Steve Halfpenny, Ozzie (15yo) and Matilda (4yo) At Aug 2017 Clinic

By , August 31, 2017 4:02 pm

This was a great 3 day clinic in Tipperary. There was about 6 weeks since Steve’s last clinic, I was working away during this time on my homework. It was going to be really interesting to see if we had improved since the clinic earlier this summer!

Anything below that doesn’t make sense is 100% my fault.

I had my 2 horses here. 4yo Matilda had just starting riding 6 weeks ago at Steve’s first clinic. Since then Dad & I had ridden her quite often, so she was feeling a lot more confident to have a rider on board. She was also a lot less brace in her body, there was now some softness and bend in her neck, and with some serpentines she was stepping under nicely with her inside hind.

15yo Ozzie turned into a legend at the last clinic. Finally we really had relaxation! This was a breakthrough of gigantic proportions. I do credit a lot of this to his updated diet which now includes calmer herbs, and Nutri-Calm, a liquid Vitamin B & magnesium supplement. They seem to have made a huge different to how he feels and how he can cope with stress and nerves. Wonderful! I had been riding since the last clinic with a bamboo. This has also been huge. It’s been the most effective thing I’ve ever tried to really get the feet in my hands, reduce the falling out, falling in, and really ride a beautiful soft, light, horse.


Steve rode Matilda. He said she was stepping under much better with her hind end. Also riding to the left (left rein) was much improved. Matilda does need a bit more energy, so practise while walking, asking the HQ to move out, but keep the energy and keep walking, don’t stop.

On the afternoon of day 1, Matilda did her first trots with Steve. Not a bother, all very relaxed.


Steve started off with some groundwork. First was the scary flag stuff. And high energy spooky stuff. Matilda definitely thought about it but figured it out well. At clinic 1, Matilda panicked when asked to canter in groundwork. This we suspect was the previous owners ‘over-enthusiastic’ lunging over fences style. We had been working on this over the last few weeks…

Steve worked on this, was while it was much improved it was still a worry for her. So he figured out if you can get her to the edge of her comfort zone in trot, and then change your mind, let her pass you and walk to where he HQ were, and walk off in a straight line with her following you, that will really help. So when she panics, instead of trying to pull away form you, she will look for you for comfort.


Today Steve played with circles in trot and then walking out past where her hind used to be. Huge improvement today after yesterdays new approach.

Steve rode Matilda as well. He rode with the bamboo. he tapped the hind to get more forwards, and then used the bamboo to help get a softer turn. Matilda has to keep moving and not end up at a halt. This was just gorgeous to watch. Steve trotted her around again too. He said ‘she’s going to be really soft isn’t she?’.



It was really really wet & windy. Really noisy and a spooky environment. I just didn’t believe how great Matilda as. It was like it was a summers day! I had done a little work to get her used to being somewhere noisy, but this far exceeded my expectations. Steve rode her. In the circles, use the bamboo is she doesn’t turn from a very light touch on the inside rein. Don’t use more rein, use the bamboo to move the inside hind out, or to tap the outside shoulder. Amazing. What a horse.


This was a great 3 day clinic in Tipperary. There was about 6 weeks since Steve’s last clinic, I was working away during this time on my homework. It was going to be really interesting to see if we had improved since the clinic earlier this summer!

Anything below that doesn’t make sense is 100% my fault.

I had my 2 horses here. 4yo Matilda had just starting riding 6 weeks ago at Steve’s first clinic. Since then Dad & I had ridden her quite often, so she was feeling a lot more confident to have a rider on board. She was also a lot less brace in her body, there was now some softness and bend in her neck, and with some serpentines she was stepping under nicely with her inside hind.

15yo Ozzie turned into a legend at the last clinic. Finally we really had relaxation! This was a breakthrough of gigantic proportions. I do credit a lot of this to his updated diet which now includes calmer herbs, and Nutri-Calm, a liquid Vitamin B & magnesium supplement. They seem to have made a huge different to how he feels and how he can cope with stress and nerves. Wonderful! I had been riding since the last clinic with a bamboo. This has also been huge. It’s been the most effective thing I’ve ever tried to really get the feet in my hands, reduce the falling out, falling in, and really ride a beautiful soft, light, horse.


Steve rode Matilda. He said she was stepping under much better with her hind end. Also riding to the left (left rein) was much improved. Matilda does need a bit more energy, so practise while walking, asking the HQ to move out, but keep the energy and keep walking, don’t stop.

On the afternoon of day 1, Matilda did her first trots with Steve. Not a bother, all very relaxed.


Steve started off with some groundwork. First was the scary flag stuff. And high energy spooky stuff. Matilda definitely thought about it but figured it out well. At clinic 1, Matilda panicked when asked to canter in groundwork. This we suspect was the previous owners ‘over-enthusiastic’ lunging over fences style. We had been working on this over the last few weeks…

Steve worked on this, was while it was much improved it was still a worry for her. So he figured out if you can get her to the edge of her comfort zone in trot, and then change your mind, let her pass you and walk to where he HQ were, and walk off in a straight line with her following you, that will really help. So when she panics, instead of trying to pull away form you, she will look for you for comfort.


Today Steve played with circles in trot and then walking out past where her hind used to be. Huge improvement today after yesterdays new approach.

Steve rode Matilda as well. He rode with the bamboo. he tapped the hind to get more forwards, and then used the bamboo to help get a softer turn. Matilda has to keep moving and not end up at a halt. This was just gorgeous to watch. Steve trotted her around again too. He said ‘she’s going to be really soft isn’t she?’.



It was really really wet & windy. Really noisy and a spooky environment. I just didn’t believe how great Matilda as. It was like it was a summers day! I had done a little work to get her used to being somewhere noisy, but this far exceeded my expectations. Steve rode her. In the circles, use the bamboo is she doesn’t turn from a very light touch on the inside rein. Don’t use more rein, use the bamboo to move the inside hind out, or to tap the outside shoulder. Amazing. What a horse.


Ozzie was great this morning. The bamboo work had worked! Steve looked at him and said he’s great, but now you need more energy. What you’re doing now is very much in Oz’s comfort zone. This was great. So do everything with more energy!

This afternoon we came out a changed horse + rider combo. We did gorgeous trot circles around 8 traffic cones. With softness, the correct bend, a happy forwards horse. At the UK clinic I spectated, when doing rising trot, Steve had the riders use the correct diagonal, and then each time you rise in the trot, you turn your pelvis a fraction to the middle of the circle. This influences the horse inside hind to step under more and as a result you get that lovely balanced circle bend. Absolutely magic! I was over the moon with Oz. Forwards, soft & happy! This was such a milestone for us. What a great horse. I really find spectating at Steve’s UK clinics so educational, as I have to hear and see something a few times before it sticks in my head, and I can try it out with a degree of success with Ozzie.


Started off with trot circles in the (not so) scary corner. Steve was reaching walk exercises so I can busy trying them all in trot in the most difficult place 😀 What comfort zone?!

In the short serpentines, when Oz turned right (my left) I need to keep asking him to turn until there is a good bend in his neck, and only then allow him to go straight again.

Then back in the saddle. I needed more energy in all our lateral movements. So I’d ask for a lateral movement, and then we’d trot out of it! This was so much fun. And it got our lateral work softer and with more energy. And we had so much fun with our energetic soft trots! I know an amazing rider in the UK called Camilla. She does gorgeous lateral work and then goes off on big loose rein trots and canters around the arena, and then back to lateral work again. This is what I was trying to replicate! I couldn’t believe how well Oz was doing. And how much fun it all was!

Then Ozzie got even better! It was time for our dressage tests. First all all the riders walked 3 tests on foot, with Steve at the top of the line talking us through what we needed to do. I called out a few tests, and then it was my turn to ride.

Holy cow.

Oz was a superstar. We got 70%! Our highest mark ever! And it included a great result for the holy grail – soft feel!

I was so proud.

Later on we played with having a lariat in a straight line up the middle of the arena. The goal was to walk up it, with 2 of your horses feet on either side of it. This is tricky as Oz tends just to step on it.

I did it not very well twice, and then I had an idea.

On our third attempt, I focused on the front feet. We were on the line. So as we walked I asked his front left leg to step forwards and sidewards to the left. Then his front right leg to step forwards sideways to the right. I did this by using the inside rein and my outside toe at his shoulder.

