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

Appy2quarter and I have written a lot in our blogs about liking our horses to offer us things, without always waiting to be asked to do something. I am completely convinced that this training strategy is right for me, as I have seen the enthusiasm for work that it builds in my horses, but I did wonder what a conventional Classical Dressage trainer would make of it.

In his book 'The Ethics and Passions of Dressage', Charles De Kunffy writes:

"When the horse initiates acceptable actions, the rider should promote them. This will improve the horse's confidence in his rider's guidance.

....The rider should not merely permit such an inititive by harmonising with it, but rather should encourage the horse to maximise the delivery of his own ideas! Opportunistic riding of this kind fosters progress and inspires the horse's confidence in his rider. The horse can learn that when he does things well he remains unopposed. The individuality, character and special talents of each horse are our most valuable assets. Horses should be encouraged to display initiative and enjoy our acquiesence to them.......

If a horse is often, or always, corrected when he volunteers initiative, the rider will break his spirit. A horse cannot perceive or conceive of a programmed partnership that does not tolerate spontaneity.......

Horse-initiated actions that are not dangerous should be considered as potentially good, desirable and useful, and therefore welcome. For the continued progress both in mental partnership and physical development, persue the horse's ideas with encouragement.

...Riders best develop their 'listening' abilities while remaining alert to opportunities the horse presents. Acceptance of happenstance also builds rider humility by admitting that even a horse can suggest valuable training strategies."

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