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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚


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

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.

Fun in November at Light Hands Equitation Clinic with Tanja

By , November 14, 2016 8:05 pm

Tanja flew in to help a few of us out this November. This was a great clinic. Lots of progress with everyone is a very relaxed setting. Phil Richardson genius saddle fitter, checked all my 3 saddles. The ghost is perfect. The Deuber barock has a broken pommel which is being fixed. And my new ebay wild card purchase, old style Deuber Quantum actually fits after being reflocked! Phil said getting one that fits from an ebay ad is a one in a million chance. He suggested I should also do the lotto this evening πŸ˜€

For the clinic, it was great as Tanja helped me so much. Oz and I had had a break for 2 weeks before hand so it was lovely to get back into the saddle and spend time with my horse and some great horse people. We usual we ate too much cake, I laughed at one stage so hard until I was nearly crying and we had lovely weather for November. Oz started off this clinic emotional and jumpy, but with Tanja’s help was a seasoned pro by the end of it and was actually minding other horses as the elder sensible horse! Thanks to everyone who came. Here are the notes from what I did.

Friday Groundwork:

Oz to do half circles in front of me while I walk straight onwards. I need precise HQ yields and then FQ yields. Then do the same in trot. Oz is not to push into me with his inside shoulder.

Walk Oz in a circle, ask his inside leg to come in, and then change direction. Do this in trot as well.

I need to be calm but have more energy.

Ask for walk trot and canter. Push shoulder out to stop Oz pushing in. Ask Oz’s inside leg to come in and change direction.

Friday Riding:

Put on a halter and do a one rein stop in walk and trot. Don’t do this in a hackamore.

Always have a fast walk with me having a relaxed back.

Trot on big circles and leg yield across centre of the circle to change rein.

Tomorrow the plan is more trot and canter groundwork to work through Ozs emotions a little and also to drag stuff noisy stuff around with Oz tomorrow to help him to relaxed more and be less jumpy.

Saturday Groundwork:

I was up working Oz at 8am this morning. I thought we’d do both pieces of homework together so I had him cantering around while I dragged noisy cans & stuff behind him. Then with all that done we got onto the fun riding part! Today was also a huge day as the wonderful Phil Richardson came up for the day from Cork to check saddles for all of the clinic riders.

I walk straight and Oz circles around me. This is a good one to use the whole area so you can see what parts the horse is more or less comfortable in and work on it.

A funny exercise now! Sophie and I stood back to back. Our horses faced each one of us. Then we had to stand still and ask our horses to walk and trot circles around us. Every half circle the horses did Sophie and I had to switch lead ropes. So we were both working with Oz & Degri every time they circled us. Quite fun to see the differences in the horses.

Groundwork trotting over poles. Oz was great at this very relaxed.

Saturday Riding:

Reins in one hand. Use a stick in my inside hand. Ask the inside hind to step under. If the outside shoulder is drifting out, use stick to stop outside shoulder from pushing out.

Get a pretty immediate walk to trot. Ask trot to walk with my seat only by raising my energy. I am not to talk to cluck, or do any extra body movement.

We did lots of trots on large circles, with a loose rein and a relaxed horse. He was stretching out and blowing out while trotting.

When we are trotting around, put up obstacles we can trot over and around to keep Oz focused on the job. Immediate walk to trot, no clucks. I have to smile.

Playing country horse type music is actually lovely to ride to.

We did lots more relaxed trotting about. Improved walk to trot transitions and to ask him to go back to walk, do not say whoa (which he is very good at), just change my seat and sit on my back pockets to ask oz to follow my energy.

Sunday Groundwork:

Ask for walk or halt to trot by standing still and lifting up my leading hand and rope. If Oz ignores me, tap him on the HQ. Oz really got great at this and we got lovely transitions and a lovely relaxed quality of trot once he was trotting about. To stop, Oz has to stop still being on the circle and not turning in.

Sunday Riding:

More long relaxed large circle trots. Nice ask the inside hind to step in.

