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How does Submission happen? (Calling all riders/owners of alpha mares :))

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  • How does Submission happen? (Calling all riders/owners of alpha mares :))

    This came up in a recent discussion (and those of you who ride and love an alpha mare might understand): How does submission happen?
    A) Through consistent, correct, and fair work including rewards, the horse learns what the rider expects and decides (hopefully???) at some point through free will that it will submit to the wishes of the rider.
    B) Through consistent, correct work in which the horse is not given a choice to not submit during initial training (i.e. through use of vienna reins etc.) and will accept that this is just how life is and agree to work this way going forward. There is no "decision" on the horse's part. Rewards to not play a role here as we're just going for acceptance of the expected/normal.
    C) There's a special "rain dance" that if performed properly magically makes horse submissive and eager to please at any moment.
    D) ???

    Thoughts are appreciated. Those of you who categorically refuse the use of training aids such as vienna reins, feel free to voice your opinion, but it's really more of a hypothetical/philosohical/psychological question as to: do horses have free will? Why would they submit to a rider if they have a choice not to? How long does it take? etc.

  • #2
    A horse will want to escape from what he cannot accept, but end up accepting what he cannot escape. Kind of sad, really.


    • #3
      Goodness as the owner of one that happens to be smarter than me, my vote is with C!
      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


      • #4
        With a mare one is either head mare, or part of the herd. And they WILL negotiate forever more. So the horse needs consistent/correct work from a clear leader. It is not 'submitting' per se, it is accepting a leader.

        The more one tries to use coercion, the less fair the handler, the more a mare will become resistant imho.

        Imho the training is based upon the rider's action and directed REACTIONS in the horse--teaching the horse to say yes, rather than resist. (i.e. lifting the reins/hh will actually allow the horse to push into contact...and the action doesnt hurt the bars). If one is talking about using devices for longitudinal flexion, the more they are used the less likely the horse is answering yes, but just be coerced by torquing devices on the bars; problem is the torque builds the incorrect muscles.
        I.D.E.A. yoda


        • #5
          Time and patience.

          Belle has finally decided that dressage is a game (not her FAVORUTE game, but a game none the less) and not a fight.

          Don't know what the magic ingredient was, but she is rising 17.

          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


          • #6
            An 'unsubmissive' alpha type horse is telling the rider, "hey there honey. You do not know enough to be the boss of me!"

            True 'Unsubmissive' behavior (NOT uncooperative because of incorrect/abusive handling, pain, etc) comes from horses that are too smart to be ordered around by humans that don't know any better.

            If you have an 'alpha' horse that is blowing you off, they are telling you that 'you don't know enough about climbing to go up this mountain..' 'this car is too sensitive for you to drive' 'this wine is too fine for you to appreciate.....' 'this souffle don't rise for a fool'... 'these high heels are not for an amateur'..... etc etc etc

            On the plus side, if you persist, you may learn a LOT about horses and training. BUT you will have to eat your Ego daily, as the horse tells you over and over "hey dum dum, you're doing it wrong!"
            "Friend" me !



            • #7
              ...and is submission something we need from our horses?

              I prefer cooperation, partnership, etc.
              "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by BEARCAT View Post
                ...and is submission something we need from our horses?

                I prefer cooperation, partnership, etc.
                Last I checked, submission was a score on the test sheet.


                • #9
                  it comes from trust
                  A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


                  • #10
                    This is really my favorite part of dressage

                    Horses become submissive by accepting your judgment. That develops because the horse habitually says yes to what you ask them to do. Part of it is trust, part of it is preparation, part of it is consistency.

                    Our job is make all things easy for them. I think it starts by being realistic about your mare and yourself. I try to only ask for responses I know I can get. If it has to be simple that's fine. But the mare has to do what I ask. My job is to be fair, reasonable and insist. So it may start out as simply as picking up her feet, but she has to do it. The more she says yes in present, the more she will say yes in the future.

                    I am convinced that alpha mares can count or at least keep score. Never ask for something that you are not willing to see through because that will be a win in her column. That doesn't mean you have to be confrontational, just smart. For example, my alpha mare is a 17 hd old style Hannoverian who started life as a jumper. She is very savvy and likes things just so. It was almost impossible to "get" her through her back simply by strength. She had to allow it. She doesn't like to work hard in the heat, but we are in so California soooo sometimes it happens. She used suck back behind my aids and refuse to go if it was over her optimal working temperature (about 85). I don't think it is fair to ride in the mid 90s so I don't. But there are a lot of days in between 85 and 95. Rather than get in a big fight about it, if she doesn't move off happily, I get off and lunge her for 10 minutes, get back on and ask again. Rinse repeat. She is smart, I only had to do that twice, problem solved. She knows to go or she gets to work harder. Same if she is in season. So she goes. My responsibility is to respect her comfort and not over work her under those conditions.

