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 rode Jack in the windy school again today and it was very enlightening. He started off really chilled but several things in a row made him jump, and although he dealt with each incident really well, I could feel his overall anxiety levels rising and him starting to wonder if he really wanted to be out there anymore.

After a pigeon flapping made him jump just as I was collecting him up into both reins again, he started staring into the hedgerow with a very high head carriage and dropping his head down only to pick it up again immediately and stare again. I could have tried the head lowering on demand, to keep his head down there, but I still feel demanding anything when he's trying to sort himself out is likely to tip him over the edge into deciding to try to leave, so instead I took him to his mat.

He doesn't usually spend long there now, before he makes it clear that he's ready to move on, but this time he dropped his nose onto it and spent so long there, completely immobile, I thought he must have gone to sleep. I didn't click because he would have had to lift his head to get the treat and it seemed important to let him stay like that for as long as he needed.

Eventually he lifted his head, completely calm and composed, and we carried on as if there had never been any problem.

If ever I needed proof of how much help that mat has been, today provided me with that proof.

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