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 have watched 'The Art of Riding' tapes again and the step by step instructions make lateral work so easy. In walk with Bella I can ride every part of every stride now, she is so responsive to my leg aids, and it's made me start to ride on a contact, all be it a very light one. I am SO lazy and try to literally just sit there doing nothing and hope it all happens. The miracle is that, with shoulder in, it did!

I tried to introduce Jack to foreleg and hindleg buttons tonight, but he didn't get it straight away and started to get a bit anxious. I gave myself a mental kicking, because we were in the school and it was late (pigeons coming in to roost), very windy and cold. A few weeks ago I wouldn't even have considered trying to ride him in the school in those conditions, and there I was, not just riding and carefree, but also trying to teach him something new. I had genuinely forgotten for a moment that his confidence is still a bit fragile at times.

As soon as we went back to the things he knows well he chilled out again, and he was really enjoying himself with some very forward, on the buckle trotting, so no harm done (and I still had trouble getting him out when we had finished!). He has even completely lost interest in his mat at the moment, and we have cut the calming routine we do to begin each session in the school, down to just a few strides of two steps forward - one step back - head down - click, on each rein at the scary end.

I also noticed today that the box I use as a mounting block and leave in a non spooky place in the school, has gradually been moving from near the entrance to the far, scary end, so my perception of the school must have changed along with Jack's!

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