                    So be fair, insistent and consistent. If you get an alpha mare on your side, you'll never find a better partner
                    Last edited by nhwr; Mar. 11, 2013, 08:59 PM.
                    See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                    • #11
                      I love and own a mare and I'm kind of working on this balance. I am still figuring this out but I think with my mare and others I've ridden, it is important to be fair and flexible, to choose your "battles" wisely (choose ones you know you can "win"), and to be consistent but still allow room for discussion. My former trainer was more on the "my way or the highway" side of things, and it did not work out at all. That said, if I didn't have limits and didn't try to fill the leader role, things would also not be pretty. So it's a balance. Most of my favorite horses over my riding life have been mares so I guess there must be something about this "dialogue" that I enjoy.

                      I'm not an expert so take this with a grain of salt, but I like the idea of being flexible and customizing your training choices (whether it's the exercise you do that day or the type of side rein you use on the longe line) to the specific, individual horse in front of you. Philosophically, that's what appeals to me.

                      In terms of free will, yes I think horses have it. I think that they are miraculous in their willingness to work with us. I like the idea of submission as a freely given gift, because it's what differentiates riding a horse from, say, a bicycle, IMO.

                      That's JMO. I feel like there is room for more than one valid opinion on this.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by QuestionsEverything View Post
                        Last I checked, submission was a score on the test sheet.
                        Agree, but it is a term I have actually never liked in relation to horses, at least in the common definition:
                        The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.
                        An act of surrendering to a hold by one's opponent.
                        obedience - subjection - subordination"

                        How is it defined in the dressage world?
                        Is it a horse willingly responding to the aids of the rider (or something to that effect?)

                        PS: I find this a very interesting discussion and would love to hear more ideas (as opposed to starting a fight)
                        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                        • #13
                          Never mind I found it:
                          Submission: the horse’s attention and confidence. Harmony with rider, lightness of movements and acceptance of the bit.

                          I guess it is just a poor choice of word. Carry on...
                          "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                          • #14
                            My last horse was bred for several seasons before he was gelded. When I got him, he still had a lot of, shall we say, assertiveness in his personality.

                            This was a horse that would never, ever give up if he felt trapped or pushed. It took me quite a while for him to accept my judgment and guidance. Once that partnership developed, he was a joy to ride because he would give you everything. But he would test any new rider and you had to earn his trust.

                            On a dressage test he gave "submission" but in my mind it was more a sense of cooperation and a desire to please.
                            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                            • #15
                              Sometimes it's C!

                              But when it's an A, there is a special bond, that makes it so much fun, and a joy!

                              A lot of it is in the horse before we ever throw a blanket over its back or a put a halter on its head.
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #16
                                I'm not sure I would use the word "submission". I would rather go for co-operation. I much prefer a feisty mare, because when she gives it to you, you get it all.
                                ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                • #17
                                  Imho an 'unsubmissive' type is really telling the rider, "ASK me differently so I can follow you, but if don't trust you forget it". Remember, mares are RESPONSIBLE for the herd, and the higher on the totem pole, the more that is true. So they need to trust CLEAR guidance.

                                  (And IF a mare rubs on the handler, the handler is demoted in the herd. Handler can rub mare, mare canNOT mark the hanlder.)

                                  Imho a horse is NEVER blowing the handler off, there is a message that action which is "I need to protect YOU", instead of the other way round.

                                  It is NOT about persistance per se (although mares will always try little negotiations. It is about HOW/when/why you are asking different things you are asking.
                                  I.D.E.A. yoda


                                  • #18
                                    I'm a Crazy Mare Lady. That's like a Crazy Cat Lady but instead of cats I've filled my life with neurotic fire-breathing mares in place of children. The fact that I now own a gelding must be testament to my increasingly enfeebled mind and body. I do miss mares though, precisely because of that constant need for "conversation" between horse and rider. I love the fact that they keep me in line, and are an utter mirror for my moods AND my actions.

                                    As for how to get submission, patience is key and the methodology will vary from mare to mare. If they've been allowed to get away with the scare tactics by weaker riders it can sometimes take ONE rather loud and ugly scene for them to figure out it won't work anymore. Otherwise though it's a case of always trying to set her up for success and rewarding the good behaviour. Redirection is often your friend on days when the petulance is in full swing. Fwiw I would never put a device of any kind on an alpha mare and just wait for her to learn to accept it...
                                    Proud COTH lurker since 2001.


                                    • #19
                                      Interesting how some riders, both male and female end up coping with mares. I have only ridden a few, and we don't always agree.

                                      Yet I have worked with stallions, and found that while they have a strong sense of fairness will always cooperate if asked properly.

                                      Geldings can be a mixed bag. You gotta know their mommas.
                                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                                      • #20
                                        i would say that thru trust a horse will learn to accept the leadership of its handler. The way to that is making sure that you always ask only what the horse can give and also when they are young never put them in a a situation they cant handle.

                                        i know only a few people who are good enough with horses to be able to get submission from every horse - and usually right away.