The horses featured in this blog are:
First and foremost, my lovely Bella (Daloumie Arabella) a registered Dales Pony who will be 11 years old this year and I've had her since she was just turning a year old. I found out about clicker training when she was 5 and it has revolutionised everything about our lives together, but that's all been written about in previous blogs. Suffice to say that Bella did not like being told what to do and did as little as possible (although that was more than Jack, who would hardly break out of a very slow walk if he could help it). Clicker training has turned that around to the extent that she loves working so much I'm always ready to stop before she is, and she gives everything we do together her total attention and maximum effort.
Then there is Jack (Daloumie Crackerjack), Bella's more than half brother (same stallion, closely related mares). He's a year older than Bella and I've had him since he was an unbacked 3 year old. He would be as much of a superstar as Bella if he hadn't been born with only partial sight in one eye. He has come a long way from the youngster who used to go into full blown panic mode on windy days, even when turned out in the field, but I've long ago accepted the fact that he'll always lack confidence in strange places and unfamiliar surroundings so we just play together at home these days; that way we both stay safe, happy and relaxed in each other's company. Jack is the lateral work ace and he's very supple and athletic for a heavily built horse.
Waterside Grace is my other Dales and she is 14 years old this year and a darling. She's never a moment's trouble and totally safe and reliable. She was a bit nervous of traffic and a few other things when I first got her 5 years ago but clicker training has restored her self confidence. Grace is worth her weight in gold to escort riders with young or nervous horses out on hacks.
The other main equine character in this blog will be Rico (Escaro Novillero) who is an Andalusian colt and he will be 2 years old this year. I bought him as a weaned foal. He is very friendly and bold. I haven't done much clicker training with him yet - so far we've only done targeting, manners training and foot handling - but he's very familiar with the click and what it means. At the moment we have no fear issues to work through as I've yet to discover anything he's scared of! Occasionally things make him jump but he's always keen to investigate everything no matter how strange. His dad is a performing circus horse so I guess it's not surprising really!
There are photos of all of the above at the bottom of this page.
My other horses are Dougal, a young mini Shetland and Merlin, a Fell Pony, who were both rescues, and Russell and Guinness who are both elderly and retired. Russell and Guinness are Rico's mentors and keep him from getting too big for his boots but in a tolerant, kindly way. Guinness also plays endless games with him and keeps him exercised. I'm hoping to keep Rico entire but if he gets too much for Russell and Guinness I will have him gelded as I want him to have a normal social life with equine friends and companions.
I use clicker training and Alexandra Kurland's 'Riding with the Clicker' combined with various other influences (Marijke de Jong's Straightness Training being the latest) to improve my horses balance and performance so they can carry me with ease and hopefully stay sound all of their lives. With Bella, who loves to perform and show people how clever she is, I'm hoping we will manage to teach each other piaffe, passage, tempi changes, etc, which I think would make her the first Dales to do so. My dream is to take her to a few advanced dressage competitions and be in there with the big boys, showing how far you can get with clicker training and a rare breed pony from a breed far too talented and versatile to have been allowed to become rare. In a perfect, sensible world they would be one of the most prolific breeds around!
And Rico? Who knows! I'm looking forward to him growing up and showing me what he loves to do the most and we will go from there.