It worked! We did a crazy straight line walk with the lariat between his front feet for 4 steps. That was something I never even thought was possible to do. Talk about a breakthrough clinic!


We worked on walk pirouettes. The easiest way for Oz to figure these out is counter bend on a circle to HQ in / pirouette. We have to leave then on a fast walk or a trot to keep the energy up. Steve rode Oz to do these. Oz tried sooo hard.. there was so much Connemara concentration going on it was amazing. Steve at this stage had renamed Ozzie the ‘born again’ Connemara.

A great quote form Steve:

“The difference between a dream and your goals, is that you take action on your goals.”

In the afternoon, we played with some more walk pirouettes. Then we had a fun ‘mirroring’ game with Eidin and Patrick. My head was now 100% officially full. This was a superb clinic.

If you’d like to watch or ride at a future clinic, join our mailing list to hear about upcoming dates.

Equine physio visit to Tipperary – report from 3 horses

By , July 8, 2017 5:23 pm

I had such an interesting day today. The lovely Emma Robertson from Cork, equine physiotherapist, came out to visit and check up on Ozzie (15 yo in a lot of work), Matilda (4 yo just starting riding) and our 25 yo horse (retired, broken pelvis last year) Dougal.

She comes up once a year to check out everyone and see if there is anything going on that I hadn’t figured out.


First up was Matilda, my 4 year old. From the last clinic with Steve, Steve noticed that she is softer to bend on the right rein, and isn’t quite as soft / bend as much on the left rein.

Emma checked both sides, and on Matilda’s near side, Emma found that there was some small issue in Matilda’s near shoulder area. Emma did some work on this and we got lots of yawns and licks and chews from Matilda.

It makes so much sense to help the horse physically if there is a small issue somewhere with this type of work. Then it will make it much easier for her then when I ask or bend in groundwork and ridden work.

Other than that no major issues anywhere which was great.

Matilda is currently being ridden in a leather tree (treeless) Deuber, whcih should help and adapt to her back as it changes shape.


Second up was Ozzie!

  • Oz has had a new saddle for the last two months so I was very keen to see if Emma found any discomfort form it (hopefully not!). I hadn’t noticed anything myself but you never know.
  • Ozzie also has had the most work ever in the last 6 months. Sometimes I’ve ridden or worked him twice a day, since about February onwards. He did get all of April off, but in general we have done a lot together this year. So I was curious to see how his body stood up to all the work.
  • Thirdly, his head shake has been nearly gone when I’m handling him. Interesting to see what Emma noticed on that.
  • And lastly, he was really soft in the clinic with Steve, but held a little tension at the top of his neck on both sides, and had a little less bend in his neck going right. Could Emma find anything that would relate to this?!

I walked Oz over to the far side of the paddock so Emma remarked that Oz was really walking out very well, and had very nice muscle tone along his hindquarters and top line.

Emma checked him all over so she said there was absolutely no issues in the saddle area, so zero saddle issues with the new saddle!! Ozzie has a PERFECT back! God bless the Deuber saddles and my persistence to trying new unusual saddles till I found the right one 😀

Emma said Oz was great and in the best condition she has ever seen him 😀

I mentioned about anything in the top of the neck, so Emma said that Oz a little tight through poll and atlas. The way it felt to Emma is that it would be a little harder for him to soften on the right rein (which I had seen at the clinic). So she did a little work and I have an exercise to do a little for the next week on the ground to help him out as well. This is great.

Emma is also a craniosacral student, so there is some way you can ask your horse a question, if it has a yes or no answer. So on the head shaking, Emma asked Oz if it was due to pain. Ozzie said no. She asked Oz if it was due to an old emotional issue. Oz said yes. So interesting!

Emma is continuing to study this so she’ll be back at Christmas to figure out more along these lines with the head shaking to see if we can really get to the bottom of it.


Last horse up was Dougal, our 25+ year old, who had a bad accident last year and a broken pelvis, which he is now fine with again. He was good, with some small issues in the opposite hip, that he would have used to compensate for the sore hip, so Emma did some work on that.

It was a great afternoon, thank you Emma for coming up & fixing all my horses.

I do want to do some pretty nice soft work with my horses.

So it’s important to me that I help them as much physically as I can, so they feel comfortable.

Steve Halfpenny June 2017 – Superstar Oz and 4yo Matilda young horse starting

By , July 2, 2017 1:22 pm

“When you reach down the reins it feels like you are reaching for their mind.” Steve Halfpenny

Here is my clinic report from Steve in Tipp in June 2017. Anything that doesn’t make sense is 100% my fault. Steve was an incredible teacher, so patient and his insight into horses is incredible. This clinic was amazing for at least 4 reasons.

Oz and I made a lot of progress. Having a full 4 day clinic meant we got so much done. At the end of day 3 my head was full.  I thought, if the clinic stopped now I’d be 100% happy with all we had achieved. Then day 4 started and Steve threw lots of new exercises at me, and Oz and I went up another few levels. It was superb. A lot of this was to do with me observing a lot more how Oz is using his body.

– This was my first clinic ever, that for every single session (we had 8 sessions, 2 a day), Oz was completely relaxed, happy and chilled. It only took 10 years of patience! What a horse. This was like 10 Christmas’s in one day for me.

Matilda, my unstarted 4yo, who I had been doing a fair bit of groundwork and preparation work with, including sitting on her bareback a few times, did her first clinic with Steve. Each day Steve worked with her in a short session in the morning. I had never actually seen Steve progress with a young horse over 6-8 sessions like this, and it was just humbling to watch how he worked with her mind, through the process of getting her to follow a feel, become more confident, riding bareback, getting used to the saddle and bridle and riding in the saddle. It was literally a masterclass in how to bring on a young horse. Every session Matilda was waiting for her turn at the entrance of the paddock. She was so relaxed in the arena. She was at her happiest hanging out with Steve as he taught the sessions.

– We had the best riders and visitors! Thank you for making the event so enjoyable! Not only that, we formed a dressage team, and we won the June 2017 Light Hands Dressage World Championship.


Here are my notes with Ozzie, and my observations on Steve working with Matilda. If you would like to ride in the next clinic in Tipperary with Steve, please email me for more info chocolatelabhelp AT


Steve did a few short sessions with Matilda each day. Every day there were big improvements and more was becoming available each day.


Day 1:

Steve upped the energy, and worked with Matilda to get her feeling comfortable with flags flapping and moving around fast, ropes being throw all around, and high energy stuff. When Matilda chose to stay with Steve, the high energy stopped. She figured this out very quickly.

Matilda tends to be a little braced, and so her body can be quite straight. Something to be worked on.

In about 5 mins on the first day, Steve was sitting on Matilda bareback. He got on and off twice. He got her used to dismounting with a bit more energy than I had been doing. In each session on the ground, he would rub the top of her head and her ears, and put his fingers into her mouth. This was to get her used to the bridle being put on in the future if needs be.


In the next session, it was groundwork with Matilda, and practising asking her to move her hind quarters. This was something she wasn’t sure about so it was great practise.

Day 2:

More groundwork getting used to high energy with the flag. When you are riding if something surprises her, you want her to be confident and not scared! Steve rode her bareback with 1 rein in walk, and there was more relaxation there today. She is quite independent, and today she was letting Steve into her mind more, compared to yesterday.

Steve used Matilda to demo some groundwork work for the other riders. He asked her to do shoulder in and she walked towards him. This was amazing! She was really listening and focused. Next onto backup circles… ask your horse to do a circle backwards, by pushing the head to the outside of the circle and asking the outside fore to step out of the circle. Matilda had a big difference in the size of her circles in both directions. One medium size, one huge sized as she worked to figure out how to take a step over with her inside hind leg.

Her softness and lightness and bend, in groundwork circles is just phenomenal, much better than Oz!

Matilda wore the saddle in groundwork walk today.

Steve rode Matilda bareback again. Standing still, ask your horse for lateral flexion. Then ask the fore leg (same side as the neck is turned to) to take a step to the side. You don’t want the horse to move his other foreleg and cross his legs over as this means he was unbalanced or leaning / heavy. Matilda was super at this.

Matilda got her teeth done by Maria the equine dentist, and enjoyed it!

It was also lovely to meet Barbara who makes the Haylo hay feeders.

