Category: clinic reviews

15 things I learned yesterday from Leslie Desmond

By , May 28, 2015 4:15 pm

Yesterday I went up to Meath to watch Leslie Desmond teach. She co-wrote the Bill Dorrance book. Here is what I wrote down in my notepad.

– Most horses are turned to the left with the right hip hanging back. This is because we mainly handle them on the near side. Leslie uses halters that knot on the off side.

– The back of the rope halter should be behind the jawbone.

– Don’t stand in front of your horse or beside your horses head. Your whole body being so close to his eye and face is uncomfortable for the horse. Stand back by the stirrup and give your horse some room. You can also do something useful then by scratching his rump while you’re there. Continue reading '15 things I learned yesterday from Leslie Desmond'»

Getting inside my lovely horses head, at Isi Brenners amazing clinic – May 2015

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By , May 12, 2015 10:29 am

This weekend Isi Brenner was over from Germany for a 3 day clinic. I met Isi about five years ago at Steve Halfpennys horsemanship centre in South Australia. She was one of those phenomenal horse riders that just had an uncanny way with horses. And her breath of knowledge about horsemanship, training, equipment, (as she proved at this clinic) is vast. Last autumn I visited her in Germany to watch a Jeff Sanders clinic at her yard and managed to persuade her to run her first international clinic in Ireland!

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I have a lovely horse called Ozzie. He’s a sensitive soul with a pretty fast brain! One of the main things I wanted to get some insights was who to make him happier mentally and emotionally. He’s pretty good on the ground, and at halt in riding, but when we go faster he can get tense and nervous. Then we also can get head shaking, foot stamping, head scratching and he can look away to block out what’s going on. Continue reading 'Getting inside my lovely horses head, at Isi Brenners amazing clinic — May 2015'»

Jeff Sanders Clinic Report (Frankfurt Nov 2014) part 2

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By , November 27, 2014 10:25 am

This is part 2 of the writeup from the 2 day Jeff Sanders clinic in Germany in Nov 2014. It was cold but FANTASTIC!

Travers (looks like HQ in)

– Sit on your inside seatbone
– See the corner of your horses eye.
– Do travers @ center, before you do lead changes. This is the key to good constant lead charges.
– Figure 8 = this is Jeffs least favourite way to teach lead charges
– Lead changes start in travers in walk.
– Only ask for 3 steps of travers, then walk in straight.
– Front end stays walking forward, HQ goes to one side.
– If it is very good, do walk-trot-walk Continue reading 'Jeff Sanders Clinic Report (Frankfurt Nov 2014) part 2'»

Jeff Sanders Clinic Report (Frankfurt Nov 2014) part 1

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By , November 11, 2014 3:08 pm

Last weekend Maura & I flew into Frankfurt to watch Jeff Sanders teaching 12 German students. Many of my Australian & English friends had recommended I go, so I was very excited to see what would happen. It was lovely to watch the advanced German students & Jeff is a wonderful teacher. I learned a lot. Very easy to understand, kind & humble. It was great to meet so many new German friends as well 🙂

The clinic was split into 2 groups of 6 riders.. intermediate & advanced. All were super riders. Here is Jeffs website, and yes – we invited him to Ireland! Here’s a video so you can see Jeff riding:

9:00am 6 horses Intermediate Group Day 1

Bosal (hackamore) fitting

Hackamore should lie above the soft nose cavity. There should be 1 finger space behind chin. Just enough room to chew/swallow. It should be snug all round, and even pressure all round. Soft hackamore = will spread a little on its own. If the hackmore is too big, it’ll move around a lot on its own which you don’t want. You’ll use a 5/8s hackamore for 90% of the time. Continue reading 'Jeff Sanders Clinic Report (Frankfurt Nov 2014) part 1'»

Buck Brannaman in Dublin, Ireland – 2014 report.

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By , August 11, 2014 4:05 pm

BUCK clinic notes, RDS Dublin 2014

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Watching Buck in Dublin was a privilege. I am sure I have got some things wrong below, so please forgive me 🙂 If you want to discuss more, visit our Irish community on facebook. Buck worked with a good few showjumpers & some western riders over 5 days, for about 1.5-2 hours daily, so here is an overview of the exercises he mainly used during the visit.


For all of these exercises to work – or at least the ones involving the feet! – you have to direct the horse as the specific foot is just leaving the ground. Get it at the wrong time and you can trip a horse. One way to figure this out is to get someone to watch you. As you ride, shout ‘now’ when you think a specific foot is just leaving. Then get your human helper to shout ‘now’ at the correct time & see if its the same.


