Category: clinic reviews

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.

Work on feeling the changes in your horse – Jeff Sanders UK clinic Aug 2015

By , August 31, 2015 11:37 am


This was a fantastic 2 day clinic at Lisas in the UK. Jeff was super. A lot of focus was on how the riders used their bodies, and also how aware they were of how they were using their bodies. Really fantastic to watch the changes and thank you for the hospitality! Jeff was wonderful and lots of homework in this blog post to work on. Anything that doesn’t make sense is 100% me.


– Using a whip / stick: Hold it upright straight up in the air, like you would hold a pencil. Before you use it, put all reins in other hand, so when you use the stick it doesn’t cause any unwanted rein mvt.

– Put your weight on the inside seatbone.

– To ask for piaffe you should feeling your body like you’re in canter, your core is going upwards and forwards.

– Walk a circle then move into sideways while keeping the same rhythm.

How to use the reins: Continue reading 'Work on feeling the changes in your horse — Jeff Sanders UK clinic Aug 2015'»

“Soften your hands. No pulling.” Manolo Mendez UK report

By , July 29, 2015 3:43 pm

These are my quick notes from watching Manolo Mendez share his knowledge over 2 days in the UK. Manolo was the head rider at the Spanish Riding School in Jerez. He is known for his legendary ability to teach the 3 Ps – Piaffe, Passage & Pirouette. If anything doesn’t make sense its 100% my fault 🙂 Manolo, all the riders & all of the horses were inspiring to watch.

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On the ground, get a relaxed walk, a relaxed trot and a relaxed canter.

Look for hard muscles or a lack of muscles along the vertebrae in the neck. Continue reading '“Soften your hands. No pulling.” Manolo Mendez UK report'»

“Get lighter. Do less. Keep the softness.” The Light Hands Equitation TRIPLE CLINIC REPORT

By , July 29, 2015 3:20 pm

These are my quick notes from watching Steve Halfpenny share his knowledge over 3 UK clinics. If anything doesn’t make sense its 100% my fault 🙂 Steve, all the riders & all of the horses were so inspiring to watch.

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When the slack goes out of the lead rope, move the HQ out more to get the slack back into the rope.

When Steve does groundwork his hand is at about waist level quite often. Most students hands are a lot higher.

In groundwork, if your horses raises his head to go forwards or his nose gets near his chest when you back up, then you are pushing & pulling too much.

In groundwork if your horse is rushing, you can twirl the rope in front of him.

If you want to scratch your horse, scratch on his opposite side to the one you are standing on. Then he won’t push into you. Continue reading '“Get lighter. Do less. Keep the softness.” The Light Hands Equitation TRIPLE CLINIC REPORT'»

“Don’t reward when he’s trying to take over” – Ozzie notes from Steve Halfpenny June 2015

By , July 2, 2015 12:01 pm

Day 1 – Ozzie lessons with Steve Halfpenny – “Don’t reward when he’s trying to take over”

STATE OF MIND OF HORSE: Opinionated, worried, fed up at times!

We had a great day 1 in Tipperary with Steve. I didn’t get a chance to write up everyones sessions, but here’s what I learned to help Ozzie and me get better. Oz has two starting places. We have “calm and half asleep Ozzie”. He is normally like this at home. And we also have “full of energy, worried and wants to take over”. He’s like this sometimes at home (maybe 1/25 times), more so in the winter months when he’s fed up with the weather and annoyed in general. Today we started with energy, worried and distraction. This was actually great as I need help and practise to get him back to a more managable mindset & emotional state.

 photo 11209661_10153194086894934_2889777467366064804_n.jpg Continue reading '“Don’t reward when he’s trying to take over” — Ozzie notes from Steve Halfpenny June 2015'»

PART 5: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015 & quotes

By , June 25, 2015 12:41 pm

Buck Day 3 AM – H1 GROUP

– Don’t let horse stop unexpectedly, catch it before it happens. Keep the horse in my rectangle.
– Don’t grip your legs like a bird on a fence rail.
– Halt – walk, this is position 3 to Position 2, with slight leg energy.

“The further up the leg your aid occurs, the more sophisticated the rider.
The further down the leg your aid occurs, the more crude the rider.”

Buck describes normal riders….. “When you ask you do too much. When you demand you do too little. Other than that you’re fine.” Then he smiled. Continue reading 'PART 5: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015 & quotes'»

PART 4: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015

By , June 24, 2015 10:14 am

BUCK DAY 2 UK – Day 2 AM Buck – H1 GROUP

– Soft feel in walk. Both directions.
– Soft feel in trot. Change of direction with soft feel.
– Back up in circles, front leg goes behind.
– Forequarter yield, front leg goes in front.

How To Help Herd Bound Horses

– In a safe enclosed area with high fence, don’t use your reins at all.
– Have the other horse down at one end of the arena.
– When your horse decides they want to be near the other horse, let them go over but trot and lope near the other horse. Continue reading 'PART 4: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015'»

PART 3: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015

By , June 23, 2015 1:27 pm

Buck Day 1 AFTERNOON (second bunch of horses)

– Circle on ground
– Imaginary box is drawn all around your horse. The box shouldn’t be the size of the arena! It should just fit around your horses body.
– Center of this rectangle / imaginary box is the safest place for horse
– People think everything is going perfect because you aren’t noticing and observing enough. Then your horse spooks sideways. Continue reading 'PART 3: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015'»

PART 2: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015

By , June 22, 2015 12:34 pm

This is a short report of some of the exercises that were done by Buck in the 3 days. If anything doesn’t sound quite right its 100% my fault 🙂 I’ve kept this as brief as possible as Buck went through a lot. This is DAY 1 MORNING with the H1 CLASS.

Buck Day 1: 24 horses in the morning


Get horse used to being touched by flag and then flag him with energy while at a halt.
Do the same when the horse is walking – look for areas which you touch that cause him worry and fix them up on the ground before you get into the saddle. Continue reading 'PART 2: 3 Day UK Buck clinic report 2015'»

PART 1: 18 Exercises from Buck you can practise today!

By , June 16, 2015 10:50 pm

I’m just back from 3 days at the Buck clinic in Aintree Racecourse. This was an incredible clinic. The venue was beautiful, the organisation amazing (over 1000 people!) and Buck shared so much information in bite sized chunks and took away so much value & things to practise from the weekend.

It was lovely as well to meet great old friends and wonderful new friends. Being in a room of 1000+ horse people who all wanted to do their best for their horses and wanted to learn more about horsemanship, was so nice.

 photo 11412224_10153156382589934_2853944736134535752_n.jpg Continue reading 'PART 1: 18 Exercises from Buck you can practise today!'»

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