From scruffy saddle to a work of beauty!

By , August 29, 2016 5:22 pm

I bought a lovely new Italian saddle about 6 months ago. My horse moves really well in it, but its starting to look little less than new. So time for a clean & oil.

I had recently been sent a few little bottles of ‘Lord’ leather conditioner to test, based on a 50 year old recipe from America. So off I went.

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Here are some before pictures of my saddle. As you can see it is:

  • A bit dry in some places
  • Dirty & scruffy
  • Marks on it
  • Needs to be cleaned and conditioned
  • It looks old
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    I read the instructions on the back of the leather conditioner:

  • Clean leather with mild soap and allow to dry
  • Apply evenly with a lint free applicator or paint brush
  • Dry overnight
  • Wipe off excess and buff
  • So I’ve got as far as the first 2 steps. Here are some things I liked:

  • The saddle looks new again!
  • Saddle looks a LOT cleaner, no more scruff marks
  • Leather feels softer which is great after the Lord oil
  • The whole process was very quick, it took about 10 minutes
  • The easiest way to apply the oil was to pour a little on the saddle (it only comes out a little at a time which made it easy) and then rub it in with a cloth
  • The small oil bottle was very handy and it stopped me spilling half the oil on the floor which I usually do when using oil from larger tins. Definitely a bonus!
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    I’m very happy with the result & will definitely be using the rest of the Lord leather care bottles on my other saddles.

    We are ready now for our next lesson!

    Day 4: Light Hands Equitation Steve Halfpenny and the incredible Tipperary clinic 2016

    By , July 1, 2016 12:31 pm

    Day 4 was another magical day.

    We had progressed so much in the 3 days, more than I had ever thought was possible. But I wanted to keep learning, so day 4 was more new things to do!


    We started off with trotting circles to get Ozzie moving. After a few minutes of these I decided we should try a trot shoulder in and then after that a trot leg yield… tons of fun was had trotting in various shapes around the field!

    The weather was lovely and we were up beside the lake so it all felt really good.

    As it was our last day with Steve, I thought maybe we should try something new – piaffe!

    I know its probably miles outside of our comfort zone & what we’re ready for, but I do believe everything is possible PLUS when you’ve a genius like Steve standing beside your horse, there’s a great chance you’ll get started on it!

    So we tried working in trot, and then slowing down in one place each time on the circle and keeping the energy. But Oz hadn’t really enough energy and kept going back to walk.

    We tried trot and then at one place each time I slowed the front legs back to walk but kept the hind legs trotting around, and then trotted off again before we slowly down completely. Better but still the lack of energy was the issue.

    Then we tried it in groundwork. We tapped a fetlock while making a ‘click’ sound, and kept at this until Oz lifted his leg, and as he held it up we rubbed higher up his leg. He figured this out really fast, and while he stood still I could get him to do this with both back legs, by using the stick in between both back fetlocks.

    Then the next step would be for me to walk backwards and Oz to walk forwards, and each step the hind leg lifts up a lot. We did a few steps! This was so cool. I have a horse who is starting piaffe!!

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    AFTER A BREAK ……………………

    After a break I rode Oz again. This time he was leaning on my hands and a bit pushy. I had wanted to do more HQ in & half passes and walk pirouettes, but they weren’t possible as he was just pushing forwards too much so I abandoned them for a while. Instead I worked on some stuff to get him off my hands.

    We started off and walked around, then I stopped his inside front foot, and did a HQ yield around it. Then we rode off again & did it again for a few minutes. The leaning got a bit better, but still was a problem.

    Then I remembered the short serpentines we were doing before, so I decided we’ll try them for 5-10 mins and see what effect they have on Oz.

    They were great! He started to soften up through his neck, and after a few minutes of this doing small little circles by ourselves away from the others, I was starting to get my nice light horse back, and he stopped pushing through my hands. A very useful exercise!!

    We had a little bit of a break them for him to process it & watched the other riders.

    Steve at this stage was riding another horse so it was a treat to watch a genius at work :)

    After this, on the ground near us was a circle made out of a lariat rope. So we played around and did a normal circle, a counter bend circle, and shoulders in around it. That was fun, I hadn’t used 1 circle for lots of manouvres like this before :)

    We had another break, and I think the 4 days were catching up with me so as we relaxed I had minor brain freeze for a few minutes & I just watched what Steve was up to.