Walk a circle, you’re looking for softness through the body and the correct flexion. If you’re horse is looking out of the arena you are doing it wrong! Ask for a HQ yield so the horse is facing you, then a FQ yield so the horse is now back on the circle in the opposite direction. In HQ yield the back feet should cross over, one in front of the other. Going from halt to walk, Buck outstreched his arm to the side with slack still in the rope. If the horse didn’t move Buck did not pull. Instead he drove the horse using the stick & flag. Big lesson here – do not pull on the rope. To ask for a halt / HQ yield, it should be also with a flat open palm in the end result.


This is the second exercise Buck does. Soft feel, then he is looking for an untroubled backup. Do not pull your horses back.


Sit in saddle. Very gently pick up reins. If horse yields a fraction, release. Note – release = VERY loose reins! Make it obvious for the horse. If horse does not yield or leans, just hold gently, do not increase the pressure. Give the horse a little time to figure it out. After this gets better, pick up a soft feel and release when the horse begins to move backwards. Buck was also keen on rocking the horse back a step or two each time they got to halt.


Do very slow walks. Bucks slow walk was incredible. Literally the horse had 1 foot up in the air and was waiting for the instruction on where to put it! Then very slow trots. Then slow canter at pace of a walk. Buck reckoned if you really work on the slow walk, this is the foundation for a very collected canter. Sounds fab.


Do serpentines with the reins connected to the feet. Slow it down and you’ll have a foot in the air.


A teardrop is a long skinny figure of 8. (Apologies I’m not certain I got this next bit 100% correct)

1. Teardrop with loose/no reins, so your legs directing the mvt – in walk and trot
2. Teardrop with soft feel – just ask for 1 step first and build it up – in walk and trot
3. Teardrop with leg yield – in walk and trot
4. Add change of flexion half way through (ready for canter departs)
5. Lope to half way point of teardrop, back to trot, canter off again.
6. Canter all of it with flying changes.

This is a great exercise to fix shoulders that are falling in around bends.


Walk, trot, canter and gallop with a loose rein. You are only allowed to start to collect your horse AFTER you can do this!


Problems with right canter lead, do backups to the left a lot, head to left, hips to right.
Right lead problem = left back circle issue and hq to right and fq to left will also have problems.


In backup, the pair that’s longer is the canter lead. In walk & trot, the pair that stretch forward more are the lead. You can adjust these if you need to.


If canter to halt is bouncy, instead practise from trot to halt, sliding on each back leg. Thus you’ve got to know your footfall.


Do 2 steps of FQ yield with the front leg crossing behind, and then step #3 with the front leg crossing in front.


Backup in circles. To the right means the horses head is tipped to the right and the HQ go to the left.


If your horse is operating from trouble stress or self preservation, you’re horse won’t remember work from one day to the next. BUCK

Buck also referenced his dislike of gadgets, martingales, tiedowns, gimmicks, spurring horses a lot, etc. I won’t repeat this as I know the readers here are educated beyond that 🙂


Buck was riding a showjumper (young I think) he had borrowed. The change in that horse from day 1 (braced, jammed, green as) to day 5 (totally different horse, soft, comfortable, happy, doing magic stuff with Buck) was a masterclass in itself.


For me the most beautiful moment was on the last day. 3 riders came into the arena, but only 2 on horseback. The rider of the last horse was afraid to do this & so walked in with her horse, on foot. Buck spent the whole lesson with her horse. At the start he was terrified.. Buck began by asking him to walk in a circle quickly and yield both ends. Instead the horse reared up, shook his head like he was about to strike Buck, tried to run Buck over, Went backwards, was stiff as a plank and galloped about in a panic.

In about 5 minutes of Buck doing magical stuff you still had a lot of physical stiffness but you could already see the horses mind had changed.

In 10 minutes the whole body looked different and the pulling back and rearing had about gone.

In 15 minutes this horse was totally different – mentally this was a different horse, she looked comfortable and happy, with beautiful bend, a relaxed walk, yields in front & behind, and was now ignoring the huge tarp flapping on the grandstand – something that 10 mins previously had caused it to go from halt to canter in terror.

At one stage, Buck remarked that this is the hard part of his job. This horse knows now that she has a friend. And tomorrow, she will probably look for that friend. But Buck will be gone.

Buck did such a beautiful job, it was an honor to be present. As the horse was circling him beautifully in walk Buck said – ‘This horse can’t believe I’ve offering her such a nice deal’. She was a very sensitive horse he explained. I swear at that stage I had a tear in my eye.

It got even better…

Buck then asked the rider to sit up on the horse & be a passenger. Buck still had the lead rope. So the girl did. Buck asked the horse again to circle and do a HQ and then a FQ. The girl experienced this, and then Buck explained how she could ride like this… for the HQ, put her inside leg back a bit, and then to move the FQ, put her outside leg forward a bit.