Day 3:

Matilda had never trotted or cantered with the saddle on, so this was this morning session. Steve used a Manolo Mendez cavasson & long rope. Walk and trot were ok, canter she thought was all a bit weird. Steve made sure to run along with her. This was really important as he said if he pulled her off balance it would only panic her. So he moved with her and let the arena walls help her to turn if she was pushing out through the outside shoulder.

Also then, after each little saddle exercise, he asked her to move her hind away, and walk into him for a rest. So he is getting her to find comfort with him, rather than trying to pull away from him. Sometimes she came in half way, and then changed her mind and walked off again, so it was back to the start of the exercise. So fascinating to watch.


Demo some groundwork with Matilda for the other riders. First up, it was to ask Matilda to bend towards you on a circle, and then ask her to step away a little, and keep the original bend, while doing a counter arc on a new circle.  Steve was walking at her shoulder, asking her inside shoulder to move away from him to create a nice neck bend.

Riding – Matilda couldn’t figure out how to move her hindquarters. So Steve rode her one handed with a bamboo. If he asked her to move her hindquarters with his leg, and she didn’t, he touched her inside hind leg with the bamboo.

It was really windy today and Matilda was as cool as a cucumber.

I did some groundwork with Matilda – circles and leading and shoulder out. She is amazingly light and soft on the ground. Her follow a feel is better than Ozzie’s. Steve remarked that if you started a horse without too much consideration for this stuff, fixing everything to be able to put this lightness and softness back in to a horse, could take quite a while. It’s so interesting to be working with a clean slate.


Matilda was hanging back a bit when you lead her. So in this session, Steve had a lariat around her hind quarters, which is used to ask her to move forwards if she didn’t follow a feel.

Because she is braced when you ride her, she needs more work asking for bend through her body. Steve suggested it would be good to introduce a bit as this is an easier tool to work with for these type of exercises, instead of a halter. So we will move onto the bit, and when ready, her hackamore is waiting.

Day 4:

Steve did groundwork trot & canter again in a cavasson, with Matilda wearing a saddle. She was relaxed walk & trot but still not 100% in canter.

Today she was much more confident again to walk further around the arena. She is quite independent, so you have to make sure at least one ear is on me when I ride her.

As Steve rode her in walk this morning, he kept her moving. Forwards first, then direct her. pick up one rein to ask the inside foot to step to the side a little, and backup with a touch on the HQ if needed.

Ride up and down the fence line, and to turn, ask her to bend her neck and look at the fence, and then move her hindquarters so she is looking out of the arena. Then ask the inside fore to step sideways to walk along the fence the opposite direction. Repeat a few times.

Matilda was relaxed throughout, and did some sighs and licks and chews. Steve did a fair bit of rubbing her neck, scratching her neck and telling her she is great.

Use one rein at a time.

For backup, at halt, use one rein at a time to change her balance left and right, then when she thinks backwards, do nothing.

At halt, lateral flexion and then run her head.


We put the bridle on. She mouthed it for maybe 10 or 20 seconds, and then it was over. No issues.

I rode her in walk in the saddle this morning.

She was very relaxed and chilled when I got up and rode around.

When riding, its like half a passenger exercise. The most important thing is to keep moving. I let her go where she wants in general, but I gently work on directing the feet. Forwards first, then direction afterwards. Then at halt, I asked for lateral flexion. This is good on the ground, but pretty bad in the saddle. So lots of good homework to do.

Later Matilda had an Alexander technique session, as she watched the rest of the riders work in the arena. She completely zoned out and enjoyed the rest.


  • Backwards circles, inside hind foot to step in and aiming for equal sized circles both directions
  • Walk, trot and canter with the saddle on, me to run with her and let the sides of the arena help her to turn. Do not pull her as it will frighten her.
  • Lateral flexion in halter and with the bit
  • Move the hind quarters
  • Same groundwork as Ozzie
  • When leading, I should be at her shoulder, she shouldn’t be lagging behind me.


  • Bridle on while I ride her in a halter
  • Walk with forwards, then try to direct the feet, only 1 rein at a time.
  • Halt and lateral flexion, put rein in my other hand and then rub her head. We need to soften the brace in her body. This is not an issue in the groundwork, where she is much better.
  • Do not let Matilda zone me out. I need one ear on me when I am riding.  Be busy all the time, ask her to do things.
  • Walk along the fence line, bend neck, move HQ out. Change direction and do it again.
  • Keep her moving forwards and only stop if I ask her to bend her neck softly.
  • Lots of scratches and rubs.
  • Matilda needs to listen to me and not zone out.



We started with groundwork. My strategy was to do as much as possible in the scary corner, in walk and also moving up the exercises into trot. Might as well fix the spooky corner stuff while we are doing everything else if we can!

Oz doesn’t bend as much through his body on the right rein. When doing a circle to the right his body isn’t really on the same bend as the circle. He is better on the left. At lot of this was observation, and then based on what I learn working to support Oz better. It was very useful.

Steve did a little groundwork as well. I tend to not be as effective as I need to be!

Steve asked Oz to trot and then got a fast trot, then put the bamboo in front of Oz and slowed it down again, all in the space of a few steps. So I need to get more effective as well as it’s much more clear and less confusing for the horse. A good lesson.

Shoulder out along the fence line. Be observant of the bend in your horses body and your horses neck. Oz was over bending his neck and under bending his body. When you notice it, then you can fix it.

We worked on the groundwork serpentines Steve had been doing at the London clinic. Get a nice bend on a circle, and then walk towards the hind WHILE asking the inside fore to step to me. I had been forgetting about asking the inside fore to follow a feel!

Then as the horse turns and walks past you, push out their body to get a bend on the new circle. This push part is the bit that most people miss out on. Keep your feet walking forwards (or at least your body walking towards the horse) throughout.

We did some super groundwork trots in the scary corner.

It seemed like Oz was being calm and confident, and not feeling unsure or scared……….!

More shoulder out along the fence line. Oz was rushing and so had too much neck bend, so my job was to rub his hindquarters to relax him and slow his feet down as a result.

When riding, to ask the inside hind to step under (the path to collection), twist your hip a little as the inside hind is about to step under. This is genius. In trot, if you sit when the outside fore is coming down, then as you rise in trot, also twist your hip a little to ask the inside hind to step under.


When I rode Oz, Steve said I was working too hard with my body. So he gave me a bamboo to carry instead. This was brilliant! Oz falling out the outside shoulder? No problem, just put the bamboo outside his outside shoulder.

Oz falling in? Use bamboo in time with the inside foot to ask the shoulders to move out.

Circles a bit more like eggs? Just use the bamboo as a pretend wall on the outside of the circle and we get immediate improvements while not messing up my posture too much!

I am totally converted to riding with a bamboo, to work on communicating to Oz what I’d like him to move. It is so handy and it’s very easy to hold and direct.

Oz was great again – chilled out, happy, relaxed and willing to do anything I asked of him. And it was only day 1. usually this is the last day!

DAY 2:

We are back up in our new home in the scary corner. In groundwork, ask for a trot and get it immediately. Got it. When I raise my energy Oz raises his. Very cool.  On the circles, especially on the right rein, ask for the neck bend at the same time I push the inside fore out a little. There should be a bend throughout Oz’s whole body. This is definitely improving.

We went riding then. Off we did some nice relaxed trots. This was changed so much since Tanja helped us at the last clinic. Now Oz is free and relaxed moving into a trot, and there is softness and much less brace in his body.  Super.

On to ridden serpentines with the bamboo to help us. Oz finds it easy to step over with his near fore (as if he is going back on his easy rein, the left rein) and finds it more tricky to step over with his off fore.

Steve saw a big reason why this Oz… Oz wasn’t looking where he was going! Especially when he was stepping out iwth his off fore. So Steve did a little asking oz to move his front feet in a circle around his back feet, also while looking where he was going.

When I took over again, I used the bamboo and was very aware to encourage Oz to look the way I wanted him to go as I asked for the change in direction.

This got better and better until it nearly became a dance… he became so light in my hands it was fabulous.


Oz was amazing. We started off with a little groundwork. We started with a circle on both reins with a nice bend. Ask the shoulder to step out and look for a soft bend in the neck. Super.

Then we moved onto the serpentine. I stayed focused that Oz was looking where he was going.

