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


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Maryka asked me to explain the mechanics of single rein riding, and I'm really sorry, but I don't think that I really can. The trouble is that it took Alexandra Kurland a whole book, plus 6 hours of DVDs. There are SO many finer points that make all the difference - things about the quality of the feel down the rein, smoothness of rein handling, asking and releasing at the right time, Tai Chi rein concepts, etc. etc...... things that aren't easy to describe, because so much of it is feel, and you are really aiming for tiny 'gives', not huge ones. I think I would be doing a disservice if I tried to describe it, and it isn't mine to describe anyway; I haven't even been to any clinics.

What I can write about is what happened when learning the technique, for me. The request for a lateral softening of the jaw developed, with practice and repetition, into a lateral softening at the poll, which gradually went right down to the withers, and then led to the inside hind stepping under, thus connecting the reins to the horse's hip. This is all encouraged and allowed to happen - after the initial jaw flexions I didn't have to MAKE the rest happen - it just did - encouraged by the clicker.

Once that is solid on both reins, and I had dealt with overflexing and drifting, I added in the outside rein, alongside the inside rein, and had then established a connection with the reins to both hips - longitudinal flexion. This resulted in an incredibly light, alive feeling down the reins, which makes me very careful of how I use them, because the horses all feel so responsive, responding to every tiny feel down the rein.

I did add in a touch of my own. I had already taught them to step into the outside rein, when doing classical in-hand work, and I used the outside rein in isolation, not asking for outside flexion, but asking them to step into the rein with their outside shoulder. I found this very useful to deal with overflexing, and for straightening, and a bit more refined than the 'hotwalker' technique, but that's just my own addition - it's not something that's in 'Riding With The Clicker'.

On the subject of subtlety and lightness I was told off by Bella today. I was still using a not very discreet 'tuh' sound, with the breath out, to ask for trot from reinback. After a particularly loud 'tuh', which nearly sent her straight into a canter that I wasn't prepared for, the next time of asking Bella pinned her ears back at me with a "Do you think that I'm deaf and stupid, or just plain stupid?" attitude. I apologised profusely and toned down my 'tuh' sound to her satisfaction, and harmony was restored.

How Bella is going to educate me to be refined enough for her in the long term is beyond me. I can only hope that it's not beyond her as well!!!

1 comment:

  1. OH Bella was a bit of a Madam! Sensitive horses teach us so much.

    But they are tough task-master, because horses are so subtle!

    Thanks for that post. I will keep this in mind when I ride Cutter ^-^


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