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Voice cues or body language

Voice cues or body language

Postby littlewhitehorse » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:04 pm

Following on from a comment on another thread about me not liking voice cues in training, I thought it would be interesting for everyone to air their views and say how and when they use their voice.

It’s not that I’m against the use of voice cues, it’s just not the way I’m going. I certainly used to use them and sometimes still do, and I do think they are useful aids to train in early for emergency situations where the horse may have gone out of range physically and mentally of body cues but may respond to the voice. I do talk to the horses, sometimes too much (which is another thing), and I think that both the horses and I should perceive a difference between such tonal emissions without intention, and cues or commands with intention. Mostly it is for my own benefit, I talk myself through what I’m doing, or am just being companionable. One needs to be careful not to blanket them with unnecessary sound and I often have to tell myself to shut up. Speaking, like everything else, should mean something.

The reason I don’t choose to train to voice cues any more is because I want to achieve connection and harmony through other means and methods –body language, energy, focus and other cues.

One thing that persuaded me that voice cues are not as effective as body language is that the last time I actually lunged a horse in the traditional way I was taught, I observed that the horse was going round in circles but her attention was elsewhere; she responded mechanically to my voice cues. By not using voice, I believe the horse has to give more attention.

My idea and goal is to have the horse so keyed in to my energy and focus that I can reduce the body cues to a minimum so that the horse reads and feels my intention and becomes part of it. The game is to see how subtle you can make it and get the response. My path to this is through groundwork and preparation; I don’t expect to be able to get this or teach it in the saddle first, but it is so I can use the same cues and get the same responses when riding. (I think everything should be done from the ground first and if the teaching and preparation is effective and thorough it is a small adjustment for the horse to respond when you are on his back.) If on the ground you can “lead” a horse from all different zones, without physical contact and on a slack line or without one, then how light should the response be once in the saddle. To achieve this I exaggerate to teach or reinforce, and use phases, and as the horse understands I can reduce the cues. My training path (not my starting point) will pass through halter riding (which is where I am at present) to just a neckstrap, then bridleless riding, and also liberty on the ground. That’s the theory… and I have experienced this with other horses and on courses, I’m just a slow worker on my own, and happy with little steps! The theme of the last workshop I attended was this preparation and having the horse calm, connected and responsive.

BTW, I'm not against using a bit either but the bit would be later, for refinement and finesse, not for control or brakes.

Each to their own method, and tools; often we are heading for a similar result while approaching in a different way; my goal isn’t classical dressage but I still want finesse and a supple, responsive horse. It will just look slightly different. Nothing is right or wrong if we are flexible and observe what works for the horse to learn and be confident, and our ideals are pure and honest to true horsemanship and partnership.
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby Trudi » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:24 pm

:thumbup: will be back, too tired to write much tonight.
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby Chevalblanc » Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:52 am

I tend to use a mix of voice and body language cues, we have a voice cue for backing up, for example, which is easy to teach on the ground and now when I'm in the saddle, I can get a back up without having to touch the reins. Sky in particular seems very responsive to the voice, sometimes when she's getting anxious and arguing with a feel on the rope or something, a voice command will get her attention back on you. And when I go in the field and call them, they come over so I don't have to wade through all the mud by the gate :wink:
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby spottygiraffe » Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:21 am

What a fantastic post, Sheila. I was nodding at everything you wrote because I mostly agree with you but I have never been able to put it into practice. I think using body language needs more finesse and refinement than using vocal cues because it is easier to be quieter with our voices than our bodies. I think our instinct is always to make too much noise (in every sense of the word) to try to get a reaction and then the horse ends up zoning us out of becoming confused.

I know I haven't worked the neds for ages, but I was very much going in the other direction -using vocal cues, especially with Isba. I found with a horse like her that all of my body language was too 'loud' and could cause her to overreact, sometimes in a dangerous way. Do you remember when I was doing some liberty work with her and I asked her for an upwards transition with body language and she felt threatened and kicked me in the leg? It was all my fault for not reading the situation properly and placing her under too much pressure, but I never found that it happened when I used vocal cues. Maybe the difference is between playing horse or not -with a vocal cue you very clearly aren't playing horse. With ridden work too I might have been losing the plot a little but I believed that asking vocally for 'trot' was more respectful than using a leg aid, no matter how light. Our trot cue was really strong and I would always get a steady trot....not a launch off into a fast trot with thoughts of a canter!

I think if I could be quiet enough then I would much prefer to use body language in most situations, but I know my own limitations :xmaslaugh: I talk too much too, but I think that is probably less of an issue than making too many big gestures.
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby littlewhitehorse » Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:11 pm

:thumbup: input from Helen and Sarah.

Looking back at what I wrote yesterday, I can't believe I said all that without once using the word "communication" :doh:
Someone said that communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea; and I guess this is about the most effective way of communicating with the horse.
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby spottygiraffe » Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:39 am

None of us used the word communication! :oops:
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby Trudi » Sat Dec 13, 2014 3:09 pm

Well I'd say it's all about communication of COURSE :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: It is all about 'C' words.

Another 'C' word that is important for me is CONTEXT. I don't really care what CUE you use whether it is vocal or physical, what matters is how easy it is to be understood- CLARITY. If a cue is easy to give and easily understood in every context possible and with total CALM from horse and trainer then it is a good cue. I use vocal and physical, often way too much whte noise which I am always working on :oops: I develop and change the system depending on the horse in front of me, if you have an end point in mind then I think that is entirely acceptable.

Cues rely on clarity of communication within the context of the situation, while remaining calm :xmasgrin:

:thread: Sheila
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby fabikat » Sat Dec 13, 2014 4:19 pm

I quite often find when I have finished working on something, be it ridden or on the ground, that I wish I had used my voice cues a little more. I seem to get so wrapped up in the moment that I forget to use it. But as Trudi said I think if you and your equine partner are making your way on the path to your goal happily it shouldnt really matter what cues you use if they work for you. I have far too much white noise though which is something I am really going to try and work on now as I learn on my new journey. Whilst looking on yt for vodeos to help me there was one of the trainers who didnt use voice at all. I dont remember if it is one of the well known ones or not though.
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby JennieF » Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:05 pm

Great thread Sheila

I tend to be quite vocal when I am training - although the Spanish horse is particularly tuned in to body language so I try to be a lot quieter when I am working him - I think a mix of both works best for me, I use sound cues for trot and canter which they pick up v quickly, which I can use for both in-hand and ridden work ..... and I do talk to them a lot, in fact all the time :lol: :lol: they dont seem to mind ...
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Re: Voice cues or body language

Postby glenatron » Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:06 pm

I try to avoid voice cues because I don't want that to be how I get a message to my horse. It's too slow and too simple- if you use a voice cue for a transition, for example, you may get the transition but you'll get the gait that the horse gives you- there's no way to set the distinction between medium, extended or collected trot from a voice cue, but I can do that relatively easily with my body. Most of the time I'm thinking about how a horse will work under saddle and then I want the connection to be between my balance and body and the horse. They tend to be somewhat simple in terms of how they interact with voice and there is room for way more subtlety when you're using body language and energy to communicate.

The big proviso to that is that things are very different if you are working with driving horses. Then they probably can't see you and you really need to have everything on a really solid voice cue to keep everyone out of trouble. That's a somewhat different world, but it's an important one too.
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