Then we rode. Oz literally out performed himself! He was totally calm and confident. Steve was taken aback!! this is not the Oz he knows! All of our clinics with Tanja during the winter have totally paid off. Thanks Tanja!!

We started off riding circles with the bamboo. Oz was superb and trying really hard.

Then I thought lets get onto the fun stuff. So out comes the garrocha. Oz LOVES the garrocha. He sees it like a toy. We did circles with it, did 180 degree turns with it, did full 360 degree turns with it, I carried it around, so much fun! Oz loved it all.

When we were turning Oz’s head under the garrocha, Steve said I shouldn’t be working for the turn, instead Oz should do it himself. For this, I needed to use my hip to encourage Oz’s inside hind to step under, then the turn just flowed beautifully without me doing much else. Magic.

Then Steve set up a block with a lariat attached to it. The goal was to circle around the block and let the lariat wrap up around it, then change direction under the lariat, and unwind it from the block, and coil it back up as we rode around. So much fun! Oz loved this too as did I. And the more I did the more my posture improved.

Then Steve set up 3 blocks very close to each other and we had to do very small serpentines through them. Brilliant. Steve then suggested we could try to do backwards serpentines through them, if he made them bigger. Before they could be made bigger off Oz and I went and we did them! What a horse!

An absolutely amazing afternoon.

Speechless with my lovely horse. 🙂


Steve demoed the groundwork serpentines again. As he did this, I noticed that while he was walking around the whole time, he was staying in the same arena in the arena. Then it dawned on me that the horse was basically moving in a figure of 8 the whole time. You ask the inside fore to come to you, then as the horse passed you so walk towards him to push his ribs away from you and get the new bend. So for the horse at least it’s a figure of 8. Aha! The penny dropped.

Two things to remember – I have to walk the whole time and not stop, and Oz has to look where he is going. This was starting to get much better.

Steve reckoned Oz had improved a lot since day 1 which was great.

We did some riding then. Figure of 8 serpentines, where were much better ridden after the groundwork we had done. I have to keep my weight on the inside. The bamboo is very useful, to get a good bend in the body. With the serpentines, the most important thing for Oz is to get this good bend through the body, before I ask for anything else. If this takes a while, that’s fine. Manolo had Steve walking the full length of an arena doing this!

Only when the bend is nice, should I ask for the inside leg.


A good exercise to help out a horse with a scary area. Figure out how far away from the scary area you have to be for your horse to be relaxed. maybe 1 step, maybe 10 steps! End up with your horse on the boundary of where they are confident and are just starting to feel un-confident. The horse will tell you this as he won’t want to go past this area.

In a line parallel to the scary area, walk along it, move the hind, then move the front and come back again the opposite direction. Do this for a few minutes. You are just on the boundary, you are not IN the scary area! What you will find is having this scary area will really help your horse to step the inside fore sideways each time he changes direction. So you are both working on a useful manouvre PLUS playing with the edge of the scary area! You are making the scary area work for you 🙂

Another thing you can do is just ride around, and each time ride o the boundary of the scary area, but not directly into the scary area. After a while you may notice that the boundary moves a little bit closer to the previously scary area. It’s the horses decision.

Also working harder in the normal areas, and resting nearer the scary area is good too.

I also tried out fixing things using association. I remembered an old Philip Nye story (Tasmanian horse legend, trainer of the horse ‘Magic’). He used to have a bucket of food in the middle of his arena to enourage his stallion to lick and chew and relax.

As Oz associated the corner with noise, windy, and construction men appearing randomly and surprising him, I decided to teach him to associate the corner with something different. A tub of food! You have never seen a Connemara march so fast into a scary corner 🙂

Also on this – Steve said that instead of not being that effective, if when doing stuff with Oz in the (not so scary anymore) corner, I was more effective, Oz would forget about that corner pretty quick.

DAY 4:

“When you reach down the reins it feels like you are reaching for their mind.”

“Be a millimetre away from a change in balance”

“You are trying to get it to weigh nothing.”

We started off with some groundwork. I walk very close to Oz, with a short rein. His neck is to be bent around me, ideally with his head low (as he holds some tension in the top of his neck, which we want to encourage him to release). I will push the inside shoulder out to get the bend through the body.

Then we did groundwork in walk, shoulder out to hindquarters in down the fence line. Brilliant!

Then Steve said what about trot shoulder out to hindquarters in down the fence line! We got half of it, but missed the hindquarters in in trot as I wasn’t helping Oz very much! Lol. Good for homework. Oz was great – really listening and soft and trying really hard.

We rode then, and did straight lines with shoulder out, hindquarters out, hindquarters in then shoulder in. Fun!

More riding with the bamboo to help us.

I asked Steve for help with the walk pirouette. Happily Steve rode Oz! This was amazing. I had glimpses of an amazing Spanish horse as Steve & Oz worked together. Oz looked a million dollars 🙂

In walk pirouette,  the shoulders move around all the time, and I need to keep my outside leg on the whole time, but the hind does less steps. I worked on doing this around a block which was a challenge but great homework.


In the afternoon we worked on more ridden hindquarters in, focusing on Oz being relaxed throughout. I used the bamboo again to help us out. Oz tended to worry a little bit and then push on my hands / lean, so we worked through this, rewarding relaxation and softness.

Also practised hindquarters in around a block. More great homework!

To help Oz with the bend on the circle, then Steve got us doing a circle with a 90 degree bend in Oz’s neck (well, heading that way)!, while asking the inside shoulder not to fall in. Easier on the left rein, trickier on the right rein as expected.

Also while on a circle with a nice bend, ask Oz for a step or two of counter bend (keep original bend but ask the feet to move in a new direction). Steve rode Oz and did this – wow.


  • Be effective
  • More time spent in the scary corner, which isn’t really that scary anymore.
  • Circle both directions, with bend through the neck and body. Trickier on the right rein.
  • Observe neck bend in all manouvres. Too much or too little?
  • Serpentines. Think figure of 8 for Oz. Oz to look where he is going. Remember to ask the inside fore to follow a feel. Use the bamboo.
  • Shoulder out along fence line with neck not overbent. If rushing, rub hindquarters to slow down.
  • Trot shoulder out to HQ in down the fence line.


  • Don’t mess up my posture, use a bamboo to help instead
  • On circles, twist my hip a little to ask inside hind to step under
  • Same in trot, sit with outside fore and twist hip a little when I rise
  • Use the bamboo to help circles on both reins.
  • Serpentines. Take time getting a nice bend through body, Then ask inside hind to step under by twisting my hip, then ask inside fore to step over.
  • Play with garrocha, Oz to do the turns himself after I twist my hip.
  • Tie lariat to a block and circle around it.
  • Backwards serpentines through blocks.
  • If Oz is scared, use it for good! Do a few exercises on the boundary line.
  • Walk very close to Oz on a circle, short rein, Oz’s inside foot to be right beside mine, Oz’s neck to be bent around me and ask his shoulder to step out for bend through is body. Especially on right rein. Ask for head to lower. Only Oz himself can decide to release the tension in the top of is neck.
  • Walk pirouette around a block
  • Walk circle with 90 degree bend and not falling in
  • Hindquarters in without Oz pushing on my hands. I need him to be relaxed and not heavy.
  • Turn on forehand using HQ in around block.

What a great clinic. I learned so much, which is why this report is so long!

Steve will be coming back soon.

