Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dressage Naturally...

I audited a Karen Rohlf clinic last weekend. I had a good sleep when I got home letting everything swirl around in my subconcious. Monday morning, I posted on her facebook page:

"After watching you teach I just come away with this soft, calm, clear feeling about the specialization of dressage, bringing our Parelli* foundation forwards and the excitement of all the possibilities. After auditing, I feel free, and light and intrigued and more in love with horses and dressage. That's some real deal skill right there Karen. Big ups."

She has an amazing ability to sum things up in one clear sentence.
Here is a litany of her one liners:

Is what you are asking Fair, Reasonable and Possible?

If your horse didn't want to do it in the first place she is not going to want to sustain it.

100% is unmistakable.

We need to bring our foundation forwards.

A great question to ask yourself is: Fill in the blank. If only ____ was better, everything else would be better.

You can't just sit up there and say: "Guess what I want horse."

To be aligned on the circle in your body look over your horse's outside ear.

We want our horses to say: "When mom talks to me, everything feels better."

You might have to overshoot the target.

If you are doing something extreme in your body, it is usually because you want something from your horse that you are not getting.

Pick a yield you are really good at in Freestyle*. Then, practice it in connection with the reins.

With every transition our goal is that the first step is the best step.

Now that I'm liking this...what can I do from here?
Is my horse really signed up? (I love that one)

Do it long enough that your horse gets to practice it. But not so long that your horse regrets being willing.

Is my horse's timing in a different landscape than my picture?

"Well....that's pretty much it...." is never 100%.

Parelli foundation is gold. Absolute gold.

Relaxed, Energized, Balanced - Free.

http://www.dressagenaturally.net/ Thank you Karen for sharing so many precious pearls.

*see glossary at the bottom of the page.
With Karen getting the feeling of riding in connection with the reins is Michael Sparling 2 Star Parelli Professional. Mr. Monty and Karen doing piaffe photo by Dana Rasmussen. Photo of Jenny and Sebastian demonstrating the relaxation part of finding the sweet spot (lol) during a lecture photo by Erin Wood.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marker Post

This is a post to remind me of the beginning results of using a marker consciously.

Last week I read "Don't Shoot The Dog" by Karen Pryor. Pat Parelli* recommended it to us all at the Gold Summit in Redmond a few months ago. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK! Its one of those that you read and are kind of embarrassed that you haven't before. lol. I kept saying...."when was this written?" (the original copyright is from the 80's!)

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver BC, every week my parents took my brothers and I to see the "Killer Whales" at the Vancouver Aquarium. We loved sitting in their underwater windows....watching them play with the trainers and each other....it seemed eventually that they even recognized us. For years I watched the trainers use whistles to mark a behavior and then reward the marker with fish or scratching or toys or whatever.

In recent years I have heard more and more about this "clicker training" phenomenon. I even bought a clicker several years ago to use on my dog. It totally worked when I used it. Ask for something... click when you get it.... reward. But I really haven't wanted to teach any new things to my dog since then and so it went into the drawer.

For the most part behavior shaping seems to simply consists of reinforcing the behavior that you want. Figure out what the "organism", as Karen Pryor puts it, wants....wait for them (or cause them) to do something that you want...mark the behavior and then reward it. In the Parelli Program we use life down as a marker a lot or a bring back or going into neutral in ourselves.

With Linda's Horsenality* model its way easier to understand where our horse's motivation lies in any given moment. Is my horse a Right Brained Extrovert* and needs to feel safe? Is my horse a Left Brained Introvert* and just wants to stand still? Or is my horse falling all over himself trying to get the treats? Understanding what my horse wants is so key!

Nigel is the one that caused me to fish my clicker out of the junk drawer. Surprise Surprise.

There are times in which I want and in fact need Nigel to stand still. Tied and in the trailer are a few biggies. The single biggest issue I've been having is that he wasn't giving me the time to reinforce the behavior that I wanted. He was only standing still for a split second.

In the trailer I wasn't using a marker. I was just hoping that he'd eventually make the connection between that split second of stillness and me moving towards the trailer to open it. The same issue with tying. He had to make the connection between standing still for a heartbeat and me making a move towards untying him. By the time I opened the trailer or untied him he would have resumed tantruming for much longer than he had stood still.

A little over a week ago I realized that he does his trailer temper tantrum in his stall everyday when I let the horses out. And everyday I've been reinforcing the temper tantrum by letting him out.

It was one of those 6million dollar man leaps of consciousness in my little brain. I could feel it griiiiinding away in suuuper slow motion. The speed of the clicker as a marker would work! Sure enough...over the last week...I've been reading "Don't Shoot the Dog" and clicking and reinforcing Nigel to stand still before turn out. Yesterday we got 15 seconds twice and 20 seconds as our crowning achievement for the week. For this horse...to stand still for 20 seconds when he does not want to.........is incredible! Like my friend Beth said: "that is more impressive than passage or flying changes for that horse!"

As I understand it, the reason Karen refers to "organisms" is because almost any is prone to developing and repeating behavior that is positively reinforced. She has great stories about people, chickens, whales, dolphins, tuna, cats, dogs and even a crab. She was telling the craziest stories about what intricate things animals can learn how to do.

So I have this really whiny cat. I mean really whiny. She wants attention but if you pet her at all she'll then follow you around and make you crazy. As a result, we end up just ignoring her most of the time. It has always made my heart sad. I love to give my animals what they want. Especially affection!

I began to wonder if I could shape her behavior. Again the clicker would be a great tool because she hardly takes a breath once she gets going. So reinforcing the moment of quiet needed the speed of the clicker as a marker. I clicked and reinforced when she was quiet. Within 10 minutes I went running into the house. "Kip Kip you've gotta see this!" Owl (said cat) was laying quietly next to me waiting for the click and some rubs.

My plan is to read the book to Kip as we drive up to the lake today. I've held back re reading it just for this purpose. Ever get that good sick feeling....when you feel like your life has just changed?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lil and I in Four Collections.

What springs to mind when I look at this series of photos is Collection. The dreaded word. It is dreaded for me because the word itself is so over used and misused and flat out misunderstood.

I like how Pat points out that the opposite of collection is scattered. If we accept this to be true, we can say that the opposite of scattered is collection. Then, we have a reasonable starting point.

These photos embody Lil and I being together in "FOUR COLLECTIONS". I learned this from Pat Parelli.

RAPPORT (heart collection) Bonding and Trust. Especially me trusting her because I'm the one who is worried about jumping. She is the one giving me confidence. How cool is that?

RESPECT (mental collection) Communication and response. She is understanding what I'm asking and is willing to do it.

IMPULSION (emotional collection) Go equaling whoa. This is the ultimate exercise to test this and has miles of "dressage" implications.

FLEXION (physical collection) In the simple purpose of jumping halfway over the barrels we are gathering ourselves up, balancing for a moment in full engagement, moving forwards and then halting.

Of course all of this ads up to being in harmony with Lil mentally and emotionally as well as sharing her physical power. A brilliant combination. It really was a great day. Karen Rohlf is so right when she says: "Harmony feels good and Beauty is obvious."
Here's a short one minute clip of us playing around.