    Oz enjoyed the break and was completely mellow and happy standing in the middle of the field, watching other horses work lol.

    Then we had a moment. Steve was backing up the horse he was riding on, so I thought great lets do that too & copy him. So I using my weight change I asked Oz to backup from halt…. for some reason into my head popped in 2 things…

  • One from Mark Rashid… about blending with your horse.. I experienced this in his akido workshop in the UK a few years ago. Instead of just trying to move the opposite way to the other person / animal you are with which creates tension, first blend with the animal or person, by accepting their slight movement, blending with it and then offering them a path to redirect it… so I used this with Oz to blend a fraction forward before I offered him an opening backwards…
  • Secondly, Steve mentioned the quote at lunchtime yesterday… Observe, remember, compare… so as I aksed for backwards I tried to observe what my body was actually doing.. and I realised while my upper body was thinking up and backwards, my 2 feet were jammed into the stirrups! So instead I asked for backup and I stopped jamming my weight into the stirrups and tensing my body.
  • We then got some gorgeous backups… with an inside to inside connection, rather than a mechanical pull on the reins or similar. Magic πŸ˜€

    Then we had a rest. At this stage Oz was now getting REALLY focused on what I was asking him to do, and really light and soft.

    After a few minutes my brain started to thaw out properly. I had a think about all of the riding work we had done so far in the 4 days…

    – trots on a circle and playing with shoulder in and leg yields (good progress)
    – leg yields (grand)
    – shoulder in (grand)
    – Hqs in using counter bend on a circle (new)
    – Hqs in and out on a straight line (new)
    – Half pass (new)
    – Walk pirouettes (new)

    So I thought, to wrap up, lets see if (as my brain was 99% full) we can just do a couple of steps of something, get the quality & lightness I’m looking for, and then take a break again.

    So we did a mixture of HQ in, walk pirouettes and half pass, just a few steps & then take a break.

    AMAZING. There was zero leaning. Ozs feet were in my hands. He literally was 110% focused on me and was asking me ‘what foot would you like me to move, and where exactly would YOU like me to move it to? I can move it anywhere for you, just let me know’.

    I was totally blown away.

    At this stage Steve came over to see what I was up to :)

    Steve looked pretty happy and said that he had never seen Oz so soft.

    To be honest, I was totally humbled that Oz was offering me SO MUCH that I was getting a bit emotional and was trying hard to hold it together.

    The spectators had noticed Ozs moves as well so I think we were looking good from a distance too.

    I was so happy for 2 reasons…

  • Humbled because Oz was offering me so much – this was a gift.
  • Chuffed because at the start of the session Oz was so leany and pushy, but I fixed it by myself and then at the end of the session we got the best work we’ve ever got in the 11 years I’ve owned him. So happy.

    In the morning session, Steve did great work with 4 riders, here are some of the things they were working on:


    Backup your horse and then turn him. Having this backup in place is critical. It changes your horses balance, makes his front end lighter and easier to turn. Turning like this allows your horse to follow a feel, instead of you having to pull your horse to get a turn, which you don’t want.

    When you are walking with your horse, if you cut in front of your horse, your horse should move out of your way. If you end up being too close your horse…. actually in fact the issue is your horse is too close to you and should have moved out of your space / bubble!

    All horses then did lovely work and used a fence line to ride along and do shoulder in. When you are doing this, look where you are going. Don’t look at the fence line.


    All riders worked on their short serpentines. You need a 90 degree neck bend. Often people need to shorten their reins to get this working properly. Long reins = too tricky to use. The horses ears should stay level. The horse also needs to stay moving forward the whole time.

    Shoulder in along a fence line – gorgeous work done!

    When riding, the moment you feel your horse getting heavy in your hands, leaning forwards or pushing forwards, do not release the reins. Instead, go backwards and do not release until your horse stops leaning forwards. Fixing this forwards leaning then unlocks a WHOLE WORLD of amazing horsemanship and new levels of work you can achieve. Everything becomes softer and lighter.

    Riding exercise:

    – Walk on
    – Stop
    – Backup your horse
    – Your horse needs to be thinking about backing up (this may take a few steps of backing up)
    – ONLY then turn
    – Walk off
    – Repeat
    – Do not drop the reins or release the reins when your horse is pulling on your, feels heavy or is leaning on your hands

    I have no idea how Steve explains everything so well, is so patient and has such a knowledge of horses & horsemanship, but I am eternally grateful that he comes to Ireland every year and teaches us!

