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, 19 December 2008

I had a go at adding the pirouette onto the end of the previous exercise today and it was very enlightening. I tend to tackle these movements in hand by obtaining the flexion and then looking at the horse's feet and asking myself what I need to do to move them into the right place to achieve the movement.

To get into the reverse pirouette, from renvers, I had to time the aid with the outside rein to ask the outside front foot to limit how far it travelled to a minimum. I still want the horse to keep on picking that foot up, so I let the horse decide how tightly he can turn around it, as I don't want him to leave the foot on the floor and twist on it, for the sake of his joints. Jack is comfortable with quite a small circle, Grace needs more of a volte, Bella is somewhere between the two.

To then get straight from the reverse pirouette into the normal pirouette (rotating around the inside hind) was quite tricky. My focus was already on the forelegs and, stupidly, I thought that the way to do it would be to ask the outside fore to cross over in front of the inside fore, instead of just stepping in front of it as it had been in the reverse pirouette.

WRONG!! That meant that the outside hind was still also crossing over the inside hind and that put the horse into half pass, if I allowed forward movement. If I blocked forward movement it threw the horse out of balance and he had no option but to step back first, with the outside fore, then cross the outside fore behind the inside fore. This meant that he had done quite a lot of work, done as I had asked and tried really hard, and I couldn't click, which I felt awful about.

Luckily I fairly quickly remembered how I got the first stage of walk pirouette from half pass - by asking the inside hind not to travel, so the outside hind just stepped in front of it, instead of crossing right under and through. Then I asked the outside fore to cross over in front of the inside fore and CLICK, we were home and dry!

I also tried the exercise in reverse - pirouette into reverse pirouette - by doing the opposite; limiting the travel of the inside fore, so that the outside fore stopped crossing and just stepped in front, and then pushing the outside hind back under and across. SUCCESS FIRST TIME OF ASKING!!!!

I had a little go ridden as well, just going from the pirouette into the first couple of steps of the reverse pirouette, and visa versa. I don't know if it was because they knew what I was going to ask, as we'd just done it in hand, or if my ridden timing is improving, but it went really well. Grace's transitions afterwards, which are still a bit jerky sometimes, were so much smoother.

I also, having seen that last photo, freeze framed myself (in my mind) when riding a lateral movement today, and Alexanda Kurland's single rein riding DVDs have definitely sorted my elbows out, thank goodness, and I think I am more upright, although that's not necessarily saying very much!!!!

I really love trying all these new things. Off to study Charles de Kunffy's 'The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse' some more!!!

1 comment:

  1. That sounds fabulous! I think I'm going to have to print out your comments to read them again and draw the exercise out on a piece of paper too.

    I think the great thing about obtaining the bend and then working out what leg should do what is that you then deconstruct the movement and are able to ask for each element separately; ie front leg here, back leg there... This has to be the key to all the exercises we ask of our horses.

    I also need to have a good think about some combined exercises as Tig is definitely up for it!



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