Open the wooden gate. Good fun and I need to practise so Oz is more relaxed.

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Beautiful work in a high energy environment at the Tanja Penders Masterclass

By , September 12, 2016 3:00 pm

We have just finished a 3 day clinic with Tanja Penders from Light Hands Equitation in Germany who flew in to teach us.

Tanja is excellent at reading and understanding horses. For every horse & rider, she put a lot of thought into teaching them the exact ideas and movements that would help the most in their journey – which was specific to each horse & rider. She really cared about how she could help everyone as much as she could over the weekend.

She also has a gift as a natural teacher. She makes learning really easy, relaxed and enjoyable for both horse & rider.

During the clinic there were a few riders who were trying to figure out various ‘schemes’ on how to keep her in Ireland for longer!

There were many highlights from the clinic, and I’ll followup with my more detailed report on Oz. But I have to talk about the weather conditions and how the horses felt over the weekend.

If you ask Steve Halfpenny what is one of the most important factors in horsemanship, he will say ‘relaxation’.

Without a relaxed horse, you’re not going to be able to achieve much of value.

With a relaxed horse, everything is possible.

Day 1: The weather was awful. Rainy, wet, a bit windy, basically ugh. We were doing private lessons all day up in the middle of the field. Traditionally day 1 of clinics is where the horses might be a little anxious. They are away from home, its a new place, and now they were away from the other horses and there was wet & windy weather, and often you can get high energy & emotions.

This clinic was different. Every horse here was mellow and relaxed on day 1. It was wonderful to see. The horses were listening, happy, chilled and enjoying their time with their rider & Tanja. A lot of this work comes back to the riders, many who have been to a few of these Light Hands clinics and have improved so much – even since our last clinic with Tanja back in the spring. The riders with Tanja’s guidance & help were able to create a situation in challenging conditions where their horses felt safe and relaxed.

That is wonderful horsemanship in my book. Tanja remarked that she was really impressed with all horses and riders and how they performed with the weather.

Day 2: Saturday was a nice sunny day, and everyone did a great job in good weather. At the end of the day, we got everyone out again to practise their homework. A few things were really special… Everyone helped everyone.

If you needed a gate opened, someone to hold your horse, a chat, a rest & a piece of cake, there was always someone ready to help you. Being with a group of people on the same journey as you, who are kind & totally supportive makes learning much easier and more fun. Thank you to everyone for your generosity & kindness.

Day 3: We had a hurricane!! It was crazy windy. We were nearly all blown away. As the day progressed the wind got stronger. Again all the horses were worked in the middle of a large field, away from other horses, in high winds. Yet again every single horse was relaxed and mellow and felt safe with their riders. It was beautiful to watch.

There was more lovely work done today, from the beginning of HQs in, short serpentines, cantering, softness, circles with lovely bend and no reins, relaxation… just really nice work from all partnerships and every horse was a very relaxed and happy horse. This lightness, softness and relaxation is just not what you normally see at events – the ones I end up at anyway.

Huge thanks to Tanja who was so generous with her time & knowledge this weekend.

Coming next – the writeup of how I got on with Ozzie each day – its got a lot of stuff in it so stay tuned!


First I wrote a little of what Mandy & Hamish were doing on day 1 & 2.

DAY 1 Groundwork:

Circle in walk and ask Hamish to step his inside hind under, then walk across the middle of the circle and change direction. Watch out that Hamish doesn’t do a HQ yield when you ask hi to step his inside fore towards the middle of the circle.

DAY 1 Riding:

When Hamish is walking a circle on the right rein, he looks out. So shorten the inside rein and ask the inside hind leg to step under, and keep forwards. Keep moving.

On the left rein on a circle, Hamish can fall in sometimes. Shorten the inside rein and push him out to make the circle a little bigger again.

If a horse is heavy, don’t pull or push him to the outside. Instead you need to change his balance. Ask each front foot individually (in time with the footfall) to step out.

Hamish can tend to stop, you need to keep him moving.