If you would like to ride in the next clinic in Tipperary with Steve, please email me for more info chocolatelabhelp AT

Steve Halfpenny London 2017 – Bend, softness and relaxation

By , June 19, 2017 2:03 pm

Here are a short version of my notes from Steve Halfpenny’s excellent June 2017 London clinic. Any mistakes are 100% me. Huge thanks to Steve & Irena, and the wonderful organising by Kas Fitzpatrick. If you would like to attend Steve’s June clinics in Ireland, please email me asap:


– When circling on the ground you need the inside hind to step under and for bend throughout the body.
– Circle and change rein on the groundwork, without stepping back, as a preparation for short serpentines and liberty work. the human needs to keep walking in a circle and then push horse into the bend on the other rein, do not pull at all.
– Get horses used to drones
– Get Matilda backed
– Matilda to do shoulder out along fence in walk and trot, move the hind quarters over and backup
– Move, something falls off, stop.
– Get used to plastic bags and bicycles
– In hand work with a short-ish rein, walk with bend and leg yield out
– Rope thrown over her head


– Ask the inside hind to step under by using your inside hip. Keep a consistent circle shape. When you’re riding if your horse steps under properly they will also reach with their inside fore
– Ask the horse to relax his neck by lengthening the reins and having your hands a little lower to encourage relaxation and a slightly lower head position
– Do 1 handed shoulder in
– Do a 4 track shoulder in on a circle, then backup facing the circle, then turn the other direction and go around the circle again
– Trot, shoulder out, move the hind and then backup
– In trot, sitting when outside front leg is coming to the ground. When I rise, twist my pelvis a little to encourage inside hind to step under in trot
– Same bend both directions
– Push the shoulders a little left to get a bend to the right
– Circle, keep this bend, then do a circle the other way with a counter arc. This will show up any push in your horse.
– Your horse is never to take the slack out of the reins.
– Lots of energy? Trot small circles and move the hind.
– Walk to canter
– On a circle, if you ask the inside hind to step under, the bend gets a lot easier.


Do your horse have the same bend both ways?
In groundwork are you positioned in the same place on both sides?
How does that feel?
Did you notice what his shoulder did?
Was the inside hind stepping under?
Was that what you wanted?
is your horse relaxed?
Are you breathing?
Is your horse breathing?
Was that a circle or an egg?
Are your horses ears level?
Can you do less?
Are you looking where you want to go?
Ask for the inside hind
Is your horse leaning?
Does your horse have the same bend both directions?
is your horse connected with you every single step?


– It’s really important to me that my horse never puts weight in my reins
– It’s all feel
– if you ask for lateral work and the feet slow down, your horse wasn’t really soft in the bend
– My seat bone on the left means left bend. My seat bone on the right means right bend.
– When your horse is emotionally with you his ears are level
– If a horses ears aren’t straight the horse isn’t balanced
– Are you rewarding the physical or the mental?
– Collection comes from the inside hind stepping under
– Be accountable for every second with your horse
– If your horse is anticipating he is taking over
– Create a place of peace for your horse in every gait

Dressage tests, relaxation, sharp teeth and young horses at Tanjas May Clinic

By , May 30, 2017 6:12 pm

We had a great 3 day clinic in Tipperary with Tanja Penders who flew in from Germany. Lots of progress, things learned and achievements! Here is what I got up with my two horses, Ozzie and Matilda my new 4yo. This is Oz getting ready!

Anything that doesn’t make sense is my fault not understanding it properly.

Just before the clinic I had the dentist over to look at my horses. He suspected Oz’s snotty nose was related to a tooth root issue. So on the Saturday of the clinic a new vet/dentist who can xray, scope and sedate was booked to visit and check out oz.

After the last clinic, Oz was doing great. I was working him twice a day, and really trying to create a feel of us doing stuff together, rather than me asked him to do stuff. So more energy stuff, focus and blending. But recently he’s been a little on edge/spooky, and so I’ve put him on Vit B and some calming herbs. Also in the back of my mind I’m wondering what I am missing (thus the herbs etc). It feels like I am missing out on something with Oz that would change how he feels.

Matilda is my new 4yo. I’ve done 3 weeks of short 5 mins sessions with her. She is pretty chilled. We’ve done stuff like handling all over, ropes twirling, sticks on both sides and in both eyes, me standing on mounting blocks, follow a feel at halt and in walk, circles, turns, move the hind, leaning over, walking around the shed, etc. This would be her first clinic.

This clinic was a great clinic to make some seriously huge leaps forward for myself.

DAY 1:

Matilda 4 yo:

Tanja met Matilda for the first time, and so started from the beginning. Tanja has started lots of horses out at Steve’s and her being able to spend some time with Matilda made me very happy! Matilda is very sensitive, so if you just ask a tiny bit that is all you need. When she gets tense, she holds her head up. her neck at the minute is a little upside down, with her lower neck muscles a little over developed. She was a little nervous in her first session, so after a few circles, Tanja decided to ask her to stand and just did some body work on her at halt. She really appreciated this and started to relax her body and mind. This was lovely to watch. Tanja worked on touching her all over, including around her tail and in both ears. Matilda did great. Tanja also did some circles, rope over his head and nose from both sides, put the rope around her hindquarters and ask her to follow a feel (and turn away from you) with the rope. Some of this I had done already. The trickiest thing for Matilda was the trot circle. I hadn’t done a trot with her in a circle, so she got a little worried and tried to rush, but Tanja ended it a nice place. A great start to the weekend.


I came in with Oz, and started off some groundwork. My focus was that I really wanted him to be relaxed and also to be happy. Since the last clinic, I’d focused a lot more on doing stuff to help these goals, with my energy and blending and intent, so we did some nice groundwork in trot on a loose rein, and a nice little trot shoulder in both down line sides of the arena with the calmest happiest horse in Tipperary. Tanja was quite surprised and reckoned I had changed. Woohoo!! 🙂

The takeaways from this session were to focus on the positives with Oz… (we always need his mind on board with us, he can do all the moves already). We need him to feel happy and content. Later on there was a bit of rope biting by Oz, on the lead rope and a few head shakes. Instead of ignoring both like I tend to do, Tanja just asked him to step out a little to address both. A good first session.

Tanja also rode Oz, as one problem is Oz gets all tense when asked to trot and then when trotting. There were some things I was doing that weren’t helping Oz. So the new things were… do not use my legs at all.

Any pressure with my legs slows Oz down. Don’t over use my seat. Too much seat mvt slows Oz down. I need long reins. And I need to sit back. Oz has a habit of tensing up the muscles / ligaments at the top of the under side of his neck, near where his neck meets his head. In riding and also a reduced version of this in groundwork. In trot to walk we need to keep the energy up or he stops and tenses up again. We need a free relaxed walk with the neck tension. This was all great stuff for me to observe.

DAY 2:

Matilda: This morning it was more foundation stuff with Matilda. She was a bit nervous but calmed down. In trot she wanted to pull away on one rein, but this improved a lot throughout the session with more relaxation and confidence. We also put a rug on her.

Later on Tanja played with the lariat.


We started with some groundwork, the falling leaf pattern which was good. Also did some trot circles with sideways in them. Tanja noticed that there is one arena in Ozzie’s lower and mid neck, near his head that he often holds tension in. We need this to relax and when it does it will make a big change.

He did a few head shakes on a circle, so Tanja asked him to move out a little away from her each time. Also in groundwork trot circles, play with a few things to encourage him to lower his head and relax his neck – using the stick on the rope to ask head down, hold rope neared halter to ask head down. If Oz is tight or tense, we must have no emotion about it. The goal is Oz to relax his neck muscles.

When riding Oz, I have to do a few things. Use my energy from walk to trot, no legs at all to ask for trot, no seat, cluck slowly and rhythmically, loose reins, look where I’m going.

Working on relaxation in that neck….

If I use legs too much voice, too much seat, breathe out, say anything other than cluck, lean forward, have reins too short, Oz tenses up and slows down. I need to relax all my body even more.

This was a challenge as there were 2 spooky corners to content with also while doing this. We made progress.


On the recommendation of my current dentist, I got out a vet who can sedate horses, does a lot of dentistry, x-rays and scopes. The slight smell in Oz’s nose made him suspicious of root tooth issues, which you really need to investigate via xray.

So the new vet/dentist came out with a portable xray machine (very handy). Oz was sedated, scoped (camera up his nose, and all shows in real time in a TV in Oz’s stable). The snot was coming from his sinus.

Then he X-rayed Oz’s head 4 times. The upshot was that Oz indeed does have a few upper teeth with dodgy/inflamed roots. For these, unless they are a major issue I’ll just treat as needed with antibiotics when his snooty nose gets very bad. We want to avoid pulling teeth unless its really necessary.

Another issue the vet/dentist found was that Oz had really sharp teeth and a mouth ulcer. So I booked him to come back on Monday, sedate again & rasp with power tools. This could easily be what was making Oz grumpy, nervous, and tense neck.

I got him to look at Matilda. As we knew, she’d need rasping done before we ride her / bit her. So nothing new there and I’ll get her done in a week or two.

He also looked at our older horse. He’d been ok in the past, but now had mouth ulcers and sharp teeth. It has probably been affecting his condition and weight. So he was also put on the asap list for Monday.


