentions were to give him a quick slap to pull him into line.

Regards

Karrina


zoya
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Posted: Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 07:17 pm

Newbie here, so take it easy.

Say, Sam's other half, what if the "conversation" goes on after you slap the horse?  What would you do if he felt you deserved an answer in the form of a more vicious bite, strike, or full on charge?

I am not at all opposed to discipline and pecking order, but if you do not know the animal well and are not paying attention, how do you predict what the creature is possibly going to do next?

Glad you are humble and curious enough to ask.
cheers :)


Sam
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Posted: Tue Mar 25th, 2008 07:35 am
Sorry Zoya,  Sam I ain't is in his shed fixing stuff and not looking at the horses at present!!!  Who knows something might trigger his return.  I have made the most humbling discovery today, as usual a lesson from both my horses has rocked my world. 

I thought I had been helping Muffy come to terms with the girth and saddle......as per Dr Debs suggestions in another thread...well I started out following these suggestions but I didn't like the results as they were upsetting Muffy and an upset Muffy upsets Sam ( as he might not love me anymore)!!!! 

 He was bucking when the girth was done up and I didn't like it so I have spent ages teaching Muffy how to stand still while the girth is done up, thus bottling the emotions that needed to come out, needless to say the horse has the final say and he now distends his penis when girthing and THAT tells me he is not okay with the whole deal.  So the lesson from Muffy leads me to Giant Shetland and the Birdie book.  Muffy on the whole offers me a lovely  feel and presence, its a bit gutting to finally have it dawn on me Giant Shet feels awful and dead most of the time, and appears to be stuck in Bargining.

Now here is the crock, its as plain as the nose on my face, only I can get the knowledge to help these two beautiful animals, so I have to throw out the baby with the bath water and ditch a lot of stuff I thought I knew about horses, get a back bone and explain to myself and my horses that life isn't always a bunch of warm fuzzies! 

Big lesson learnt thanks to my four legged teachers and their wonderful translator Dr Deb, who like the horses, tells it how it is.

Thanks Dr Deb

Regards Sam

Jodie
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Posted: Tue Jan 7th, 2014 12:57 am
Am resurrecting this old thread as it is what I was reading before I just went out to visit with my horses and I believe it will be of more help to others having all of this together rather than starting a new topic.

