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

A friend sent me this link. It's very poor quality (you can't see anything full screen) and because it's so difficult to see what I'm doing, I'll just explain that it was a few weeks ago and we had not long gone back to riding with both reins, so after the halts (which aren't ridden, they're just the result of the click) I was letting her walk-on on long rein, then very slowly (very, very, very, slowly in the last bit!) asking her to come up into a very gentle contact again. The reinback is not our best, she doesn't usually come above the bit like that, but the reins are in loops and I love the way she looks when she walks forward again. I'd have cut the last bit out if I could, because we're not really doing anything.

I know that she needs to come up more, and it's only small moments of good work, but with clicker training, as long as you click those moments, that's all you need. That's what you get more of, and less of all the rest. That's already happening - we have more of the way she looks in the stride after the 2nd reinback and less of the way she looks in the last bit, and I think that the difference between the two is dramatic. A few months ago she only knew how to carry me in the way she is in the last bit.

You might be able to hear me saying "a bit too late" after the trot. Thats because I felt that I had been late with the click and missed the best bit. I'm glad to 'see' that I was right, so my 'feel' is not too bad. That's why you only get one stride after the 2nd reinback - because my click was on time and it felt lovely, and I'm SO glad to see that I did click it! It's giving me a lot more confidence that my feel is OK.

Anyway, apologies again for the quality. This is a tiny sample (the rest is even darker and fuzzier) of our work together. For a half century old jumping-type rider who has had no dressage training and a six year old native pony, who has never been even sat on by anyone else, with only four months schooling in a bit, I reckon it's a pretty good start!

My beautiful Bella:

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