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

It only took about 5 minutes to fix Bella's shoulder in and we are back to 4 strides again (this is in trot, we can do lots in walk). I got a friend to video us today and it was very useful indeed. It was definately a case of 'nice horse, shame about the rider', and I am taking lack of tension to whole new limits. From the waist up I look as if I have no bones! If my legs join in I'll be falling off every 5 minutes. I need to get started on the James Shaw Tai Chi stuff.

Bella goes from looking like a downhill family pony to a quite classy dressage horse, depending on how much I ask her to collect. Even her head looks big and heavy in the downhill bits and much smaller and more refined in the bits where she is more in self carriage.

Her best trot stride is usually her first after each transition, so we must be getting the transition halfway right (you get lots of practise at transitions using the clicker). Her trot looks much more engaged during lateral work, so that's good, but when I push her on a bit on the straight it just falls flat, so when I start to look for lengthening I am going to have to go very slowly.

We had a try at our first walk half pirouettes under saddle (she does them in hand, and at liberty on a good day). I think that they look wonderful for a 6yo, and very correct. I wish that I could put some of it on my thread, but have no idea how to, nor does anyone I know.

I need to sort myself out pronto. She already looks far too classy for me at times. No-one but me has ever so much as sat on her so far, and I intend to keep it that way, but only if I make myself good enough for her (that's me motivating myself to try harder!).

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