The past few weeks, I’ve been pondering what’s going on with my 15 yo TWH gelding and me. We’ve made tremendous headway in the past two years: no more pacing and he no longer feels like a tank on for separate tracks in different directions. (Thanks to this forum, DD’s articles and CD’s, hours upon hours of watching Buck’s DVD’s, asking the horse, and a lot of mindfulness.) (Oh, and discarding most everything I learned back east ‘English” growing up.) I started with a seeing-red, fetal position fear of riding three years ago and now Harley and I are riding all over my place, and we even hook up and trailer out for trail rides. Yes, I’m still afraid on some level--it’ll never go away--but my confidence grows every time I ride. Which was the key to it: just getting on every day. And singing. The bunny who lives at the lower pasture knows Mary Had a Little Lamb by heart.
I remember the day a little over a year ago that Harley and I were going down the trail by the lake. It’s just a half mile loop around the pasture and barn and through a bit of woods. This was all I could stomach “venturing out” for a long time, and a triumph for me. My baby step version of trail riding. That day though, I realized I was enjoying the lake for the first time, not looking for boogey men living solely to scare my horse! It was also the day that Harley, when we came to where a trail heads away from home, looked up the trail, cocked his eye back at me with a question, and I said, “Okay. Let’s do it.” He knew it was time. He’s an incredible trail horse. So you see, he has babysat me.
There is no question that Harley is bonded to me, (or the key to the pellet bin I control!). Mom says he watches for me when I come and go and when I’m away on business he stares at the house. Last time we went trail riding, he whinnied when I walked away from the trailer and went into the little restroom building, both before and after the ride.
But lately, due to both his behavior on the ground and under saddle, I’m beginning to think something else is going on here. Could it be that as I have gained confidence and am asking more of him, he sees our comparative roles changing? The word I would use is that he’s challenging me.
Last week I had treats in my pocket to snag the minis who were in the pasture with the big horses. (I only give my horses treats in their feed buckets. I know treating works for others; not me.) They can’t stay on grass long, so I catch them and leave the two big horses out. This time Harley followed me up with them and obviously caught a whiff of my pocket contents. He was all perked up. I put the minis outside the gate. (Puppy dogs, they just hang there and wait.) He followed me around, turned on a dime at a perfect distance from me as I turned, backed in perfect unison with my steps, forward as well, moved away fore and rear… all at a perfect distance… all off lead. I could have asked him to go fetch the newspaper! My point is he knows what I want him to do. We obviously have body language down.
An example of him challenging me on the ground: In the past few weeks Harley has bent away from me when I go to brush him and even cocks a hind leg. (There is nothing wrong with him. Vet was just here and he’s sound and to be sure I touch him and have had others at odd times and he shows no sensitivity whatsoever.) Yesterday I tied him in the arena and brushed him gently, reminding him of proper behavior. A few stern “eh-EH”s and he stood. Then I put the rope halter on and lead him, walking backwards in front of him. Stopping, going forward, backing... All with body language, aiming for clarity and consistency. It was fascinating facing him so I could see every move and even thought before it became action.
As for under saddle, when I first started riding him I was simply thankful that he stopped. Now I require him to stop when I want, straight, not dropping to rub his head on his leg, and softly. (He loves the whole soft part! He came from that long shank, sit-on-the-loins background.) I sense that he’s not too keen on having more required of him.
This morning I found this thread. Upon reading what Pauline wrote about the colt, I headed out to the arena and adjoining woodlot where the horses are turned out. To make it a non-event I hung around a bit checking on the two minis. Then I started picking up rocks near and then around Harley. I picked some up, walked over the fence and threw them over. Went back, made my way to Harley, concentrating on the ground. Sure enough, he started following me. At one point he was curious as to what was in my hand. When I showed him he used it as an excuse to nip at me. I anticipated it and sent him off when his mouth was in mid-reach. He came back once I went back to picking up rocks. Then something amazing happened: I started herding him. I had never been successful before. I don’t have a round pen, which kept him out of my reach. Or so I thought. When I stood up from rock gathering I had in mind “You are going to move away from me toward the fence.” And he did. I was to the side of his hindquarters. I must have gotten larger because he kept moving and then I began adjusting myself more toward his hind or shoulder to get him to move as I wished. And then I asked him to move faster. He did. All collected and pretty! Gosh, we could really work on his smooth gait this way! I did get concerned when he reared up a little as I’d never stood by a rearing horse, but we were keeping a 6 foot or greater distance. It was an incredible feeling of connection.
My filly, Delight, came along and wanted to join in. I went back to rock picking. Didn’t want two of them running around me horsing around. Frisky in the record cold.
So, my thinking is that as I’ve become more confident, Harley is resenting being asked for more, for me taking the leader role. Has he seen me more as an equal until now? The two experiences—the treat-in-pocket liberty performance and today’s Rocking Liberty Interlude—tell me we are in a transition and that the where we’re going is within reach. In the first case the bribe gave me presence. In the second it had to be that I found my personal presence, as Pauline experienced. This horse has given me the incredible, unimaginable for me, gift of okayness on horseback. I want to be sure I am reciprocating for him. Thoughts please!
DrDeb
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Posted: Tue Jan 7th, 2014 01:22 am
Just TAKE the leadership role, Jodie, because it is the human's proper role. You take it without regret, without guilt, without needing to make any explanation to anybody or to your horse. You take it firmly and you take it all of the time.

The horse has no resentment. Horses do not 'test' or 'challenge' people. They do not 'resist'. When people try to say this, they are projecting their own ideas ONTO the horse. Or, sometimes at the same time, they are blaming the horse for their own lack of skill and perceptivity. 

The horse has only one motivation, and that is to survive. More than anything else, he wants to be comfortable and at peace. If you threaten his survival, or even make him uncomfortable -- because you're late all the time, because you don't see the world as he sees it, and therefore you're "not there" to deflect or eliminate things or situations that worry him -- then he will have to take measures.

So you ride your horse where it is safe to ride it, where you're sure you can foresee problems and act to deflect them. Once that's established in a riding arena, you can then go outside of the riding arena, always choosing the safest environment, which means a road or trail that you have pre-screened by walking it or driving it slowly in a car with the window down. You know ahead of time what will be there.

You choose your trailride companions with extreme care. If they don't obey the rules of our own school here, if they are repeatedly discourteous or stupid, you give them a pass. Ideally you go out with one single friend who is working on the same goals and objectives that you are, perhaps a little farther along the path than you are.

