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


Saturday, 3 January 2009

Taking Stock.

Everywhere is still frozen rock hard here so I have only been able to do in hand work in walk so far this year! I've been giving some thought to where I am now with my horses, at the beginning of 2009, and what I need to concentrate more on, to get to where I hope we'll be by the beginning of 2010.

Things I am especially delighted with and excited by:

Bella, Jack and Grace -
Their understanding of and response to the bit.
The quality of the contact and feel they give me down the reins.
Their understanding and response to the lightest of driving aids.
Their attitude to their work and to me.

Jack -
His walk and his lateral work at walk.
His present high levels of confidence and concentration, and he is so controlable now.
His energy and enthusiasm, and his newly aquired love of movement.

Bella - Her superb (for a Dales), elevated, cadenced trot, and her Spanish Walk.

Grace - Her canter (considering where we started from).

Things I would like to change:

Bella and Jack -
Their attitude to each other and to working around other horses (they both seem to regard attack as the best form of defense and have to be restrained/discouraged from doing so!).

Grace -
Her lack of confidence with high sided vehicles on narrow lanes, and with some objects.
Her habitual tendency to hollow still in downward transitions.

Also I can't ride Jack at the moment. He has had a small nodular-type lump under the skin on the underside of his chest, underneath where the girth lies, for some months. It only involves the skin (I can get my fingers underneath it) and was causing no problems and my vet didn't think that it was a sarcoid, or anything sinister, but suggested surgically removing it sometime and having it biopsied.

I have been dragging my feet over this because I have had rams with terrible brisket sores which won't heal because they are always in contact with the ground when the ram lies down. Removing Jack's lump was going to leave a stitched wound in the same sort of location and in an area where the skin is already quite tight, and I was worried that the wound would break down.

Also, the only time Jack has had sedation and antibiotics (he had to have his leg stitched after being frightened by someone shooting on the other side of the hedge, so he tried to climb over the gate to his paddock) he had what looked for a while like it was going to be a surgical colic, two days later.

I was planning to try and desensitise him to needles using the clicker, so he could have it done without sedation (and have injectable antibiotics instead of oral) but the lump has changed drastically in the last fortnight. It may be wishful thinking on my part but it looks as though it is separating away from the surrounding tissue. It certainly looks more like a sarcoid than it did, so I will tactfully insist on sending a photo of it to Derek Knottenbelt before the vet tackles it, if it doesn't self cure.

Either way I won't put a girth on him while it looks so unstable and sore.


  1. If he does have it removed - I am quite a fan of Forever Living Aloe vera. Used it to good effect on my animals ( and me!). I dont heal very well - had lump removed from hand and out cream over stitches from about day 3. Lottie climbed over a gate as a yearling, when ata friends house, and split her belly - stitches a n drain.I out the cream over the sitches (she pulled drain out herslf) and it kep them from being crust and hard etc .The gel is quite astringent but good for proud flesh (my whippet cant tolerate it). I used to keep my horses on a yard near
    Weston-super-MAre - the owner was a vet - he had writtten a book on veterinary uses.

    hope all is well with Jack ( my jack is my whippet -he has stitches in his side currently - slight altercation from a spaniel - he just has such thin skin), and he lump separates of its own accord.

  2. Thank you very much Hilary.

    I've been putting Sudocreme on it, to try and keep it clean. It looks as though it's had a ligature around it (it hasn't) and there is a red indentation where it meets the surrounding skin - very odd. The skin over it went really hard just as it started to change.

    Maybe the Aloe Vera might help it on it's way?

  3. I'm not a big fan of sudocrem particularly - tends to dry the skin out - and it isnt particularly antibacterial either. ( Suppose it is because I see all the nappy rashes etc that don't get better!)

    Nothing will "help" it on its way ( though sometimes tying a piece of thread around does help, btu cant really say without seeing). The main thing is to prevent any infection,Also , keeping a moistuirsed envirnemnt aids healing.

    If you do try the Alo Vera you will likely have to get it off somoeon who sells it locally ( it isnt in the shops_The cream is the aloevera propolis ( it has beeswax in too )

  4. Thank you Hilary. Perhaps if I post a photo you would have a look and see what you think?

    Hope your Jack recovers quickly. I bet he's feeling the cold at present too. Our JR has been shivering plenty!

  5. He lives in a coat outside.( whoops -that doesnt sound right! He is very much a fireside dog, who has his coat on whenever going out - mind, he does have very thin fur!

    Probably best to ask your vet , if it is already beginning to separate ( if he has already seen it he may advise over the phone)

  6. Thanks Hilary. I think I'll email a photo to Derek Knottenbelt direct. I've heard that he's really helpful and more worried about a successful outcome for the horse than anything else.

    My vet is a lovely bloke with a really good heart but he is very young.

  7. Meant to add that we bought our JR a coat. The first time she wore it she ran down the yard and all the horses leaned over their doors snorting at her. She refuses to leave the house in it now!!!!

  8. Helen, so sorry to hear about Jack's sarcoid.I have had a similar problem, with Sophie. Two summers ago, she developed some nasty pea shaped nodules under her eye. These started to ulcerate and turned into a bloody mess.I went through all the options with my local vet,some which were simply not feasible due to tricky location.

    I am lucky to have a wonderful Homeopathic Vet who has treated all my animals, for years.He came and prescribed some remedies,some of them he tweaked further on in her treatment,within three months, it had healed. We then kept her on a lower preventative dose for a few extra months,so far touch wood and whistle it has'nt come back!

    I had to get a referral from my local vet, for my insurance company,the NFU. who were brilliant and allowed me to spend up to a thousand pounds,(as far as I can remember)

    In the end it cost about £250 and no nasty side effects.The Liverpool Treatment is nasty pokey old stuff,and I would only use it if I was desperate.

    I would'nt be keen on surgical removal,as they have a nasty tendency to come back and proliferate.Why not give homeopathy a try first?

    If you hav'nt got one in your area, I would be happy to ring Mark up. He does travel,and I used to send him fortnightly photo's so he may give you an idea of what you are up against.(he makes a small charge for phone consultations.) but you could send him muliple photo's.He has a good track record with sarcoids,and has done simply amazing things for our horses in the past.
    If you want to chat about this,I can e-mail my phone no.
    Hope this helps.


  9. That's really, really kind of you Janette - thank you so much.

    I'm still not certain that it is a sarcoid and it really does look as though it is coming away by itself. I have to admit to being slightly sceptical about Homeopathy, although your experiences do sound very promising. I definately wouldn't go the surgical route now, unless Derek Knottenbelt thought that it wasn't a sarcoid.

    I'll give it a bit more time and hope that I don't have to do anything. Apparently, if sarcoids do self heal, the horse is then immune to the virus that causes them, so, if it is one, that would be a huge relief.

    Poor Jack - it's always him!!!

  10. aww, poor Jack - no major advice, but can echo the recommendation for Mark as my friend (also in Sussex) has used him very successfully.

    Tig is prone to sarcoids, and I did have success with Hilton Herb's ditton cream on both her and Hylo, who one year developed a little lumb mid-thigh. Of course, this depends whether it is a sarcoid.

    Fingers crossed it just drops off on its own.

    Hilary, sorry to hear Jack had an altercation with a spaniel, hope his wound heals very quickly.

  11. Thank you very much, Charlotte.

    I've just looked on Hilton Herbs website and one of it's ingredients is Thuja, which I'd just read about a couple of people reporting great success with, so I'll give it a try as it sounds very safe. It's been renamed Virex Cream. Can't do any harm, even if it isn't a sarcoid, and Jack loves their Herballs!!!!



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