This is the story of my quest to train my three Dales Ponies for classical dressage, primarily by using Alexandra Kurland's clicker training methods, with a touch of others such as Philippe Karl and Anja Beran thrown in. I turned to clicker training because I had come up against some issues that I didn't know how to fix and because I wanted to inspire them to become enthusiatic partners. Bella and Jack are all my own work and have never been ridden by anyone else.

Bella, Grace and Jack

Bella aged 6

Bella aged 6

Treat Delivery

Jack aged 7


Monday, 10 November 2008

Another explaination!

I thought that my strategy of sitting on Jack when he is worried and just doing nothing, hoping for the best, might sound like clicker training makes you foolhardy and reckless. 'The Click that Teaches' is all about staying safe, breaking training down into tiny steps so that you never have to do anything that you and the horse aren't prepared for and comfortable with.

Since beginning clicker training I have been much better about getting off when it's best to do so. I am old school and used to think that once you'd got on you should stay on unless forcibly ejected. Now, especially with young horses, I will always get off if I feel myself getting tense, because I think that the horse has enough to do coping with his own emotions, and shouldn't have to cope with mine as well.

If Jack does start spinning and running again (I always bend him to a halt before he gets out of the school by the way - we have spent a lot of time practising hindquarter disengagement) I probably will have to start getting off again, as I probably will start getting tense again, but I am lazy and would rather sit and wait it out, now that I have taught him coping strategies, as long as I can do it without making it harder for him.

'The Click that Teaches' aims to produce a horse who has been slowly and carefully, and safely, persuaded into full co-operation. It is all about taking and keeping control, but in a way that makes the horse feel that it was all his own idea and he is training you to appreciate him. There are no confrontations, no battles, no resentment caused by mis-understandings and lack of communication; just horses that are happy and relaxed, doing what you ask and trying their hardest, because they have trained you to always be crystal clear and polite, and to show your appreciation for their efforts. They also, in my experience, become as addicted to working in harmony and as reluctant to do anything to disturb it, as you do.

Edited to add; unless horse is a native pony being worked on long grass, in which case s*d harmony, it's no match for grass!

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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!