If you go out away from the horse's feed bunk about "so far" and he becomes restive and gives signs that he'd like to stop, then review the material in "Mannering Your Horse" on what to do about that. -- Dr. Deb

 

Jodie
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Posted: Fri Jan 10th, 2014 11:32 pm
Thank you Dr. Deb for your reply. Sometimes we just need permission, and that's what you gave me. Okayness with myself, which will give him okayness.
Harley is perfect on the trail, goes away from other horses, over anything, etc. We have a couple of great buddy horse/rider pairs. (Actually I prefer riding alone. Some say it's unsafe, but to me it's all about BEING with my horse. I keep my cell phone on my body.)
So yes, it is about me. I had already taken out my notes from my first go-round at soaking in Mannering and reread them. It's time to spend some more time with it first hand. That really is the key for me. I read and reread and watch and re-watch and listen and re-listen. It isn't that I don't get it when I read or listen. There's a readiness factor involved. It feels like a beautiful surrender when, even weeks or months later, 1+1=2 and the click happens. (Or perhaps it's more like subtraction. We humans make things so complicated.)
Thanks so much!
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Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 02:43 am
2 weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a Buck Brannaman clinic here in NZ.
A lady with a horse far to bigger deal for her to handle, was pulled aside and Buck handled the horse.
When I started this thread, my choice of title topic referring to not being hard enough, was perhaps a poor choice of words. However, watching Buck demonstrated exactly my point of view and the one I was attempting to put across. Buck uses the words firm but fair and he was exactly that with this horse.
After 5 minutes this big dis-respectful walk over you horse was where he should be, below Buck in status, mindful and respectful of him. Was the horse "fixed", I doubt it, will the lady still have problems- of course she will, but if Buck was able to change her mindset to being firm but fair and for her to realise her status is way above the horses, then there is hope.
When Buck asked something of the horse he rode and horses he handled and had to go to phase 2 or 3 to get what he wanted, he'd say " there's no hard feelings horse , its nothing personal, it just you didn't do what I asked, and I did ask nicely" sums it up really, firm but fair !
DrDeb
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Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 04:44 am
To Sam's husband: Yes, Buck has found a good way to put it with 'firm but fair.'

Our teacher Tom used to say:

"You do all that it takes, but no more than it takes."

Our teacher Ray used to say:

"How much does it take to get a stick that's balanced across a wire, to teeter off the wire?"

These are koans, especially the last one; they require thought and internal work to understand what they mean. Who wants to get run over? Nobody, so it's obvious that "all that it is going to take" would be at least that much.

The commonest mistake I see people make is not understanding the second koan: when the horse pulls on them with 50 pounds, they think they're being 'nice' by blocking that pull with 49 pounds; or, they think they're being 'dominant' or 'superior to the horse' by pulling back with 51 or more pounds. How much does it take to get the stick to teeter off the wire?

So the one thing that you have misunderstood here is the business about 'dominance' or 'the horse being far below' Buck. That is not what Buck is offering; that's just what you're hearing.

Every person in right relation to their horse has a title, or we might say, a series of titles. One right title is Teacher. Another right title is Guide. Another is The One Who is Responsible for All Setups.

But the final title, the one that subsumes every other title, is that the handler is, to the horse, God. Not God the Creator or God the Father, because humans don't have that ability; but God as to all other things, in the sense of the ultimate authority, the ultimate teacher, the ultimate guide, and the one who is ultimately responsible.

God is not "far above" you or me; He is right next to us, and within us intimately. This is the right relationship between the person and the horse. It is not one of distance, as in far above and far below; it is one of Authority, as in Innocent and without moral sense vs. Responsible and capable of foresight and foreplanning.

It is your wife's failure to take the proper responsibility for her horse that continually gets her into trouble, and that fuels her continual sense of unease and uncertainty as she relates to her own horses. This is also why she's OK handling cattle or other peoples' horses (or at least, relatively OK) -- because she knows that she is not responsible for them, or not in the same way. -- Dr. Deb

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Posted: Wed Jan 21st, 2015 11:38 am
I haven't been on the forum for ages, so much in the pipeline, all very exciting. I haven't been about to find you on Facebook, Dr Deb. Could someone please post the link for me to follow. Have lots of favourite links will, dig them out as I remember the title. This caused much discussion in our house hold! Happy New Year. Cheers Judy
DrDeb
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Posted: Wed Jan 21st, 2015 11:42 am
Judy, the one and only reason for the existence of the Facebook page is to direct readers here. You therefore should stay here! Cheers -- Dr. Deb
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Posted: Thu Jan 22nd, 2015 12:34 am
Lol!!! Was going to click the buttons on your Facecloth page to send more folk to you, but real happy to be here!!
Jx
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Posted: Thu Nov 17th, 2022 05:30 am
Bumping for saving :-)



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