    See you next year Steve and Irena.

    We are looking forward to it already.

    Read day 3 of the clinic here

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    Day 3: Light Hands Equitation Steve Halfpenny and the incredible Tipperary clinic 2016

    By , June 29, 2016 9:43 pm

    Day 3 was insane. Everyone went up a few levels.

    Things started to take more shape and huge progress was made all round. Here is what I got up to with Oz who was his usual funny & big hearted self.

    Steve Halfpenny was a legend.

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    – We did HQ in along a fence line in hand. I was walking between Oz & the fence line. I had reins on Oz. Oz’s nose was tipped away from the fence line. I bumped Oz’s hip also away from the fence line. So as we walked down the fence line, Oz’s nose & HQ were pointed away from the fence (towards the center of the field). This was a lot of fun. At the end of the fence line then we played with moving into an in hand walk pirouette. Oz was great, very patient & seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing. This was really cool.


    – We warmed up by trotting around lots of circles both ways and in between cones. Great stuff. Steve said Oz is getting more relaxed & more balanced in trot.

    – Leg yield across the field. Then keep the same bend, but put on my outside leg and HQ in on the diagonal back the way we came. Oz’s habit is to push through his shoulder. To fix this I can go back to halt, get the correct bend and then try again to get the hind end to move first. Or, in walk, fix the shoulders so he is in the right shape, and then ask for HQ in again.

    I also need to keep my shoulders level when I do this.

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    – Walk a straight line, move the shoulders to one side a little and do HQ in one way. Straight line, move the shoulders to the other side and do HQ in on the other side.

    – Half pass. This is HQ in across the diagonal. If the shoulders go too fast, slow down the outside shoulder and move the HQs over more.

    – Later on I played with leg yield both ways while going the same direction across the field.

    – We did backup figure of 8s, Oz was very good.

    – We did walk with HQ in both directions all in the same direction.

    – For the HQ in, at the start Steve helped by touching Oz to move his HQ over when needed. After a while I was on my own… the secret was to make sure the shoulders were lined up correctly on a counter bend on a circle. When this was done, then HQ out (I guess) was much easier. When Oz pushed through the front and I lost the nice shoulder counter bend, I had to fix the shoulder bend before asking for the HQ again.

    – For walk pirouettes, this is a HQ in on a small circle… some great bits then Oz would stop moving the HQ in and straighten up. When he did this, to fix it I moved the shoulders out, thus magically getting the right shape again (HQ in) and off we went again. Also after the walk pirouette its best to do a few more steps of HQ in and then release when I decide, not even Ozzie decides.

    WHAT A DAY!! Halfpass, HQ in, leg yields, walk pirouettes…. NO IDEA what I’ll do tomorrow but I need to think of something this evening so I can let Steve know!!

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    Read about day 2 here.

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    Day 2: Light Hands Equitation Steve Halfpenny and the incredible Tipperary clinic 2016

    By , June 28, 2016 8:31 pm

    I got up very early this morning & I was trotting around practicing our homework at 8am.

    Today was GREAT! Tons of stuff done by everyone and lots of progress. Coupled with tremendous cakes, great company, lots of fun some rosettes & horsey t-shirts!

    Any mistakes are 100% me. Great day & everyone learned a lot with their horses.

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    Here is what I got up to with Oz today:


    We started off with a few trot circles and trot shoulder ins in the middle of the field. Steve said they looked nice, so I asked him what we should do next.

    Steve said what about yielding him on the ground, away from you, in trot. The exercise was for Oz to trot around me (grand) and then while Oz trotted, I had to start to run around Oz and he had to yield out of my way, and by himself go back to walk and do a FQ yield away from me, looking where he was going.

    I did a lot of running around and got fit. We were doing pretty well, but not as good as Steve had demoed it. Steve helped me out… I was cutting in too close to Oz, which I had to change. Also I had to make sure Oz yielded his whole body away from me, not just half heartedly do it. Its a tough exercise to do properly. but Oz’s trot circles were just LOVELY and relaxed and soft with lovely bend so I was very happy.


    We worked on hindquarters in. I started these with Tanja at her clinic, so it was time to keep improving. When I put my leg on to move the hind over, at halt he would move it over but at walk he would just push back into my leg.

    So we tried it on a straight line but he was a bit jammed up. We tried it on a circle, using the same circle bend but he was also still jammed up.

