, that's interesting about altruism, and I think perhaps correct. None of us exist in a vacuum.
The article I just posted led me to reading more from Andrew McLean. I found a very interesting article that some of you may be interested in: Learning Theory and Biomechanics ? with Andrew McLean | The Horse Magazine
I found the concept of "overshadowing" very interesting.
“Overshadowing reveals that animals, like horses and probably all of us, can only respond effectively to one signal at a time. The weaker stimulus becomes ignored.”
“If you accept that, then you might see that much of what occurs in modern horse training is unintentional overshadowing – one aid becomes overshadowed by another. When horses shy or panic, they are expressing overshadowing of your aids by another stimulus. It is much more useful to interpret behaviour problems like that as “aid failures”. The cat in the bushes overshadowed the rider’s aids. So in many modern systems of training, we end up with an overshadowing regime, where the rider uses the reins with the leg, most of the time. Overshadowing is even instituted in modern riding literature. The German training manual prescribes never to use reins without legs and that came from Steinbrecht. I think Steinbrecht made a mistake there. Using reins and legs simultaneously has a long history: Xenophon recommended it to make the horse more exuberant. Baucher was famous for it, but dropped it after the chandeliers fell on his head. His convalescence gave him time to think about his earlier methods that were heavily criticised for losses of impulsion and deadness to the aids. After that accident he recanted a little and coined the maxim ‘reins without legs and legs without reins’. This maxim fell on deaf ears because nobody wanted to listen to Baucher anymore yet it was, to my mind, a principle of major importance that heeds optimal use of learning theory.”
“It is important to recognize that the rein’s chief function is to decelerate the horse’s legs, and the muscles for deceleration are an entirely different set from the muscles that accelerate. When one set is used, the other stabilizes the limbs and that’s all. So if we are giving an acceleration cue with even one leg and at the same time, using the reins, you have the two opposite muscle groups stimulated at the same time. Once you do this, then you are in a position of overshadowing, creating confusion and diminishing responding – stronger aids are needed more and more. Where both reins and both legs are cued simultaneously, the horse tells us he can’t do it, mild conflict behaviours may emerge such tension and hyper-reactivity, tongue retraction, unsettled mouth, teeth grinding, biting, kicking, drooping tongue or major conflict behaviours such as bolting, rearing, bucking, shying, etc. These things are frequently swept aside by trainers and riders as a peculiarity of the horse’s personality, but things are not personality disorders, – the horse telling you that you are making mistakes and confusing it. Horses are so easy to blame compared to tennis racquets and motor bikes.”
“When you use reins and legs together the horse generally perceives the mouth to be the most painful of the two so he responds to that and slows down. So the rider must then drive the horse forward in order to cancel out the effect of the reins. Next thing, the reins may feel a little lighter, but as brakes they are detrained and the horse may begin to run away. At any rate he is so confused that his security diminishes. He shows his insecurity by being afraid of all sorts of things in his environment, even formerly innocuous things, and may also show separation anxiety. Insecurity in ridden and handled horses is largely a result of confusions in training. When the rider doesn’t know how to frame the question, of the horse can’t decipher the question, or it is too similar to other questions, or the horse physically can’t give the answer or doesn’t know the answer, insecurity sets in – their world falls apart. They whinny for other horses because humans speak double-dutch and are unnerving.”
I really like how he emphasizes using one aid at a time. Maybe you give multiple aids in a row, but only after the horse responds appropriately to the first one, and never the same aid again.
“I asked for an example of where you can’t train a single aid for a movement. And he said the half-pass is the clearest example – ‘I use my outside rein, I use my outside leg, the outside rein controls the bend and the outside front leg’. I said ‘but the footfalls aren’t at the same time. If you use the aids to stimulate a particular footfall, then the aids are consecutive. With the principle of the horse going on his own, once the angle is set up (that’s why shoulder-in is a precursor in training) the horse only needs an outside leg aid, he is already leading with the forelegs and bent. He realised that he’d never gone back to the point of thinking it through, because you are told as a rider ‘this is how you do it’. Top level riders like Wayne are definitely capable of delivering signals so subtly and so close in time in the space of a leg beat. Dressage is, as I always maintain, about being able to put horse’s legs exactly where you want in any given moment. There is usually little to modify with the horse’s head and neck if you have perfect control of the horse’s legs. Before being too concerned about the horse’s head-carriage, you should first be able to slow, stop, shorten, step-back and straighten the horse with reins aids. The head, neck and body posture melt into the right position.”
I've not had a name for "overshadowing," but I've understood the concept for a long time, as have many of us. We know that despite what people tell us about how training makes the horse always respond to a cue, sometimes a horse does not. If you tell a horse to stand the way they always do, and then scare them, they will not stand.