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


Friday, 14 November 2008

My imaginary reins failed me today! After I had finished riding Jack, whose trot has definitely got more spring after the Monty Python stuff (but poor Jack seems destined to live forever in his younger sister's shadow) I got off and jackpotted him, then went to take him out of the school, holding the pretend reins rather than the real ones and he got just beyond the entrance then turned and went back in! He LOVES working so much now, I can never quite get over the transformation.

Bella's passage-y trot is just beyond my wildest dreams of what we could achieve together! I have put it on cue now (breaths out in rhythm with every stride). I'm trying not to encourage her to produce it too often because I worry that it is too much for a 6yo and she will have joint problems later in life if we overdo it (I'm always worrying about something going wrong with all of them!) but she is so proud of herself and keen to show me what she can do that it's hard to resist going along with her idea.

Grace and I are still working on getting the lateral movements in walk more balanced and supple. Her stiff and hollow sides are the opposite of Bella and Jack's, so that's very good for my riding, and I'm still using the single rein exercises a lot with Grace.

The reason I watched the 'Three-Flip-Three' DVD again was because I couldn't get my head around the Tai-chi walk when I watched it before and wasn't convinced that I really needed it, but now I've done so much experimenting with getting them to copy my strides I wanted to try to understand it. I think that anyone who studied Tai-chi would die laughing at my version of it, but it's amazing how much my walking carefully, deliberately and smoothly seems to relax my horses and hold their attention on me. With Jack especially, he seems to think that if I'm walking like that all must be well and there's no need to worry or look around him.

The only thing that DOES worry me about getting them to copy me is that people keep asking me why I'm limping (this is before the Tai-chi walk). I'm not even aware that I am, so I hope that they don't copy THAT!!!!


  1. The work you do with Jack IS what hooked me on to your blog!
    I met and rode an extreme left brain introvert in a famous riding club. This horse would NOT move unless you walloped him i.e. breaking a whip on his back!
    I do not have this violent energy in me, neither did the majority of people. *He* knew it. And *He* won everytime!

    Again it is a compliment to your TRAINING that your horse wants to stay for working ^-^

  2. Aww, thank you so much, Muriel!

  3. hi Helen! //waves//

    catching up here - i'm glad you are still writing away! :)

  4. Hello Trish, thank you for coming - lovely to hear from you!!!


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