Matilda. I had Matilda & Oz in together. So Tanja worked with them both together. This was really cool! She also got much improved circle trots with Matilda.

And ridden work together!


Matilda. I had Matilda & Oz in together. So Tanja worked with them both together. This was really cool! She also got much improved circle trots with Matilda.

When Matilda had a rest, then I spent a long time walking her around, doing lots of turns, sitting in a chair with her relaxed beside me, and just getting her lots of time in the shed with other stuff going on. My homework for her for the next few weeks is to do groundwork circles in walk and trot, lean over her from both sides and then move the hind, go for walks with her, and lead her from further back than normal.


In the spooky corner, I have to stay at the edge of Oz’s comfort zone, not just avoid it entirely! I really have to sit up / back, with my hands at the pommel. If Oz wants to go his own direction, I can pickup one rein for a second but I have to release it again. I also have to try and stay at the edge of the arena not wandering around it! The focus is to release the tension from that upper neck.


At Sunday lunchtime we decided we’d all video Steve’s walk test 1 and enter in the world championships. This was a challenge for each of us… the challenges included riding a full test with a free walk (steering?! – you ask the inside hind to step under, and with your outside leg, you ask your horses inside fore to step in), being accurate (Oz and I still had spooky corners!), and impulsion and energy in walk.

So I had about 10 minutes to dream up a way to fix Oz’s spookyness or it’d look daft on camera.

I set up the dressage letters, then wheeled a wheelbarrow of haylage into the spooky corner. Problem solved! Oz now loved marching into that corner after getting one or two bites of haylage.

So we all figured out our stuff and did our dressage tests 😀

This was such a cool clinic. I think I’ve never got as much done before, between young horse preparation, Oz’s neck muscles, dressage tests, xraying vets, energy work, the changing in how I need to ride to relax Oz… it was all superb. Tanja is a superstar, honestly.

If you’d like to attend a clinic in the future you can join our mailing list here to be notified of future clinics


Oz and Dougal sedated and rasped. Both were quite bad. Now both are getting better… still a little sore from the dentistry work, and they can’t eat longer grass or haylage today (Tuesday). I googled it and supposedly they will be feeling better and eating better in a few days….

DAY 4 Jeff Sanders clinic Australia April 2017

By , April 12, 2017 6:54 am


Warm up:

– When I do halt with a rounded back it is great.
– Did a few lovely trot shoulder in to HQs in.
– Circle, shoulder in, push the HQs out and then power out of it.
– When doing shoulder in, finish off the straight line after the move.
– Toe out to move the hind
– Keep hands at the pommel
– Do walk the line, do 180 turn on the HQ, keep weight on the inside, when doing turn on HQ, weight on inside foot and look where I’m going.

Collection exercises:

– Walk in a straight line, relaxed on a loose rein, with relaxed human posture.
– To collect horse, change your posture, do serpentine circle with shoulder in, HQ in, leg yield, etc on the circle part.
– Stay collected until you’re back on a straight line.
– Sit up tall with good posture
– Then move my hands forwards and up
– Notice when the horse moves from collection to his weight changing to being on the forehand
– Does it happen immediately? Do you get 1 step?


– Put obstacles all around the arena.
– Do HQ in, shoulder in, sidepass along poles, etc. A brilliant exercise exercise.
– The big thing is not what your horse is doing, is it are we aware of what they are doing.

“If you have the ability to feel changes in tension and muscle texture in your horse, that was what we call ‘good feel'”.

Think of 2 basic postures in the saddle:

1 – You’re working and collected, and you have tall upright posture.
2 – You’re relaxed.

Both postures are totally different and there is no in between.

“The moment you have tension in the poll you have lost everything”.


With Kola I worked on not having a low head position. The result was 6 steps of self carriage!

Then we had fun doing partner mirror stuff.

I then had a 1-1 lesson with Jeff, my goal was to go over all the stuff from yesterdays video and see has it improved.

– Everything had improved after my practise yesterday afternoon.
– To stop my pelvis tipping forward, pull in my belly button
– On circles, sit a little in the inside and it actually centers you in the saddle when doing circles.
– Shoulder in. Put my toe out, if the front end of the horse wobbles, then switch my legs and fix it with my leg
– Look where I’m going to make sure my shoulders are correct
– Hands in the centre of the mane during lateral work, my hands tends to drift to one side and I’m not aware of it.
– HQ in. Toe out, hands at center of the mane not out to one side.
– Sometimes I hole my hands a little too high.

What a GREAT clinic! It was lovely to be able to ride Steve Halfpenny’s horse Kola who is a superstar in every way.

Video analysis on day 3 with Jeff Sanders in South Australia

By , April 9, 2017 11:31 pm

Day 3: The plan is to record everyone and then watch the recordings, notice what was both good and not so good, then ride again in the afternoon and focus on whats needs fixing.

As a warm up I did a circle with shoulder in, move the HQ out and then power out of it, keeping the HQ engaged the whole time & imaging a bull was coming straight for me.

A list of things I need to do:

– look up
– flat back
– When I want horse to stop really sit on my seat bones
– hands in small box at the pommel
– weight on inside seatbone, also going on a circle not to lean out
– level shoulders
– smile & relax

We videoed everyone. Here is some of the feedback:

Common issues:

– To ask the HQ to move over, first turn your toe out. Secondly move your whole leg back from the hip, don’t just bend from the knee as that will mess up your posture. From the hip means less tension in your body.

– Look up. When people looked down while doing lateral moves on the video there horses got slower and got stuck in their movements.

Your shoulders should be over your hips, not ahead or behind your hips.

Don’t have one shoulder randomly further back than the other one.

My feedback:

Moving the hind out wasn’t working very well. Instead if I ask with my toe out and moving my leg from my hip it should help a lot.

Some times my inside hand is too high.

When doing lateral work, I have to relax my legs and not tense up.

With the reins, use my fingers first before I move my hands. Also keep my hands in a little box area at the pommel, and adjust reins as needed.

On a circle I fall out slightly with my seat.

If we have any unscheduled wobbles of direction, I have to fix them with my seat and not with my hands.

Interesting note:

If you sit back in trot, then this results in the angles of the hind legs is less than the angles of the front legs in trot. So don’t sit back in trot. This is the fashion right now.

There are 4 main areas we can get into trouble with our posture:

– Hands
– Legs
– Hips
– Shoulders

When our weight is on the inside, don’t collapse the ribs and don’t tilt your shoulders.

When you look at a rider from behind, if you can see their two hands, their hands are too wide.

If you have longer stirrups, then it helps to keep the contact in the inside of your leg. This is better.


To move the hind end over, I have to turn out my toe, and move my leg back from my hip, not just from my knee. The result was MUCH better movement from Kola.

Keep my hands together in a little box. Then shorten and lengthen the reins frequently as needed.

Both of these concepts together resulted in excellent shoulder in and HQ in.

For my posture, I am a bit too straight so I have to slump more when I’m asking the horse to stop, and have my seat more under me / sit on my jeans pockets when I want to stop, so it feels different to the horse.

To stop, I sit on my tailbone, close my fingers and say ‘ho’.

To ask for walk, don’t just sit up and tense up, instead raise my body and my energy and don’t tense up.

When doing lateral work, the leg that isn’t doing much should be relaxed.

People who slump in the saddle have better stops. People who are straighter in the saddle have better lateral work. So we usually all have to adapt a little depending on what our ‘current’ posture is.

Day 2 Jeff Sanders clinic At Steve Halfpennys

By , April 8, 2017 11:16 pm


The inside of the horse’s mouth is as unique as the outside of the horse.

For bits, copper and sweet iron will help produce saliva. Stainless steel will not help to generate saliva. If the bit touches the roof of the mouth, the horse will put his head up to avoid it. To see what type of bit will suit your horse to have to look inside your horse’s mouth and see what you have.

Last year Jeff saw 20 horses at clinics who should not be ridden in a flexible / jointed snaffle bit.

When you ride your horse you need to be able to feel the bit touching the tongue when you pick up the reins.

If your horse is playing a lot with the snaffle bit it could mean that the nutcracker part of the bit could be jammed into the crevasses / ridges in the roof of his mouth, and your horse is trying to unjam the bit.

