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, 16 February 2009


A friend emailed me this today (thank you, Alison, if you read this) and it could have been written by me - every word of it is true (apart from the car and trailer bit):

Why do I like horses? I think I must be mad.
My mother wasn't horsey - And neither was my dad.

But the madness hit me early - and it hit me like a curse.
And I've never gotten better. In fact I've gotten worse.

My stables are immaculate. My house is like a hovel.
Last year for my birthday - I got a brand new shovel.

I hardly read a paper - but I know who's sold their horse.
And I wouldn't watch the news - Unless Mr. Ed was on - of course.

One eye's always on the heavens - but my washing waves in vain
As I rush to get the horses in - in case it's gonna rain.

And though they're wearing 15 rugs, the best that you can get,
I bring them in to keep them dry - while I get soaking wet.

I spend up every cent I've got - on horsey stuff for sure
I buy saddles, bridles, fancy rugs - and then I buy some more.

I should have had my hair cut - or bought that nice blue shirt
At least it wouldn't now look ripped to shreds and in the dirt

I can't make a bloody sponge cake - I don't even try
But I can back a car and trailer - in the twinkling of an eye.

It's jeans and R.M. boots that I live in night and day
And that smell of sweaty horses just doesn't wash away.

I ache from long forgotten falls. My knees have got no skin.
My toes have gone a funny shape - from being squashed again.

But late at night, when all is still - and I've gone to give them hay,
I touch their velvet softness and my worries float away.

They give a gentle nicker and they nuzzle through my hair
And I know it's where my heart is - more here than anywhere.

- Author Unknown


  1. Beautiful poem.
    Helen you do not have the disaproval look from other people. At my yard the children's parents look at me as thought I was bonkers. Achild horse-crazy is okay but a grown-up, one gentleman keeps telling me, " Oh! Muriel what a passion you have!" At least they are Italians, they know what passion means, but I do not think it is a compliment ... ^-^

  2. Fab poem! I love the fact that it harks back to true horsey mad childhood - I'd have done anything to just smell a horse when I was a kid! Seems now there aren't the armies of small children there were years ago, who'd brush and groom and cuddle and generally do anything for the pleasure of leading a horse....or even a SIT ON!!!

    Instead with riding schools closing down, and the commoditisation of everything, children are bought ponies they know nothing about that are kept at livery. I wonder if many really have that same fire in the belly or appreciate what they truly have? Of course insurance doesn't help, riding schools have to be so careful about allowing children to help out..

    Lucky for me it didn't apply when I was young - I remember being allowed to ride a friends pony bareback with baler twine around his neck!!

    Perhaps I'm just a sceptical old bat but it seems unusual to meet a child with true passion for horses these days............ (and I differentiate between a passion for riding, and a passion for horses)

  3. Oh Charlotte you speak so true. Today the kids are so spoiled they do not apreciate what they have. Just yesterday Saul told me how he had to tell off the teengares, who after riding their horses, just left their mount cross-tied for 1/2 hour while the teenager-riders were playing in the club-house! Saul had to get them going and they were answering back to him! He told them it was teh respect of teh animal and for the well-being of the horse !!!

  4. To much money,we see it all the as we do, in the middle of a cross country course.We have a lot of people round schooling young horses,they get whacked over the water,screamed at if they get anything wrong and generally go away far more frightened than they were,no one thinks to teach on line in the water.Winning is all.No more wooley little Thelwell's for the Pony Club its all smart little show ponies and as soon as the kids reach their early teens,they get bought 16hhand eventer types and are horribly overhorsed,and nobody has a trailer any more,its all horseboxes.

    Sorry for the rant,I bet most of their Daddies are b****y bankers.

    Sorry I digress.thanks for poem made me smile.

  5. Glad its not just me then!!!! Janette, I have to ask - how are you living in the middle of a x-country course????

  6. Don't you think that it's having a 'grand passion' that keeps you young though? I still get so excited and enthusiastic about my horses, and I most of the people I meet seem to have grown out of the ability to get enthusiastic or excited about anything. It does seem to be quite a child-like quality - that 'eyes shining, bursting with it' emotion. When I'm with my horses I really know I'm alive. It is a bit like a drug I suppose, but one that keeps me feeling (and acting) young and healthy.

  7. I love that poem!!

    As a child, we lived close to some playing fields and I used to race to the window every time I heard a horse passing.

    I was lucky and my parents have always been supportive - not that I ever showed any interest in anything else!

    My younger cousin used to be completely mad about horses - but her parents never encouraged it and now she's lost a large part of that passion.

    I know I'm going to get looked down on when I'm older as I don't plan on buying anything but native ponies for the rest of my life!

  8. (...I still do rush to the window if a horse walks out from the riding stables next door)

    And okay, admit it - who is at risk of swerving the car if you drive past a field of horses???

  9. Not me, I have a very steady right hand :p

  10. Actually Charlotte I live in a little tent with a primus to warm my aged bones,no I jest! our garden is surrounded on three sides by woodland, which is part of the course,used to be a Pukka Intermediate level course,David and I have jump judged most of the famous riders in our time.They were never a problem,its the amateurs that always had the nasty falls.

    Itoo always sticky beak when horses go by,our horses are the breath beneath our wings,I dread the day,when I have to give up



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