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 know exactly what I need to do, but I never seem to have any attention to spare when I'm riding, to actually think about doing it! I'm too busy enjoying what's going on underneath me.

I have got a couple of Wendy Jago's books (only leafed through so far) and I wonder if, as she writes, just watching brilliant riders on film and spending time imagining what riding like that would feel like, is the way to go for me. I know from the micro riding bone rotations that just thinking about doing something makes changes happen in your body, but I can't even seem to find the time to think about doing that when I'm actually riding now. My attention is all on them and how they feel under me. If things don't feel right I do always think about what I need to do to myself to change things, but if everything feels great I'm too busy marvelling at how wonderful it all feels and how generous and clever they are.

You see, it's all Bella and Jack's fault, for going so well in spite of me! If they bucked everytime I looked down I'd soon stop doing it!!!! nod laugh

I have been working on some of the exercises from Philippe Karl's 2nd DVD, still just in walk, changing from one lateral movement to another in a figure of eight (well, actually we are just doing an 'S' shape to start with). This is really helping to get the weight aids needed for the different movements ingrained into my brain. PK's explainations of how the horse balances and where your weight needs to be have been invaluable to me.

To start with I found it very difficult, when changing from, say a half circle in shoulder in to a half circle in renvers, in the middle of the school without the track for reference, to work out where everything had to be, for it to BE renvers. Now I just think of going from turning around the inside shoulder, keeping the bend and switching to turning around the outside shoulder, and we are in renvers.

This is all very new to all of us. The only moving from one lateral movement to another we have done in hand is shoulder in to renvers and counter shoulder in to half pass (both through changing the bend), all on a straight line. I have been astonished at how easily and quickly they respond to tiny shifts in my weight and leg aids.

We have also tried the 'S' shape going from half circles in shoulder in to half circles in counter shoulder in (going from turning around the inside shoulder, to turning around the outside hind), and counter shoulder in to travers (turning around the outside hind to turning around the inside hind) and then squares going from shoulder in through one corner and along a straight line, then changing to travers at the next corner and continuing in travers until changing back to shoulder in after the next corner. We also tried the square exercise in counter shoulder in to renvers.

I'm really enjoying playing about and experimenting with all this and they are both SO good at it, and SO responsive and studious about it all. Occasionally I realise that we are in the wrong movement, but when I think about how I'm sitting, it's always ME who is in the wrong movement. They are always in the movement that my seat is asking for, even if it's not the one that my brain thought I was asking for!

It's such a good job that Bella and Jack are SO much brighter than I am, or we would never get anywhere!!!!

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