    We ended up riding a circle, then while on the circle, getting a counter bend (and still staying on the circle), then looking to the outside and moving Oz’s inside hind to the outside. This is one of the trickest ways to teach it but it seemed to be the easiest for Oz.

    Two things helped a lot – Steve in the inside of the circle, and then when I did it one handed (to get the right neck bend) and my spare hand just touching him with the dressage stick in time in that hind. We got it!! Then we got half pass for a few steps!! It was G-R-E-A-T!!

    I have to remember to keep the forwards and have my inside circle hand forwards. Remember to keep my weight on the inside of the bend.

    Also to remember that step 1 is the counter bend. Only when I have this, step 2 is the hindquarters in. My shoulders and pelvis are to stay straight.

    Release and walk on when he is still moving, do not wait too long until he has lost forwards.

    AFTER HQ IN……………………………………………………

    We did a little shoulder in, in the field and also leg yield a la Tanja it was lovely πŸ˜€ We also did tear drop style with leg yields in between both ends.

    I was working again on the HQ in. I was finding it hard to figure out when Oz was doing a small try so I asked Steve for help. Steve VERY kindly asked me if I’d like him to ride him. I said YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!

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    With Steve, Oz had decided that HQ in was just too tricky, and instead he was trying to push forward and take over, instead of just moving his HQ over 1 step. Poor Steve had to ride a slightly ‘Ozzie of old!’ as Oz threw a minor strop and tried to takeover & run through Steve’s hands. Ozs habit was to tense up and jam u the front end. Even though it was the hind end we wanted to move over, it was the jammed up front end, caused by Oz’s frame of mind, that was the actual issue. OZ was trying just to stop thinking and take over. Steve was like ‘…eh… no!’

    Steve was really patient, and his timing was brilliant… after a while Oz was changing and his mind got more supple, his body softened, and he stopped trying to push forwards a step or two. Instead the hind end started to move… Steve said that teaching HQ in is not usually as tricky as this.

    Oz was just having a moment.

    Steve worked then on HQ in, with the front feet not moving, and so the hind feet were doing a little circle around the front feet.

    Steve was letting Oz walk off only after the hind feet took the first step.

    This was just brilliant to watch.

    I hopped up after and Oz was TONS better. HQ in was now there on both side, Oz was mentally mellow and everything was so much easier.

    That’s what happens when a legend rides your horse πŸ˜€

    Can’t wait to try these tomorrow, as Oz learns so quickly, I think after sleeping on today he will be great tomorrow.

    He learns really fast.

    Thank you STEVE & IRENA!!!


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    Day 1: Light Hands Equitation Steve Halfpenny and the incredible Tipperary clinic 2016

    By , June 27, 2016 8:04 pm

    Steve Halfpenny started his Irish clinic today! It went great, lots of fun. Here is what Oz and I got up to.

    I hope it makes some sort of sense, my head feels very full right now. Anything that isn’t clear is 100% my fault. Oz & Steve were genius as always πŸ˜€

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    – Walk in circles. Ask for the inside hind leg to step under. A horse falls in because they are looking out. Asking the inside hind leg to step under results in the horses head looking in more.
    – Backup from suggestion. I was asking Oz to backup but even though I was putting energy into it, Oz was doing it physically (slowly) but not mentally. So Steve took over and changed things so Oz was now listening to us. Before he was zoning me out a bit. This got very good. So we did backup from suggestion to follow a feel with turns right and left. After Oz turned, he would check in to see if that was it (stop) or if we were going to continue out on a circle (great). I have to realise that instead of thinking I’m working, look at see what result I’m getting from Oz.
    – Backup from suggestion – the amount of slack in the rope should stay the same.
    – Shoulder in on a straight line.
    – I decided then we should try stuff in trot. We ended up getting nice trot circles. I moved the inside hind leg under to get a little more neck bend. And then a huge change resulted every time Oz rushed in trot, and I blocked his forward movement a bit, then we got a lot of slower elevated gorgeous relaxed Spanish style trot, with his weight now more on his hindquarters (instead of his forequarters), and his withers elevated.
    – We did trot sidepasses in the middle of the field both sides which were very cool.
    – We did trot shoulder in on a circle (I think anyway!)
    – I know I did a lot of running and Oz looked pretty amazing.
    – Did my first attempt at canter leg yield groundwork!