A dentist noted that most horses have damaged bars of their mouths due to too much bit pressure on the bars of their mouth. A hackamore horse is working 90-95% off your seat and your weight.

When riding in a snaffle you should be able to feel your horses tongue. Snaffle bits are inconsistent, and move around in horses mouths. This leads to inconsistent signals for the horse which you don’t want.

If the bit creates any compression of the tongue you will get mental tension, and a decrease in the ability for your to move and collect, as the touch is connected to the hyoid which is connected to various ligament etc which actually run through the horses whole body as everything is connected. Jammed up tongue = jammed up horse’s body. Not what you want.

If your dentist pulls your horses tongue to the side too far, they can damage the hyoid bone and this will really mess up your horses ability to move his body properly.

If you restrict the tongue, it restricts the freedom of movement and will shorten the stride. Horses trained in a hackamore from day 1 have a different quality of movement.

Dental work – does your horse have ramps? You may need power tools.


For the warm up, I did shoulder in on a circle with Kola, then an extra 2 hind quarter steps then powered out of it, still with engagement. Kola was amazing.

I played with using a little more weight on one seat bone to change the bend. I noticed that the more weight in that seat bone, the more bend in the horse. SO COOL!

I paid attention to weighting one seat bone, coming back to neutral, and then weighting the other seat bone.
Pick up the reins. Feel when the pressure is being put on the tongue by feeling it.

Do a straight line. The horses front legs are to stay on the straight line. Move the HQ to get the shoulder in both ways. Look at a specific point and ride to it. VERY important to look at this POINT!


Do a straight line then:

– Shoulder in
– HQ in same bend, just change your legs
– HQ in different bend
– Shoulder in
– LOOK at a point, if the only way you won’t drift around.
– Get my weight right and my shoulders level.


Do lots of movements, but in between each you have to change direction. This is a genius exercise to keep things fresh and also to build muscle memory for me in terms of where my weight and legs should be.

– Shoulder in both ways
– HQ in both ways
– Pirouette
– Roll backs are very good
– Leg yields
– Circles
– Leg yield on a circle
– Mix it all up together!

The advanced guys then did the last exercise, but instead of using a static point, they used the other moving riders as points to ride towards.

On a bend, think about the right and left rein pressure. On a circle, have you given your horse a neutral pace to be in? Is your outside rein too tight?

The more relaxed your horse is the easier it is to collect.

This morning Kola was a legend but I needed to have a little more forwards and energy. This was our plan for the afternoon!


Walk and do a turn on the forehand, then take a few steps backwards. The goal is to keep the horses weight on the hind end.

Walk and do a turn on the forehand, then do a turn on the hind end, then power out of it.
For the hind end, look over my shoulder the way I want to go and also put some weight straight down in my inside foot to make sure my posture is ok. You can do this inside foot weight to have good posture also in half pass.
Walk and do a shoulder in on a circle. Then do 2 extra steps of hindquarters and power of out it. Think of it like a bull or cow is coming straight for your leg. So you need to get your horse’s ass out of its way. Just doing a normal circle won’t be enough as a bull will just follow you on a circle.

Today was a magic day.

Jeff Sanders Clinic with Steve Halfpenny in South Australia

By , April 7, 2017 9:30 am

I’m out in South Australia, with Steve and Irena Halfpenny who are hosting the Jeff Sanders clinics at their house. I have the absolute honor of riding Kola, one of Steve’s legendary horses, who is fast teaching me all of the tings I need to improve with on my own horse, Ozzie.

The teacher for this clinic is the awe inspiring Jeff Sanders. Holy moly. Wait until you see what we did today and its only day 1. Any mistakes here are 100% me.

Also worth noting it was just amazing to watch Steve & Jeff work together. Ahh-mazing. Plus all of the other riders here at the clinic are crazy advanced with the most lovely horses… maybe I can sneak one or two home with me when I come back.

Morning of day 1


Firstly Kola is teaching me that I need to expect more lightness and softness from Oz. Oz is definitely duller, but that’s because of my expectations. So now my expectations have changed.


Start off in a walk. Put the weight on one seat bone. How long does it take for the horse to turn in that direction?

Then make a conscious decision to make my seat bones weight level again. How long does it take for the horse to walk in a straight line again?

Try with the other seat bone.

What we’re trying to do here is to build up my muscle memory, so I automatically put the weight on the correct seat bone when I am changing direction.


Then we did Jeff’s style of serpentines which were very cool. We are looking for the horse to follow the riders change in posture. On straight lines, relaxed and chill out, looking very relaxed in the saddle.

We go into some exercises next based on these, but the foundation is to do these serpentines in walk, and on each circle part, do something different, like a leg yield, shoulder in, HQ in, etc.

Another thing we have to bear in mind is posture. When we ask the horse to collect we have to have decent posture. This means not having your legs stuck forward and your sitting far back, not slouching, not leaning forwards, havig a lower flat back, not having your pelvis tipped forwards, looking ahead, etc,

Then on the half circle part of the serpentines, the rider has to sit up tall in a good posture, and see if your horses body changes. Does he collect himself a little?

On the half circle part, out a little more weight in your inside seat bone (remember the exercise we just did!). Keep your shoulders level still.

There should be a big different in your posture from being relaxed on the straight lines and good picture when you ask your horse to collect.

After the half circle be conscious about when you level up your seat bones for the horse to go straight again.

When you release your horse from collection, can you feel the horse change weight from back to front?

When you collect your horse, do you feel the weight change to the back, or a chance in your horses balance?

We also recorded some superb videos on saddle fit.


For this clinic Jeff wants to focus on posture, awareness, bits, biomechanics and saddle fit.

The two most common saddle fit issues are sore shoulders from tight fronts of saddles, or sore in the back under the cantle, as the saddles are too long. So don’t use a saddle that’s too long or too narrow.

If your horse is sore at the back of the saddle, he will not be able to round his back and collect, and the rounding of the back starts in this area.

Do a lot of low & low, and you may end up with kissing spines. This is not how the horses body is built to be used. Common in dressage horses. If your poll is lower than your withers, you may run into problems.

Jeff did some great saddle & gear videos you can watch above.

Bosal fitting & contact. If the button (is that the right word) of the bosal is resting against the horses chin, you have on contact. If the button of the bosal is lifting off the chin, then you have contact. I much like this definition to ‘you must pull the head off your horse’ type contact which is both rubbish & stupid.

On styles of riding…

1 handed riding requires a lot more finesse than 2 handed styles of riding.

Baroque riding – 1 handed
Classical dressage – 2 handed
Snaffle bit – 2 handed, used one hand at a time
Hackamore – 1 or 2 handed
Shank bits – 1 handed only


Shoulder in

– point my toe out
– look in the straight line where I am headed
– level shoulders
– smile
– my weight on the inside bend
– 4 track shoulder in

If Kola is slowing down, with a low head (which he does when he slows down), ask for more energy – faster walk, trot coming out of the exercises… this made a huge different to the quality of the lateral work.

HQ in

To ask for more HQ in, I have to move my whole leg back but not turn my pelvis. I need impulsion.


Walk a straight line with a shoulder in. Then at the corner, turn 90 degrees and switch to a few steps of HQ in. All that changes in my leg position. Repeat both ways.


Shoulder in on a circle, for half a circle only, with the horse keeping the same amount or arc as the circle they are on (eg. 10m).

Do a circle, ask HQ to move out to get shoulder in, then ask for HQ to come back in again to normal circle.

how many steps goes to take after you ask for HQ to move out?

Then do the same, but for the last 2 steps really push the HQ out then walk off in a straight line, and do not lose impulsion or engagement.

Before and after you ride, always check your horses back for back pain.

Green tea, crazy winds and gorgeous horses at the Tanja Penders clinic, March 2017

By , March 6, 2017 6:47 pm

We had a lot of fun at the clinic with Tanja. It was over 3 days, with a very early start on Sunday morning.

Thank you to all the wonderful riders and the spectators who came to watch.

We were on a healthy buzz so there was a lot of green tea, energy bites and vegetarian food going around.

Throughout the weekend it was very rainy and windy, so Oz wasn’t 100% as confident as normal. However it was a great situation to work in to expand our comfort zones.

Here is my report of what I was up to with Ozzie. Anything that doesn’t make sense is my fault. Tanja as always helped Oz & I so much to improve our lightness, softness, confidence, posture and relaxation. Thank you Tanja!

