This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mary Wanless Symposium and Kate in her new rug.

I bought my new horse, who is now called Kate, a new rug yesterday. It's a bit bright but Crystal has the same rug and at least they won't get lost while wearing them!!!

I haven't had time to do anything with her yet as Mary Wanless and Dr. Hilary Clayton had a one day symposium at a yard a few miles away from us today. I went there with three of my friends and had a great day out. It was very interesting, especially Dr. Clayton's exercises for unlocking the horse's core, through stretches and muscle lifts that anyone can use. I bought the book and DVD and also a support belt to try to address my not being able to stand upright without thinking about it anymore.

Dr. Clayton called the exercises pilates for horses and spoke of also trying to develop exercises using very specific muscles for remedial work in horses. I asked her afterwards if she had come across Alexandra Kurland and Microshaping, and was very surprised to hear that she had never heard of her. She asked me to write down the name and website for her.

The riding part was very interesting but a little joyless I found, with not much in the way of positive reinforcement in evidence as far as the horses were concerned. It made me even more convinced that I have found the perfect way for me and my horses to interact together.

Mary Wanless also talked of the difficulties that teaching riding and putting actions and feelings into words presents. I am only too aware that this is my downfall when I try to help people with clicker training. I get quite frustrated with myself over this and convinced that I will never have the skills necessary to be a good teacher of people but, as I found it hard to even talk to people a few months ago, perhaps the skill will evolve over time. Today certainly made me want to convince more people to give clicker training a try, to show that the carrot need not just be lack of the stick and excellent results can be obtained without the need to begin with 10lbs of pressure in each hand.

I am also wondering about the possibilities of one day doing some sort of corporate clicker training days to show managers more sympathetic ways of managing their staff, as quite a few of my friends suffer from poor, unsympathetic and unappreciative management at work. I become more and more convinced that politeness and empathy at all times and in all circumstances are the ways to produce happy horses and happy people, and are the best way of motivating both to exceptional levels of co-operation and effort.

Heather Blitz was the expert rider at the symposium and spoke of the need to hold her frame in the face of all onslaughts from the horse - never to let it change her body alignment no matter what it was doing beneath her. I aspire to do that too but I also aim to try and hold my values of always being polite and understanding whatever horses are doing, reinforcing the things and attitudes I'm looking for and ignoring the rest whenever possible. I want my horses to love the learning process and to try their hardest for me because they want to. Clicker training gives me the tool to achieve that.

I listened to someone talking about National Service the other day. They said that the job they did was the sort of job they would have loved had they been allowed to choose to do it but, as they were conscripts with no choice in the matter, they moaned and groaned about it constantly. I want my horses to be volunteers and not conscripts. I hope that one day I can produce exceptional results with my horses to show that this way works even in ordinary horses, managing to produce extraordinary results from them.


  1. I just love her new rug. I will bet she will just love her new owner. Maybe you overpaid for her; but what kind of a life would she have had with him? YOu can at least know she is safe and will have a much better life even if you train her and then find her a new home. Sometimes we do things because we know deep down it was the right thing to do even if the louder common sense seems to be speaking. You also made sure you can feed her this winter; a bonus. Sure would like to know how she comes on with your training.

  2. Glad her name is now Kate (but then I would think that, wouldn't I?). The new rug is very cute!

  3. Kate looks adorable in polka dots!

    Sounds is if you might have some good ideas to keep you occupied in your not so spare time. It's nice to be busy and with days full of things you love to do.

  4. Congratulations on a new horse, Helen, she looks beautiful in the new rug!

    And how nice to have been to a Mary Wanless seminar.
    I bought her book "Ride with your mind-Masterclasses when visiting London in the mid 90ies. Just reading the foreword made the whole book worth buying.
    I like very much her musings about interaction between horse and rider. She is very verbal, and has some very good descriptions/images about how we influence the horses through position and seat.

  5. Thank you very much everyone!!!!

  6. I think the polka dots are quite slimming. :)

    Goodness you've been busy while I've been gone! Vaulting next? how exciting!!