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    – Circle in walk. If Oz’s body is straight, the move his HQ out. If Oz is looking out and his shoulder is falling in, then I need to walk faster which really helps this a lot. Then we went up to trot to help it even more and circles got better again.

    – I need to pay attention that we don’t get too much bend. Just a little, and then this bend is used for lots of moves.

    – Trot. Oz was lazy and didn’t want to trot for too long. I explained we had too. Then we did a ton of trotting around and he was great. We ended up with a very floatly equal leg yield across the field which felt really good.

    – Trot circles. We worked on first a normal trot circle, then a circle where the HQ were on their own outside circle track, then back to a normal trot circle. Need to do more of these tomorrow.

    – Serpentines in walk, head at a 90 degree angle. I did this for about 15-20 mins. Oz was getting much softer as they progressed. I need to change my leg position, depending on the direction. I was looking for the front foot to step sideways (when he did this it felt like he was on wheels). Focused on turning one way or the other, very little straight line steps.

    Great Day. I need to somehow cancel Steve & Irena’s boat back to the UK & keep them here for a few more weeks πŸ˜€ Great to see lots of old & new friends here too today.

    Here is a picture of 2 legends having a late afternoon ride up by the pond, after working on their serpentines.

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    What is the right bit for my horse?

    By , June 20, 2016 11:02 am

    I’m just back from a great clinic in the UK with Jeff Sanders. Jeff comes from the Californian Vaquero tradition, and has so much knowledge on both bringing on horses, the history of how horsemanship has evolved, and the good and bad reasons we use various tools and pieces of tack.

    Most of the clinic we spent doing horses… and it was fantastic :)

    One morning we discussed bits & biting… do you know what shape your horses mouth is and what bits will DEFINITELY not work, and what bit shapes could work?

    There is a lot of lost knowledge here that probably should be common knowledge.

    Thanks Jeff for the great weekend, anything that doesn’t make sense below is 100% my fault.


    I started by having a look at my horses mouth. I felt the bars on both sides with my thumb so they didn’t seem sharp at all, pretty flat. This is good as with a bit if a horse has a sharp bar or two (which can be quite common, you should check your horse), bits that put pressure on a sharp bar can cause pain. Worth going out to your horse today & running your thumbs along both bars. Is one sharp? On the inside, middle or outside? If yes snaffles and broken bits can put pressure on the sharp edge that the horse can’t relieve. A straight bar means the horse can lift the bit up off the sharp bar if he needs to.

    The ridges on the top of Ozs mouth seem well defined / very obvious.

    Tongue doesn’t look too skinny or massively wide for his mouth.

    Oz has canine teeth (the little one on the side by itself, just back from the main set at the front), so if these are in the corner of the mouth where the bit is, you’ve got a bit banging off a tooth which will be a major problem.

    I saw a pony at a clinic who was doing stuff the rider didn’t like. Jeff looked at his teeth and the reason the horse was unhappy was because the bit was banging off his teeth (really sore). So he put on a hackamore (no bit) and the pony was much happier pretty much immediately.

    Ozs canines are not near the corner of his mouth (good). You should open your horse mouth and see if he has a small canine near the corner of the lips where the bit goes. If so you might have trouble…………

    I’m going to see if I can look at some other horses mouths at the next clinic to compare & contrast.
    Other things to watch out for:

    There are 2 major reasons a horse will open his mouth:

    1) Your hands are too heavy (pain)
    2) You’ve got the wrong fitting bit (pain)

    So DO NOT strap your horses mouth shut, fix the problem instead (pain)


    None. Not 1 or 2 wrinkles. Wrinkles are constant pressure that your horse will learn to zone out. So he is zoning out the exact area your are using to communicate via the reins to his mouth.


    If your horse has a low palate, a broken bit, snaffle etc might hit off the top of his mouth & cause pain. Is there room between tongue and pallet?


    Snaffle shouldn’t be the default ‘normal’. They are often not what tends to suit most horses mouths (no good for low pallets or sharp bars). I think years ago they were mainly just used for driving, not really for riding. Now they are just the standard ‘fashion’.


    There used to be bit-smiths. And when you sold a horse, the bit that was custom made to fit his exact mouth was sold along with the horse.

    Sometimes the bits were made slightly differently on each side, because often the horses mouths are different on each side so the bit took that into account.

    You can have thousands of variations of just 1 bit.

    ANY bit smiths in Ireland with this info?

