|an older photo but one of my favourites|
“Horsemanship is the art of mastering our own movements, thoughts, emotions and behavior. Not the horses.” Mark RashidI had a different title for this post but I found out that I have used it before (I am now at the point where I have to double check on previous posts. #notoriginal). Aslo, it has become rediculously long so I have split it into two.
Since I started working the plan on Carmen's spooking I have seen it working but it's not easy. I also realized that I have probably not laid it out but have referenced it a few times. It took a bit of time to develop but that was okay. Carmen is a complicated horse and I can over think things so in that we are well matched.
For the purpose of this I'm going to not address the 'true' spooks which are in response to truly scary/startling things (like deer runningthrough brush). I'm going to talk about the learned behaviour of spooking to get out something she doesn't like.
Carmen, for many reasons, finds working in the ring stressful. Some of it relates to her history before me, some of it is our history and some of it is that she just has many many feelings, often all at once. The spooky spot in the ring moves around but is usually one (or more) of the corners. Which corner(s) can depend on the day. When Carmen is working it creates a bit of stress and she looks to relieve that stress. Her go to move has been to spook and to escalate that behavour until she gets the relief she is seeking. It's pretty firmly entrenched. It's not like she's thinking "oh I knw if I'm bad enough she will come off so here hold my beer'. She's simply reacting.
This meant that I had to help her find a way to acheive the same result with a different behaviour. Because the truth is that she will never ever stop spooking at the bushes/birds/trees/invisible monster in the ring because it's never been about those things.
I had to figure out what were things that are called 'setting events'. Essentially things that make the behaviour more likely to occur. And the things that reinforced the behaviour. I ended up making what is called a 'competing pathways diagram'. Essentilly it boils the behaviour down into what I want, what I don't want and what I can live with, along with the consequences that maintain the behavour (either for good or ill).
Look, I know that this really nerdy, just bear with me.
What it all boiled down to was that I had to figure out how to reward what I wanted and not reward what I didn't want. Part of my strategy included using lunging/groundwork especially when windy and/or she was in heat. In my ground work I'm trying to help her find a different answer to pressure other than 'run away'. And on the ground it's really working.
|I don't know if Johanna remembers this but she got us started on the|
groundwork and how it helps way back in May 2015.
For example, earlier this week I took her up to lunge and, even though I was dressed for it, I had little intention of riding. My goal was have her seek out to rest and relax rather than to go into self defence mode. I rewarded every time she stretched out and relaxed her topline with praise and/or rest and when she was tight and rushing I just calmly kept her working forward. I would have her standing and if she was relaxed I left her alone. As soon as her head came up and she became rigid I calmly made her go forward until I saw relaxation in her body and then offered a rest again. I could see her really starting to figure this out. To the point where we standing in the spooky corner (I was about 15 feet away) and something rustled. Carmen's head started to come up and then I saw her stop, put it back down and peek at me as though to say 'this is it right?'.
|from the trail clinic this summer. See-not afraid of stuff|
I really regret not having a strong understanding of ground work earlier in my riding life. It has made such a difference. It has helped me to understand horse behaviour and the link to my own. I am so much more cognizant of my emotions and how they translate to my body language. Horses can read us a mile off and react to what they read. By learning to keep my body calm but not submissive or too soft I can affect how Carmen feels about things. Often when I am nearby and something startling happens she will look at me to see how I react before reacting herself. That seems huge to me.