And the next magic bit… Buck asked the girl to pick up a soft feel. So she gently picked up the reins and with a contact, but still with visible slack in the reins, Buck asked her just to wait as she was, until the horse softened. And he did – in just a second or two. Then she was asked to release properly. Not just a token release.

Plus – (as I think of it) never wallop your horses neck. Rub them instead.

Then they did the soft feel at halt a few more times. Magic. Then the BIG one… asking for a step of backup from an untroubled horse.

The girl picked up the reins gently. Buck asked her to stay like that until the horse went a fraction backwards. The first time there was a thought, and they gave a release. Very soon, and beautifully done, there was a 2-3 inch step backwards with the front foot. Buck said – ‘This 3 inch step might not look like much to a lot of you. But this was a 3 inch step backwards from an UNTROUBLED horse’.

Love love love. What a great clinic. Huge thanks to Fiona S & the Dublin Show for persuading Buck to come & show us how things should be done. Please come back next year Buck!

Irish Connemara goes to Superstar Level – Steve Halfpenny Lessons in Tipp July 2014

By , July 12, 2014 11:44 am

I was really lucky & had the pleasure of 2 days with Steve Halfpenny & some great friends, and our much loved horses in Tipperary this week. HOLY MOLY we had such fun, the weather was super, we rode all day in a huge field and made SO much progress it was tricky to really believe it! Here’s a recap of how I did with Oz.

A few weeks ago I was at a wonderful clinic with the Rashids so we sorted out some serious stuff we had been stuck with – mounting block, trotting & the bridle. With all that MUCH better this meant we could start to play with more fun stuff with Steve. And did we have fun!! 🙂

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EXERCISE: Stick to my plans

The plan – Walk a few steps, backup a few steps, walk a few steps, repeat.

What was happening was half way through a manoeuvre (for example going backwards), Oz would start unexpectedly going sideways by himself. Instead of me continuing to ask him to go backwards as was the initial plan, I’d stop doing this and instead work on stopping him from going sideways. So Oz was in essence had now taken over control of what we were working on. Not good! Instead, if Oz does something I didn’t ask for, just ignore it. I need to keep focused on what I actually want, keep asking for it regardless of what extras Oz decides to do, and then reward when I get what I want. Continue reading 'Irish Connemara goes to Superstar Level — Steve Halfpenny Lessons in Tipp July 2014'»

Advanced Aikido: Sunshine Edition UK May 2014

By , May 21, 2014 11:23 pm

The 3 days of aikido with Mark were great. But a word of warning, you’re not going to understand a lot of the moves are they are pretty difficult to put down on paper! These notes are more for the people at the event, who know the moves and just need the outlines of them to remember them. Apologies there are definitely mistakes in here & omissions! Bottom line is that as a non any type of martial arts person, I really got a lot out of the Aikido training that Mark does. It really helps you to connect with your horse in a much more useful way. If you are on the fence reading this, get off it & book yourself into his next Aikido clinic in the UK. Continue reading 'Advanced Aikido: Sunshine Edition UK May 2014'»

Mark Rashid & the UK Sunshine Tour May 2014

By , May 21, 2014 10:23 pm


I’ve just had a pretty super 6 days of watching horsemanship & doing aikido. Tons of fun & lots of new things learned and to try out. For the 3 day riding clinic, there were about 8 horses, who were worked each day. I’m going to write by each horse below. Bear in mind I probably missed a lot of stuff, and please do expect me to get things wrong here 🙂 Anything that doesn’t make sense is my fault, nothing to do with the clinic. Mark, all horses, all riders & spectators were wonderful & Amanda did another amazing job of organising it.


First up, when you’re riding with Mark it’s a really good idea to have a list of things you want to work on ready. He is going to ask you 🙂 Nic wants to work on the subtle things she did in Aikido last December. Continue reading 'Mark Rashid & the UK Sunshine Tour May 2014'»

Mark Rashid Horseman Aikido Clinic Notes, Dec 2013 – AWESOME!!

By , December 24, 2013 12:37 pm

Thanks for your interest in reading my notes from Mark Rashid’s AWESOME (yes, seriously) “Aikido for Horsemanship” clinic last weekend in the UK. I absolutely adored it and learned a TON I’m now putting into practise with my horse.

If you are interested in reading my notes, I want to ask you 2 small favors.


1) In Ireland we have a serious problem with abandoned horses and the IHWT do amazing work to help as many equines as they can.

Before you read my notes, please donate even just 1 euro (or whatever the value of these notes are to you) to the IHWT online here:

2) Please share this post with as many people as possible to raise as much money as we can. Continue reading 'Mark Rashid Horseman Aikido Clinic Notes, Dec 2013 — AWESOME!!'»

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