    Sadly no, not that I found on google :( So as horse owners we need to know this stuff ourselves & be able to check our horses mouths & figure out what type bit we should avoid / would be best.

    And – walking into a tack shop and asking people who want to sell you something, and have NEVER met your horse, means there is no way they can advise you properly on what would suit the shape of his mouth.

    36 exercises to practise in 5 weeks before Steve Halfpenny comes back to Ireland!

    By , May 21, 2016 1:20 pm

    It was wonderful to ride at Tanja’s clinic a few weeks ago in Tipperary. It is 5 weeks until Steve Halfpenny comes over to teach for four days in Tipp in June, so I wanted to write out a mini-plan for what I want to practise between now & then.

    The good news is I have a plan. The other good news is that there’s a ton of work to do so Oz & I will be very busy!! Happily though Oz will also have a lot of time to work on his beauty sleep.

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    1: Follow a feel in forwards, backup and turns.

    2: Backup circles smoothly.

    3: Walk trot and canter circles with no emotion from Oz. Start at walk and build it up.

    4: If Oz moves too fast, stay in that gait and push him out a little. To be equally good on both sides.

    5: If Oz gets emotional in a certain gait, stay in that gait until he calms down. I used to back off and reward the unwanted / distracted behaviour by bringing him back to walk.

    6: Stop on a circle without moving the HQ out.

    7: Remove slack from the lead rope and in walk & trot, to check if horse is leaning or not.


    1: Be REALLY aware of every step Oz takes. I’ve been slacking off on this. If I don’t specifically ask for it, Oz gets put back where he started.

    2: Be really aware that my first priority is to get Oz’s attention. If I don’t then everything gets worse. If I do Oz relaxes.

    3: I am not to stand too far forward on the near side which I have a habit of doing.

    4: Don’t tiptoe around Oz. Just get a bit more practical and things work out much better. A little change but a good result.


    1: Have an inside bend when doing circles in the hackamore. If its missing, vibrate the inside rein a little. If Oz is distracted he slows down. This stops Oz being distracted and he doesn’t slow down.

    2: Walk along a fence line, then do 90 hindquarter yield so you’re facing the fence line. Then walk the other way back down the fence line & repeat. This gets Oz off the forehand and stops hi pushing forwards.

    3: Hindquarter yield at halt with no reins. This is done but I have to make sure not to forget it!

    4: Hindquarters in with the tiniest of cues on both reins in walk. We started this with Tanja, so working on the polish for this. Currently one side is better than the other.

    5: Walk pirouette, building on our hindquarters in.

    6: Walking a circle not an egg, best done with a physical object in the centre of the circle and me focusing on every step and noticing immediately when Oz is falling in or pushing out of the circle.

    7: Trotting circles and not eggs both ways

    8: Immediate walk to trot transitions. The other option is slow transitions leading to a more tense walk leading to a tense trot when we get it.

    9: If Oz wants to go one way, go the opposite way.

    10: Shoulder in in walk and trot, nice and relaxed

    11: Bucks teardrop exercise, with leg yields and some HQ in. Also I am not to lean when I change bends.

    12: Leg yield like the wind is moving us over.

    13: Counter bends: – Walk forwards – Leg yield out a little (moving to the left) and make sure I get this softness through the bend & body – Keep the footfall rhythm – Keep the forwards – Now while keeping the bend and the sideways, move the front feet a little more to the left so they are on a bigger circle now than the Hqs – Get a step of two and then circle to the right with the normal / existing bend – Ride a straight line – Change bend – Do it all again in the opposite direction


    1: Flat back and not leaning forward. A habit I have to work on daily. When I do this Oz’s stride is longer.

    2: My legs should not be tense.

    3: My hips need to move as Oz moves. When I do this Oz’s stride is longer.

    5: Breathing slowly & calmly.

    6: Releasing faster.

    7: 5 fingers on the reins

    8: Only using my fingers when I ask for something, not moving my whole arm

    9: Hands near pommel, so my body stays balanced and not tipped to one side

    10: Bend in elbows, to prove I’m not leaning forwards

    11: Feel proud of my little horse when I ride which makes me smile

    12: I have a habit of tipping my body to one side when I change reins. Not necessary and I need to stop it πŸ˜€

    I look forward to seeing everyone in June :)

    Elaine & Ozzie.