DAY 2 Riding:

Mandy (like me) has to relax her upper body, don’t lean forward and be effective as homework. Hamish was working on bending to a stop. Count how many steps this takes. Today it was 2 or 3 steps. Tanja remarked that Hamish is very nice. He has nice softeness in his neck, and that Hamish has good balance.

Next up is what I was doing on the 3 days of the clinic with Ozzie

DAY 1 Groundwork:

We worked on softness on a circle. I had the lead rope not too long & I had a bamboo. On the circle I asked Ozs inside hind foot to step under. Then I asked the inside fore to step towards the middle of the circle. I had to remember that Oz had to keep moving forwards and not slow down, and also that the inside front did move in BUT the hindquarters were not to disengage! Oz got a bit more stuck on the left rein. The goal is a brilliant follow the feel. So on a circle, get the inside hind to step under, ask for the inside fore to take a step or two in, then ask the inside fore to go back out on the circle, and Oz has to keep the same rhythm. Also on a circle, get the inside hind to step under, ask for the inside fore to take a step to the middle of the circle, walk past me and then go back out on the circle in the other direction. This was great fun to play with, but tricky to keep the forwards & not blow out the HQ! Great homework.

When Oz decides he wants to bite the lead rope (in groundwork) I just annoy him a little by tapping his neck with the end of a stick until he drops it. Problem solved. We agreed that Oz was really smart, really sensitive, always talking and asking questions (which we expects me to answer) and has an emotional side. 100% spot on.

DAY 1 Riding:

On a circle, again ask Oz to step under with his inside hind. Then ask inside fore to step towards the middle of the circle, do NOT slow down, do NOT blow out the hind, walk across centre of circle, change bend & seat weight & out again on circle in the other direction. My posture needs longer reins, flat back, hands touching the front of the saddle approx, and to stop tipping forwards.

DAY 1 Nice to know:

During our groundwork, Tanja remarked that Oz was very patient. HUGE compliment!

At the mounting block, Oz repositioned himself so he was in the perfect place. Tanja remarked that Oz was really trying to help me.

Today when riding we were on our own, in the middle of a field, with a few horses doing high energy stuff in paddocks and with machinery & commotion going on nearby. It was wet & windy. Traditionally on days like this Oz is really emotional. It can feel like I’m trying to ride a bomb (not good). Today I was so focused on listening to Tanja and working on our exercises, that it wasn’t until Tanja remarked that Oz was being really good, with all of the distractions, and that many other horses would be jumping about, that I realised how far Oz & I have come. Oz was a little distracted, but he wasn’t at all emotional at all. Just relaxed & interested. I was so happy with this πŸ™‚

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DAY 1 More groundwork:

Tanja wanted to work on higher energy things with Oz, as this is one thing we have to get better at. Higher energy can cause Oz to get emotional, stop listening and take & take over. If I can get Oz more relaxed with high energy we will have a lot more available to us.

Tanja was so cool – she started off doing in hand walk to canter transitions with Oz. So walk in hand, one stride of canter, back to walk again. Oz was getting really focused and really connected to her energy. Tanja though wasn’t going faster to get the higher energy, she was at the same speed just with more energy. That’s hard to wrap my mind around. I took over and we worked on walk to trot transitions, in hand with my hand on the knot under the rope halter. I had the bamboo. We were looking for nice (immediate) walk to trot transitions and i had to raise my energy BUT not walk any faster! Walk a few steps, trot a few, walk a few, etc.

Two things to improve… if Oz does a head shakes from walk to trot, just bring my hand to my body a little do he doesn’t get a release for it. Then also from trot to walk we don’t want Oz to hollow his back when he gets back to walk. Doing just a few steps (2-3 in each gait) showed improvements in both.

For me, to ask Oz to trot is also follow a feel. I can stretch my hand out to the front a little to ask him to move on. If he started to lean I need to address it. If he is moving in the wanted gait, then I am moving with him with a short and slack rope.

