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.
Sunday, 7 December 2008
I don't think it's fair to work Jack in the dark, especially around red cones, which become almost invisible, so it has to be Bella or Grace. It's usually poor Grace so I thought it should be Bella's turn today. I've ridden Grace in the dark quite a lot recently, so it was interesting to compare how they feel, especially as feel is all I have in the dark, so it is heightened.
I think of Grace, in daylight, as being not far behind Bella now, but in the dark, going just on feel, it's a completely different story. Bella feels so light, 'up' and connected to me. Practising rein mechanics is very difficult because she is so sensitive now that it doesn't feel right to take the inside rein all the way to a point of contact - it feels like over-kill, because her responses are so instant, as soon as I begin to pick up the rein. Grace still needs me to go to a point of contact, to get a consistent response (apologies to those who haven't seen the new DVDs yet, or read 'Riding With The Clicker' - the point of contact is where you stabilise the contact on the inside rein against the front of the saddle), but with Bella it feels downright rude now.
In the dark, going only by feel, Bella felt like a balanced dressage horse in self carriage, ready to be ridden on both reins, and the single rein work felt a bit too kindergarten for her, today anyway, although I think I will always use it to warm up. Grace felt nothing like ready for two organised reins yet, so I am going to concentrate on the single rein riding for some time with her.
I worked Jack in hand today because our next door neighbour had his chainsaw out, lopping huge branches from a tree, which then crashed to the ground. Jack relies on his hearing even more than most horses and gets nervous whenever something very noisy is happening nearby, so I thought riding him would be asking too much.
I now have head lowering on a new cue; a downward flagging signal with my hand - as if asking a vehicle to slow down. Jack seems to be able to see this clearly on his bad eye side and we have an understanding that, whatever we are doing, if I do this he won't get a click until he drops his head. It's a really nice, calming cue to use, in that it seems to have a good effect on me as well, and he has so far never failed to respond to it, even with the chainsaw tree massacre going on. It means I can get him to lower his head in trot too, without interrupting whatever else we are doing.
My three are all a bit short of proper exercise at the moment; going out for only a couple of hours in rutted, muddy, slippery paddocks and working mostly in walk in a barely thawed out school, but they are all being so sensible and concentrating so hard on what they are asked to do. This time last year Bella would have been pinging about at the slightest excuse and Jack would have been very tense and jumpy in the school. Even Grace would have been snorty and spooky, but they are all being very chilled out and studious.
So much has changed!!!!
- I have to put this on here, Alexandra Kurlands 10t...
- Especially for Muriel - Jack wearing his SRS caves...
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- The weather is playing havoc with my training hour...
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- I've been having such a great time. Firstly Jack a...
- I had a go at adding the pirouette onto the end of...
- Christmas Toy and Single Rein Riding Out.
- Classical vs Classique = Splitter vs Lumper!
- ▼ December (10)