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 was a bit frustrated that more flappy plastic bales had arrived in the school just as I had got Jack totally relaxed out there, and I did think about cutting all the flappy bits off, but then I thought what if I meet a curtain-sided lorry that hasn't been fastened properly, out hacking one day, or have to pass someone's washing line at the side of the road on a windy day, or eventually take him to a competition on a windy day where there are flags, tents or advertising hoardings around the ring, and I decided to view it positively and use it as a training opportunity instead.

At the time his reaction felt like a big step backwards, but he got SO good, SO quickly, that now it feels like a massive step forwards, and I'm sure that these constant challenges and tests of our relationship make us more solid all the time, because he calls the shots and tells me what he needs to do, and gets another opportunity to volunteer his co-operation and trust. If he were as brave and steadfast as Bella I wouldn't end up half the trainer that he is training me to become, and I still probably wouldn't have realised what a powerful strategy just motivating and then allowing horses to make the right choices of their own volition is, for achieving permanent, profound changes in attitude and behaviour.

The big lesson I am learning is that, for me, training shouldn't just be about what's happening in the here and now. Ok, I couldn't just get on and school Jack that day, I had to go back to working on trust and emotional stability, but that is SO much more important than whatever else we might we might have achieved in the way of day-to-day schooling, on that one day, if the new challenge hadn't arrived, and our understanding of each other is getting ever stronger because of all these tests of our relationship.

It's one day less working on balance and straightness - but light years forward in terms of trust and emotional stability, in both of us!!! Cheesy

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