    Light Hands Equitation May 2016 with Tanja Penders Horsemanship Clinic Ireland

    By , May 4, 2016 2:07 pm

    Tanja Penders flew in from Germany to teach for a weekend in Tipperary. Lots of riders did wonderful work. I rode all weekend in a hackamore (bosal & mecate) & Ghost treeless saddle, both which were excellent.

    Anything that doesn’t make sense is 100% me. Lots of homework to do & can’t wait for the next clinic!

    For this clinic, Oz was relaxed and mellow throughout and was basically an all round superstar horse :) Here is what I was working on.

     photo leg yield small.png

    Working on leg yield above.


    BEND: Circles in the hackamore. At the start, Oz was a little distracted & looking other places. Tanja had me vibrate the inside rein a little. Quite soon Oz started to focus on me more & everything else less.

    POSITION: I lean forward when I ride. I need to remember that I need a flat lower back AND my hips need to relax so they can move right & left with my horse. The hips thing was big, made a lot of difference to how relaxed Oz was. I also need to focus on slow relaxed breathing.

    MY LEGS: On Friday my legs were really tense! If I wanted to use one leg, I can bump Oz very lightly. If that does not work, my habit was to then tense up my leg and add more pressure. This is not good, as it jams up my body and then my horses body. Instead I need to keep my leg totally relaxed and just do a few light bumps.

    HQ YIELD WITH NO REINS AT HALT: We could do these, but it was 2 years ago πŸ˜‰ Need to get there in place again. Halt and sit there with a loose rein. Ask for 1 step HQ yield. Only if horse moves weight forward do you correct it. Then back to loose rein & ask again. Assume its going to be perfect.

    SHOULDER IN ON A CIRCLE: Use the outside rein to slow the front down, and this will move the HQ out a little more, if you need them to move out a little more.


    – Hands at the pommel
    – Notice that I lean forwards, so flat back and make sure my hips are moving as Oz moves.
    – My shoulders to be in the same direction as Ozzies shoulders.
    – When I change direction, my upper body is to stay straight. I have a tendency to lean!
    – Elbows to be bent not straight


    – Start with a circle, vibrate inside rein if the horse is looking outside the circle.
    – This is handy to do along a fence line
    – Do a 180 degree circle
    – Leg yield and change the rein heading towards the fence
    – Walk a few steps straight
    – 180 circle the other way
    – Leg yield and change the rein heading towards the fence
    – Walk a few steps straight
    – 180 circle the other way
    – repeat

    I need to have a flat back and relaxed hips. Also going from the circle to the leg yield & changing bend, I can be a lot more subtle with my seat & rein adjustments than I had been doing.


    HQ YIELD WITH NO REINS AT HALT: We could do these, but it was 2 years ago πŸ˜‰ Need to get there in place again. Halt and sit there with a loose rein. Ask for 1 step HQ yield. Only if horse moves weight forward do you correct it. Then back to loose rein & ask again. Assume its going to be perfect.


    SHOULDER IN ON A CIRCLE: Use the outside rein to slow the front down, and this will move the HQ out a little more, if you need them to move out a little more. I am not to lean in on the circle!

    HQ IN TRAVERS: Stand at fence line. Move HQ 1 step to the inside with Tanja helping us to keep the shoulders i the same place.


    Oz was great! She had him doing lots of stuff including travers :) One exercise was leg yield to HQ in at the fence line.

    IDEAS: Practise 1 handed without the garrocha, flat back, relaxed hips, sit tall and proud, I am not to tilt to the right or left!

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    IF HORSE WANTS TO WALK THIS IS A GOOD EXERCISE: The moment I sat in the saddle today Oz wanted to walk off. So first I had to check my back was flat, relax my hips & breathe. After this, choose one front leg and with the same rein ask that front leg to step sideways. Oz wanted to go forward not sideways, so this started off as doing large-ish circles. But after a cricle or two, Oz was still moving but the circles were smaller. Then we would get to the place were Oz would think about not pushing, there would usually be a pause where he was leaning forwards but thinking a lot, then when I breathe out & relax in the saddle, Oz then changed his balance, stopped pushing forwards, and instead took one proper step sideways and then stood still on a loose rein. I let him stand for as long as he wanted, and if he wanted to walk again that was fine, I picked the other front leg and we did more circles until they got smaller and he decided to rebalance his weight, get off the forehand and take a proper step sideways & halt by himself. I give him my trust and a loose rein again.


