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

Quick Jack update.

I rode him in a big field yesterday so that I could work on the outside rein issues with no risk of him feeling claustrophobic. After getting him to soften to it and then step into it, I added it to the inside rein and started riding on two reins again, for the first time in ages. WOW, what a difference. He was soft, round, forward-going and straight (he used to be a bit too bendy, whereas Bella was a bit too stiff and straight). In walk he was waiting to trot, and his trot was smooth and flowing, and he felt SO powerful (he is 15 hands of solid muscle and bone). I don't even carry a whip on him anymore, he responds instantly to the lightest possible forward aids, and he was really enjoying himself!

Today I took him in the school even though it was blowing half a hurricane. I worked him in hand, but it would have been perfectly safe to ride him. The banks around the school are all overgrown and the grass and nettles were thrashing about in the wind. I was worried that bits of the huge Oak trees overhanging were going to fall off onto our heads. Jack wasn't. He was Mr. Cool throughout, even when a piece of netwrap appeared from nowhere and attached itself to his back legs.

We have spent many, many hours working on head lowering, in every way possible and then some, and the benefits seem to be massive. He is like a different horse and his self confidence has grown enormously. He is totally relaxed in the field now when it's windy, whereas not long ago he would have been really jumpy and sometimes walking the fence asking to come in.

When he was nervous he used to rush up to whatever or wherever he was frightened of and then feel stuck, not wanting to turn his back on it, and panic. The one thing I insist on is that he never rushes anywhere, either towards or away from anything, and we always stop and do some rein back if he starts to rush. He needs the time to think, not rush himself into trouble.

I did get very bored with all the head lowering, but it is proving to be the best time I have ever spent.

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