This year I think I have made the most progress with Ozzie and I figured out the reason. It will be the first year I’ve had 5 lessons with him, spaced out evenly over the year.

When you have really good horsemen/women to guide you in the right direction, Oz and I really progress a lot faster.


This morning Oz came in a bit emotional and worried and with a few head shakes (Oz style neck flip things). An emotional neck flipping Oz is actually a rare thing these days, but it comes out when he is nervous / scared.

The arena was a little windy, noisy etc which had him feeling a bit unconfident. We started off with groundwork.

First up, circling in hand, asking Oz to look towards the centre of the circle,and asking him to move his shoulder out a little and for bend in his body, same as the circle he was travelling on.

Also asking for sideways on the circle.

Then I asked him to turn through the centre of the circle, and walk off the other direction.

Tanja noticed that when he changed rein in one direction, he would get stuck and halt in the middle of it. When he changed rein the other direction, he would keep moving, but after this as he was passing me he would do a neck flip.


Tanja said it would be a good idea for me to work with Oz more when he is a bit more emotional… bring him in, do 20 mins, then quit when he is relaxed. Repeat often and expand his comfort zone.

I had to work on a few things…when I concentrate I tend to tense up… so I have to relax my hands and shoulders.

For the fast walking exercises we were doing I have to walk near Ozs head. I was walking too far behind. If Oz pushes forwards past me in walk I have to correct it.


Over lunch I really got thinking about how I could help Oz not head flip on the direction change, not stop on the direction change, and not tense up in the walk to trot transition.

The key word here was ‘HELP’.

So after lunch, I played around a little while Sophie was finishing her riding lesson.

I changed what I was doing.

Where Oz was getting stuck I made sure I gave him a lot more room, and then he didn’t’ get stuck any more.

Where Oz was doing a neck flip after the direction change, I stayed walking backwards for an extra step or two as he passed me, and the neck flip also disappeared.

In our walk to trot transitions, I focused more on going with Oz, instead of asking Oz to go by himself, and he became a lot more relaxed and happy.

Tanja was watching me out the of the corner of her eye and I got the seal of approval 🙂

Now Oz & I looked like were were dancing together. Yay!

Tanja set up a little path up through the centre of the arena.I had to trot Oz up in hand, then at the top of the arena, turn right to the slightly scary corner and go down the long side of the arena.

Oz would stay with me in trot up the centre of the arena. But once we got to that corner, Oz would rush in trot.

So we changed things and every time Tanja or I got to the scary corner with Oz, we would ask him to go from trot to halt in time with us, then backup a step.

After some practise with this (bear in mind a gale was blowing outside), At the scary corner Oz started to tune into us and follow our body language, instead of blocking us out and pushing forward.

So amazing. In an area he was scared in he was actually really trying very hard and listening to us, and while in trot, instead of going faster, he was going back to halt himself, once he picked up the cue from us. He was making the decision.

This was so good. If he is emotional I will keep things slower, as I know with him faster work means more emotions / worry.

But this way, we were able to do faster work and instead of increasing his worry levels, he was focusing more on us and learning to cope with this situation. Fantastic.

Then off we went riding. Still a hurricane outside. Oz was a legend… very calm and relaxed which was so nice. 110% credit to Tanja for all of the guidance today up to this point.

Again to help us relax, every time we walked through the poles in the centre of the arena I had to completely relaxed, not ask anything of Oz and give him a loose rein, sit tall and look up. Oz relaxed every time I did this and we got nice licks and chews and a softening of his body every time.

Such a great day!

And so many ideas to continue to practise after the clinic.


We started off with groudwork. Sill a gal eoutside so Oz was a bit nervous & rushing forward.

The plan was for Oz and I to do this very long strided walks all teh way around the arena. The only rule was that Oz couldn’t trot!

So I had to do this huge long striding walk, Oz had to do the same (he has got an amazing cheetah-like long walk stride). I have to relax my shoulders!

If he is slow I have to tap him asap to moev him on. If he rushes past me, he runs into the led rope and I block him with the stick so he doesn’t turn his head towards me.

This worked so well. After a few laps, it became obvious where in the arena Oz tended to slow down, and the part of the arena where he tended to speed up.

My job was to keep the walk pretty fast and even throughout.

Oz was amazing. He was listening to me SO much! He tried really hard to stay exactly at my speed, even in the scary parts.

You could hear his brain whirling away as he figured it all out and tried realy hard to cope with the scary stuff and be brave.

Agreat exercise to do in high energy situations. Instead of creeping around Oz to try & keep him confident, we can still do faster stuff with a scary environment and make it all work out ok.

One thing Steve said to me last year is that sometimes Oz teaches me to creep around him. I can’t do that.

This is so priceless for the riding work later on.

We did a little of the groundwork from day 1… everything was fixed, no stops, no neck flips and good transitions.

Then onto the riding. Again still a gale outside.
When I’m mounting I had this habit of waiting and then getting on.

Tanja said – Elaine, trust your horse. Get on the mounting black and get on immediately. She as so right.

Oz was so confident in the scary parts of the arena and was really listening to me. Any walk we did was a fast ground covering walk. I relaxed my lower back.

Oz was a legend.

Then we proceed to have fun by walking a straight line and doing both HQ in and HQ out a few times on the straight line.

Also did a few counter bends on a circle to Hqs in.

What a horse 🙂


We moved onto canter groudwork this afternoon. When leading Oz I have to walk naturally. I was doing some kind of weird walk! 😀

To ask Oz to stop in hald, its easier for him if I say whoa.

Riding this afternoon was so much fun. We did a ton or trotting about.

Initially Oz was breaking out of trot back to walk.

When I was doing riding trot I was riding forward, instead of rising up.

So my job was to do a mixture of slower sitting trot with a relaxed body, and faster rising trot with me rising up.

By riding a little forwards I was actually blocking Ozs forward mvt and encouraging him to slow down.

Once I became really aware of this, Oz stayed in trot much better.

When I’m sitting up in trot, it nearly feels like I’m leaning backwards. But thats what I have to do. What I thought I was doing was not actually what I was doing!

So my position in trot is CRITICAL.

Then we were on to really fast trots… so much fun. Oz was so cool and relaxxed, not only just for normal, but also considering the environment was still noisy and windy!

I was so proud of him.


Oz was super. We started off with a recap of everything.

Fast walk in hand, both of us doing big steps and covering a lot of ground.

Trot and walk transtions in time with me in hand.

Canter groundwork in different parts of the arena (not just the more comfortable parts!). I need ot get Oz a little outside his comfort zone.

Our changes of dircetion were great, no head flips and no stops.

Lovely transitions.

In one spooky corner in canter Oz did a few airs above ground (high energy + scary stuff Oz fins hard to cope with), but supposedly I handled it very well by ignoring it, staying calm and relaxed and just nicely asking him to do when I had asked him to do originally.

Then onto the riding.

We worked on leg yields again, but today Oz was pushing out thorugh his outide shoulder.

So to fix this we worked on walk to HQ yield to backup.

I had my reins in one hand and a short stick in the other. If a shoulder pushed, I would block it with the stick. If the hindquarters weren’t stepping under, I would tap them lightly with the stick.

If was a great way to approach it by focusing on the exact issue, breaking it into easy steps.

Then it was onto trot.

Again I had to rise UP not forwards. So important to do this to help Oz be able to move in trot properly.

I focued on a flat back, hands at saddle, riding UP and smiling… it was a lot of fun actually. Oz was great doing laps of the arena as cool as cucumber. Weather conditions still not great outside.

This is all great stuff for us.

I also have to remeber to breathe.


Flat back.
Hands at saddle.
Rising UP.

This was such a great weekend.

It was really nice to get so much help from Tanja.

I really feel we progressed a lot and have a great map laid out for our homework over the next 8 weeks.

Huge shout out to Sophie & Degri who rode beautifully all weekend.

And also to our friend Patrick, a dressage trainer & judge who bought his lovely grey horse and did such gorgeous work. It was amazing to watch Patrick and Tanja work together.

I asked Tanja would she come back to Ireland again to teach – and she said Yes!

Steve Halfpenny will also be over teaching in June 2017.

If you’d like to watch or ride at a clinic in Tipperary, you can sign up to our email list to be notifed of future dates. The email list signup is here.

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