Once transitions are going good, add in a leg yield while trotting. I also have to stop trying so hard, tensing up my body and stop thinking as much. I just have to walk along and just kind of assume Oz will come along beside me, without me trying too much to micromanage the whole situation and creating tension in my body as my brain whirls…

DAY 2 Groundwork:

We started off doing the circle, hind under, inside leg moving towards the middle of the circle. Much better today, better forwards and the HQ were not blowing out as much.

Then we moved onto in hand trot transitions. Ask Oz to move from halt to trot. I am to step forwards and walk straight, NOT to walk sideways into him. If Oz pushes into me, I am to have the stick ready to block him.

This is tricky on the right rein, Oz is more emotional.

I have to smile & relax!! I am not to cluck like a chicken! πŸ˜€

I am also to walk slowly with my energy up. Trot a few steps, then I say ‘WHOA’. Then I close my fingers, Oz to stop, backup and move the weight from his forequarters to his hindquarters.

If Oz rushes in trot, I have to ask him to halt and backup again.

So a few steps trot, backup, a few steps trot, backup. This was getting better. After halt, his first step forward with a front leg was at walk, but the next step with his front leg was in trot.

If Oz decides he has to jump around in trot, I am not to react, just pretend it didn’t happen and gently ask him to continue on trotting like I normally would. This was really good as I was doing too much.


During the day I did 2 x 10 min homework sessions with Oz while the other lessons were going on. I worked on in hand trots, especially on Oz emotional side. Both sessions saw good improvements. One thing was really interesting. 1/10 times, when I let Oz go he will be a bit hyper and may gallop off after 30 seconds of being loose (it’s not an immediate thing). So I didn’t do something right as you are really supposed to release when the horse is mentally and physically relaxed, so I had released when he was mentally not relaxed (as he waited for a minute then took off at a gallop). But it can be hard as Oz can do everything I ask, and make the effort to hold it together while we are working but need to let off some steam after. I asked Tanja about it. When we are done, from looking at Oz I can tell if he will chilled after I let him go, or if he will take off. Tanja said that if it looked like he had emotional / mental tension, instead I am to just walk him around for a few minutes untiI can tell that he is more emotionally relaxed, before I take off the halter. This is small thing but really important so its on my todo list from now on.

DAY 2 Groundwork cont:

I have to be more relaxed and smile. Our in-hand backup to trots are much more relaxed on both reins after the little homework sessions I did with Oz. I am not to walk fast. My first step is not to be large or fast. Oz is not head shaking any more, and the emotions are much reduced on the tricky rein. Oz is pushing a little. When Tanja works wiht Oz I can see him pushing from a distance. But I find it tricker to see the push when I am working with him. But he is pushing! This is why sideways is a little tricky because the forwards push is blocking it. I have to think of Oz looking like a Spanish horse with weight on his hindquarters.

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DAY 2 Riding:

In our riding, Oz was like a slow moving train. In walk we were ok, in trot there was so much pushing, and no option for lightness or trotting. Tanja rode him and she said ‘interesting’ a few times!! However, he wasn’t at all emotional so that was very good.

Anyway, no point trying much light or softness mvts in trot today as he was a lump, so it was back to walk and time to fix stuff, and encourage him to stop being heavy. He did this on the last day of Steve’s clinic too. We played with lots of stuff… 10-9-8 forwards & backwards, walk the line, HQ yields, inside hind under, turns, light backups on a loose rein, our forwards & backwards got really good… Oz began to listen to me more and tune back in. Tanja was working with someone else at this stage as I pottered away with Oz in the background. Tanja was keeping an eye on me from a distance and said we did some really nice work! Definite improvement anyway. We got some nice trots and I have to remember my posture.

DAY 3 Riding:

Walk, relax my lower back and aim for a really forwards walk. The difference between a normal walk and a forwards walk, is whether my lower back is tense or not. If its not tense and I think about the barrel swinging, we get this huge walk from Oz.

We did circles, asking the hind to step under and the inside shoulder not to push in. Reins in 1 hand, and if Oz is ignoring my asks (inside hind / inside fire) use a stick to back up instead of using more leg and me tensing up.

