16. Science Camp – Who Owns the Process – Alexandra Kurland

The feature photo shows a group  shot near the tents – our accommodation for the week!

This talk tied together the major themes of the camp – that is – Feldenkrais, Errorless Learning  and Don’t Fight Extinction.  I wrote about the Feldenkrais sessions in this post 13. Summer Science Camp in Italy!   and Errorless Learning here 14. Science Camp – Errorless Learning by Mary Hunter

Alex sent this description of her talk to me.

“It looked at what you can do when you begin with very small, clean loops; at the changes that emerge when you approach your training from a feldenkrais perspective. We experienced Nathalie’s sessions. Now we watched video that tracked a horse over three days of training. The changes in the horse’s appearance were as dramatic as the changes many attendees were feeling after several days working with Nathalie.” 

Alex talked about Behaviour A – which is a behaviour you want to improve.  You are looking for tiny shifts and clean loops.  After a small change you take a break by shifting to Behaviour B – which would be a well known behaviour that you aren’t trying to improve.

I looked through the videos I have on my channel and found this one of Danny.  I wanted Danny to improve on this behaviour by using more muscle in the hind end.  In the fourth repetition you see this.  I then return to an easy – well known behaviour.   Now you don’t see Behaviour B – but you will see in these exercises I finish Behaviour A when I see that extra lift.    I then leave that exercise to go and do something else.

So this is Microshaping!  I love Microshaping!  I see it as looking at the small details – refining the movements.  I would probably describe it as Micro Training!  When I started to look at the small details, I became obsessed.  Once again, Magnum has taught me a lot about this.

I’m going to include a link to Alexandra Kurland’s JOYFull Horses book – which is available on her blog page.  This section is about Microshaping.   Here it is

Alexandra also referred to The Runway Lesson.  It’s a great exercise, not only for teaching a horse to go to the mat – but for balance.  And this is all relevant.  With clean loops you can create balance.  Balance is part of the criteria.    Good balance changes the whole demeanour of the horse.  It strengthens the relationship between you  and creates confidence.

Here is a link to  the JOYFull Horses book again – where Alex describes the lesson.

I think I’ve shared this link before.  It’s worth reading.  Alex pulls apart the whole lesson – frame by frame.

I particularly like Alex’s reference to ‘the backward and forwards movement in the runway as a series of needlepoint stitches.  Here is an extract of that part.

You’re in the runway. Now what? This lesson is like a dream where you drift from one scene to another – never questioning the odd juxtaposition of images. In this part of the lesson I am doing “needlepoint” with this horse. That’s the image.

Each stitch is an individual action. Each stitch must be carefully thought through before beginning the next. I may have to change colour often. I may only want one or two stitches of green before I switch to red. That’s how this part of the lesson feels to me. I will be asking for tiny shifts of weight. Each balance shift forms one stitch in this larger tapestry….

– JOYFull Horses

For me – there is magic being woven into those stitches –   I see it with my horses.  What do I mean?  Here’s an example…  Of my four horses, I’ve had the most trouble with Ducati in food delivery.  I couldn’t work out why.  Yes – I needed to pay more attention to how I was delivering it.  I tended to drop my hand too low – but even when I corrected that – it felt like Ducati was still snatching at his treats.  What could I do?  Why was there tension?

I decided to do only  microshaping – the same lesson I was giving Danny.   I did this when I did my ’rounds’ of the four horses.   Could he just shift some weight to the hind end?  I gently put my hand on his chest – no pushing – just placing it there.  There was the smallest of shifts.  I clicked and treated.  I did three repetitions – that’s all.  Then I built on that – not more – just seeing if we could get more movement before I clicked.

Something happened…..  Ducati started to call excitedly when he knew it was almost his turn – while I was finishing with Magnum.  Then I noticed he was getting his four feet into position before I even arrived.  And the food delivery changed – he was taking the treats ever so gently.  He was loving this movement and becoming so aware of his body.  But he was also in better balance and more supported in his neck/chest – which allowed him to take the treats without feeling he would fall forward.  I had realised the problem was not only my food delivery – but his feeling of being unbalanced.

But there is something else….  I’ve been searching for an example….  yesterday I had to go and have blood taken for tests.  The woman taking the blood couldn’t read the doctor’s writing.  She rang the surgery.  I admired her calmness – and her clearness.  I listened to her go through the process of working out what the words said with the staff at the surgery.  I thought how well she explained it – and they soon worked out what it said.   But she still checked with me.  Yes – I told her – it’s a regular blood test and it’s checking my liver function.  She then asked me which arm I would like to use for the test.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked before.  She was asking questions and so I  felt ….. respected…. considered?   Things weren’t being done TO me – I was involved in the process!  And that made me feel very calm.

I felt myself melting into the chair.  Each stage was done so carefully and calmly with consideration for my welfare.  I was then asked if I preferred a bandaid – or cotton wool and tape.  Wow!  I didn’t really want to leave.  I would have been happy to stay there in that space for longer.  Really??  So I thought about why.  She was so calm – but also clear and focused.

I like to think the process I’ve adopted with Ducati has had the same impact.  To me – that’s the magic – it’s woven into the conversation – into the training.  Full consideration is given to the animal.  Perhaps when a person or animal is able to follow the steps so clearly and calmly – there are changes in the brain.  I’ve seen my horses in a dreamy state after the microshaping  and that’s how I felt after the very calm process of the blood tests.

Still – calling it magic sounds better – but then this thoughtful way of training really does create magic!

There was more to this talk – and I know I have perhaps gone off on tangents…. but at the end of Science Camp – I realised my horses had already been teaching me what was discussed.  I just hadn’t put it into words!

ducati mat (1)

I will leave you with some photos from the Science Camp.

And on the final day – we toured Venice!  Here are some photos!

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So – finally I have finished my blog posts on my horse adventure to Europe last year.

It’s only taken almost eight months!  Still, there have been many other things happening here in that time – but for now, back to learning from the horses!



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