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, 17 November 2008

Jack amazed me today. I haven't had much time for the last two days, as we have been getting the cows and sheep in for the winter, and it has been really wet and muddy, so they have all been in their stables for a lot of the time, with just a few minutes in the school as and when...

I worked them all in hand today, for speed, and it was nearly dark when I took Jack into the school. I have only been working on lateral flexions in walk, along with the 'Monty Python' trot, in-hand, for some time now.

I had just put Bella away and I noticed straight away how much longer his stride is in walk now than Bella's (I hadn't noticed any real difference in the past). When we did some half pass, his stride was so long and sweeping that I had trouble keeping with him. We did some work on his more cadenced trot, which he now manages with less input from me (thank goodness!!). We then finished with some 'long' (my verbal cue) walk - getting him to lengthen by mirroring my long strides in walk. He had his nose really low and his strides were so long that I had to click every three strides because I just couldn't match him - I got further behind with every stride!

This has all happened quite quickly - these slow, ground covering, powerful strides - with the Tai-chi walk work; encouraging him to copy my slow, smooth, deliberate strides. He would have been quite within his rights to be a bit spooky today, after so much time in, and in a dark, wet school, but my version of the Tai-chi walk kept him relaxed and in harmony with me every second we were out there, and in just a headcollar and on a loose leadrope.

I think that I will have to spend much more time doing some Tai-chi walk with Bella and Grace (whose stride looked like a Shetland Pony's after Jack's). His trot may have some way to go to catch up with his sister's, but his walk is now in a class all of it's own!

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