|jsut a horse, standing in a water box, waiting for me to decide what was next|
Ahhhh I love all of this! The quote at the beginning is GOLD. And YES to groundwork being such a big help. It's such a great teacher for how to communicate better with these animals.ReplyDelete
Yes that quote really really resonated with me.Delete
You sure do think through things, girl! I love your flow chart. That's a plan and a half. Good to help visualize and ingrain your responses so that they're helping you achieve your goals. I'm sure that's why you've made so much progress.ReplyDelete
Thinking things through is kinda my jam. :)Delete
This is exactly what I am aiming for also. On a recent trail ride, I rewarded my mare many times, by stopping and giving a treat and pat...just for walking calmly down the trail. Before the scary stumps and logs, we stopped several times..rewarded and walked on. Past the scary stumps, many rewards and pats, and good girl. We had a moment during the ride where the thought crossed her mind to stop and refuse, but then she walked forward. A few steps later, we stopped and rewarded. Praise and reward outweigh force and fear. Good Job, I look forward to hearing more of your success. Peppermints are my girl's reward, and many pats of good, pretty girl.ReplyDelete
It's so important to reward the good.Delete
Very interesting and a great approach to such a complicated issue.ReplyDelete
I worry sometimes that I am over complicating things but the simple approach didn't workDelete
It’s always good to have a plan. I’m a big fan of ground work, it’s a valuable asset for so many different ways to work with our horses.ReplyDelete
Ground work is so critical.Delete
lol i love this. it speaks to my soul. really digging in to the nitty gritties to understand what is happening, why, and how to address it.... there's something so satisfying and empowering about the whole process!!! and obvi it appears to be working for Carmen.ReplyDelete
it's so funny to me tho, bc once i started thinking in these types of patterns, i started noticing how many people of the world just like... don't. like when i was in line at the food stand at a horse show last night holding Austen's two huskies. and there was a woman in line in front of me who is a lovely woman - well known in the community as part of a family of breeders. she's holding her two young dogs who are snarling and barking and behaving very aggressively toward the huskies (who were being perfectly quiet). she was trying to get them to hush and settle by.... giving them treats every time they snarled. yea. bc.... somehow giving treats to a dog whenever it snarls is going to get the dog to stop snarling? sigh.... but hey, at least seeing this sort of stuff helps remind me that sometimes these concepts don't always come naturally and we just have to keep reminding ourselves and keep practicing!!
I love the nitty gritty. :) And it is amazing how easy it is to reward the wrong thing!Delete
Love the nerdiness. I was a tech writer in my old life.ReplyDelete
I wonder if you could comment on my question about the dressage pyramid. Why is rhythm before relaxation? Seems odd. And certainly not Rashid-ish.
I am sorry if I missed that question. There is a bit of debate over which is first: rhythm vs relaxation being at the bottom. I honestly think that they are so very closely intertwined that it's not helpful to think of them as different.Delete
This is all very important! Focus on you and your energy. Be very specific and intentional in your communications. We communicate so much with them that we do not even realize. Keep up the ground work. It all starts there. Anything you want in the saddle starts on the ground. WTC everything first on the ground and then progressing into the saddle. You will soon notice the difference in riding. It just takes time. Especially with the Spanish.ReplyDelete
You are so right about the communication. But it's hard when she can see my heart. :) But we keep at it.Delete
It is hard. But when you really think about it, it can be comforting too.Delete
Anna Marciniak (You can find her on Facebook)ReplyDelete
August 14 at 6:22 PM ·
Alondro. The more I try to advance with this horse, the more I see how much we have to step back to re-do everything that he learned before he came here. Right from the very scratch: RELEASING TENSION CONNECTED WITH SADDLE PAD.
Iberian breeds are a very slippery slide. These horses cope better with tensions, but it doesn't mean they do OK. They hide it. It's interpreted as BOLDNESS, BIG CHARACTER, BIG PERSONALITY... but it's not. They just hide it better. And then they cannot hide it anymore, and they "explode".
Optimal Performance Program teaches horses Relaxation Technique, that becomes their consciously chosen tool they use when meeting difficulties. It's not only RELAXING THEIR TENSIONS, it's also a tool in hands of the trainer -- to know if your horse is relaxed or not you count his relaxations. If the horse loses access to his Relaxation Technique, it means that he is simply not relaxed. No matter how "calm" and "obedient" he looks, you know he is not relaxing, he is just coping.
Optimal Performance Book: https://gumroad.com/l/GPEEg
Optimal Performance Guided Program: write to me ❤️