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 was Jack who was hero of the day today! Since I started waiting for Jack to volunteer on the lunge he has totally changed his attitude to lunging - a complete reversal of his previous opinion of it. He LOVES lunging now and looks like a stallion, prancing and dancing, showing off, experimenting with what he can do with his improved balance and newly found energy. He looks and acts like a completely different horse and I could watch him all day.

It's just wonderful to see him moving just for the love of it and he almost looks a bit disappointed when I click and he has to stop for his reward. He can't wait for an opportunity to show off his canter and his trot is starting to show some cadence now. He overtracks a mile in walk and his lunge work is relaxed, rythmic, willing and enthusiastic; everything I could only dream of before. He carries himself better than most horses do in side reins and he is just in a headcollar.

The icing on the cake tonight was when, just after I had clicked and he had stopped and turned to face me, waiting for his treat at the back of the school and quarters towards the bales - his most vunerable place and position - a quad bike whizzed along the track behind the school and made him jump. His muscles flinched and his head went up but he stood firm and dropped it again just as quickly. Needless to say he has never had so many treats in one go before!

He has NEVER been able to do that before. In the past, even if he didn't shoot off, he would have had to wheel around to face the bales and try to see what was going on, but this time he did what we have been practising with the 'Why Would You Leave Me' and kept his attention on me, leaving me to do the worrying and make the decisions.

I don't suppose that it will happen everytime something spooks him but the fact that it has happened once (and we have never had a quad bike go past when we were in the school before) and in that particular place and situation is just a massive step forward.

We are developing so much confidence in each other now. At this rate I'll soon be looking forward to things like that happening, just to test us out. When I start to feel like that I'll know that we have a rock solid partnership. We're not there yet but I believe that it is going to happen!!!

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