If Oz wants to look out on the circle, if he gets as far as actually looking out its too late. Instead, as he is thinking of looking out (I can feel the arc in his body changing), I close the fingers on my inside hand and then he doesn’t look out, and then soften the fingers when he relaxed again. Then ask Os to leg yield out, nicely and backup with energy (as little as possible) form the stick if it is needed.

Keep the forwards walk (AKA keep my lower back relaxed so Oz can walk out properly).

Today was really funny – we had a hurricane just about blowing through. Oz was as mellow and relaxed as the day was long. Also – very funny – it has been tricky to get Oz to trot but he’s much better now. However – now that my lower back is relaxed and Oz is doing this huge 18h horse stride out walk, he is also breaking into trot nearly every few steps. So cool. I was the issue obviously not Oz! Very happy.

My homework is to ride with a high energy walk, on a loose rein, WITH NO PUSH, and do all of our lateral exercises with an emotional free Oz. When this is great, then repeat the same in trot and canter, loose rein, WITH NO PUSH, and do all of our lateral exercises with an emotional free Oz. HUGE GOALS just there.

DAY 3 Groundwork:

Really high winds now and Oz was fine in hand in walk and trot. But in canter he was doing a lot of jumping around, bouncing, leaping, getting all emotional (weather + speed +energy), reared up & generally found all the energy hard to handle. Tanja & I had a chat so while Oz was doing all of this stuff the most important ting to work on right now, was to stop Oz getting closer to the person handling him so no one would be kicked etc.

So we went back to a walk, Oz chilled out again (still a hurricane going through!) and Tanja showed me what she wanted me to do.

– Oz to walk in a circle around me. Correct bend. Follow a feel. Head nearest to me, shoulders a little further away & HQ the furthest away was the goal. If all was fine just keep on the circle.
– If Oz shook his head OR took one step towards me with his shoulder OR looks out, I was then to:
– Turn and walk backwards with him (he is still walking around the circle)
– Swing the end of my rope around with energy to ask him to step out
– Keep my arm near Oz straight to stop me getting too close to Oz
– I cannot cluck like a chicken any more
– I have to smile and relax
– If he can’t step out as he is pushing forwards too much, swing rope behind me to block forwards mvt
– If the HQ doesn’t move it, use rope to also ask it to move out
– Once Oz had stepped out with his whole body & was not pushing & on the correct bend again, I turn and walk forwards again
– Oz stays going the same direction the whole time

I was so bad at this to start with. Coordination had completely disappeared. I definitely looked like I had 2 left feet. It was all a bit tricky to do as Tanja had done! Beginning of this = really messy but I suspect fun to watch πŸ™‚

But by the end I had half got my coordination sorted and could both fix things and see when I had to fix things. Progress. A great exercise to do to keep the lightness and softness in Oz.

We end up in a great place. Happy horse & rider. When Oz was down in the paddock, given all the wind he was galloping about a bit bothered. Up here once we started this circle work, he completely mellowed out. Any time we took a break, Oz stood beside me, in a hurricane, head low, not trying to eat any grass and eyes half closed, just mellow. Tanja said that ‘You know, Oz is more relaxed with you than when he is by himself in the paddock’.

That’s pretty huge.

Two things come to mind after writing this HUGE report:

1. I love my horse πŸ™‚
2. I cannot believe we got through so much work with Tanja… this has been a massive writeup and I have a lot of homework to do.

Thanks to Tanja for coming over & helping us all so much, and thanks to everyone who came. Without great riders who recognise that education is never ending, these clinics couldn’t happen. If you’d like to ride at a future clinic, you can join our email list.

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!!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

    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.


    – 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.

    – 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!!

    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.

    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!

    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˜€


    – 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!


    – 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.

    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 πŸ™‚

    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 πŸ™ 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.


    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 πŸ™‚

    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 πŸ™‚ Here is what I was working on.

    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 πŸ™‚ 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!


    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 πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to do it all again!

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