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

I did some liberty work with them both tonight, as we haven't done any for ages and we all love it. I took them into a bare paddock (too much grass in the school), one at a time, and went through our repertoire - me running around like an idiot while they chase me, then backing up, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches or walk pirouettes, shoulder in at walk and trot, and then walk half pass, which I'm very proud of as it's not that easy at liberty.

Then I spotted 4 jump blocks in the field and put them in a small semi-circle about 4 feet apart, and got them to weave tightly in and out, alongside me, so that they had to do a turn on the forehand towards me to get around one, followed almost immediately by a turn on the haunches away from me to get around the next, with me turning them by turning my shoulders. We did them one at a time, clicking each, working up to the the whole row and back again for a click.

This was very demanding and needed a lot of concentration not to overshoot any of the spaces. We spent quite a while perfecting it, and after I had jackpotted them and headed for the gate Jack followed me enthusiatically with a 'thank goodness, that was HARD' look on his face. Bella, as we moved away from the blocks, turned her head and looked back at them wistfully with a 'couldn't we just have one last go' look on hers.

The harder the task is and the more she has to think, the more she loves it. I think she just may be one in a million!

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