    – Do a leg yield to the fence and look straight ahead while I do this.
    – My shoulders to stay level
    – Weight on inside of the bend
    – Put my outside leg back, to ask HQ to step in
    – Sometimes Oz also wants to move his inside shoulder in, so I need to use my inside rein to stop that from coming in

    LEG YIELD: Then leg yield use both reins at the start with flat fingers, eventually just use inside weight and Inside leg as if the wind is pushing you. Use all 5 fingers. Adjust the reins just moving your last 2 fingers, or just little finger on the reins, not your whole hand. Weight on inside but sit straight. Leg yield to HQ in :) I am not to lean!

    Oz & I had a lot of fun this weekend. Thank you to everyone who came & huge thanks to Tanja for helping us all in so many ways! :) I can’t wait to do it all again!

    Ghost Quevis treeless saddle review

    By , February 28, 2016 1:46 pm

    I am very excited to finally update you on how I got on with the Ghost Quevis treeless saddle.

    I had to look at treeless saddles as having gone through 4 treed saddles, most of which were approved by saddle fitters and ALL of which hurt my horse.

    I’ve tested these saddles so far on my round, short, 14.3 Connemara:

    – Deuber Espanoila Baroque style leather treed saddle from Germany
    – Barefoot Madrid German treeless saddle
    – Grandeur bareback pad (not a saddle but great when you don’t have a saddle that fits!)
    – Ghost Quevis treeless saddle

    This is my review & feedback on the Ghost Quevis saddle. The short version is I love it!

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    You can get the Quevis in different sizes. The size depends on the rights weight and height. I’m about a UK size 8 and just over 5 foot tall, so my size is a piccolo.

    Other than that, the saddle is as it is. 1 pommel width which very weirdly seems to work for my horse. The panels underneath can be adjusted, so mine are now about 4 thin fingers width apart when I’m riding (the move a little to the sides when there’s a rider in the saddle).

    There are 2 stirrup positions, I’m using the most forward one and it seems to give me a nice position in the saddle.

    The saddle is quite short, so perfect for a Connemara a smidge under 15 hands.

    One unusual thing about this saddle is the very very short saddle flaps. ACTUALLY – this makes this saddle better than other saddles!

    It turns out having a saddle flap actually gets in your way and without the flap, your leg is right beside your horse and I got some lovely lateral work with this close contact.

    I really like the knee blocks with this saddle. I felt really secure throughout in this saddle.

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    In general riding, this saddle to me feels like an expensive dressage saddle.

    It’s got a narrow twist (this is the opposite to feeling like you’re sitting on a wide barrel!) and the seat is very thick & comfy with very nice leather made in Italy.

    This saddle is also REALLY light.

    They call it ghost because it’s meant to feel like its not there. I really really like this saddle.

    It’s also interesting to compare all 3 treeless saddles together, after trying them all out on my Connemara.

    I have written a long report with all the info & comparisons between the DEUBER Vs. BAREFOOT Vs. GHOST. You can download the full TREELESS SADDLES REPORT here.

    If you ride in a treeless saddle, I’ve love to hear your experiences!

    Leave me a comment below & let me know how its going. :) If you have any recommendations for a treeless saddle I could try for my Connemara, let me know in the comments.

    Adele’s ‘Hello’ Equestrian Parody #adelehorseparody

    By , January 2, 2016 5:27 pm

    Remember the famous Adele song ‘hello’? Well now we have an equestrian parody of it, and it’s hilarious!

    Here are some of the new ‘horse inspired’ lyrics:

    Hello, it’s me
    I’ve been chasing you for 40 minutes just to get you in
    To go into your stable
    That I pay a fortune every month for and you’d rather crap outside

    Hello, are you listening
    Your temporary deafness drives me mad when it’s time to get you in
    Your field companion is in
    I need to wash your legs and clean your sheath and then pick out your feet
    There’s always this mud between us
    Or a million flies

    Hello, from the other side
    In the field I’ve called a thousand times
    To bring you in out of the pissing down rain
    But each time I call you you piss off again
    Hello from the warm and dry
    At least I can say that I’ve tried
    With treats and carrots time after time
    But it don’t matter, even though mud’s up to my thigh

     photo adele.jpg

     photo adele_1.jpg

    Irish Horsemanship is a national community of horsepeople in Ireland whose aim is to improve their communication with their horse. Improve your relationship with your horse & build trust and softness at our Lights Hands Equitation clinics in 2016 join our email list here.

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