Category: general

Steve Halfpenny London 2017 – Bend, softness and relaxation

By , June 19, 2017 2:03 pm

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

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Groundwork

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

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Riding:

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

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Questions:

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

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Philosophy:

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

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

By , May 30, 2017 6:12 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 1:

Matilda 4 yo:
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Tanja met Matilda for the first time, and so started from the beginning. Tanja has started lots of horses out at Steve’s and her being able to spend some time with Matilda made me very happy! Matilda is very sensitive, so if you just ask a tiny bit that is all you need. When she gets tense, she holds her head up. her neck at the minute is a little upside down, with her lower neck muscles a little over developed. She was a little nervous in her first session, so after a few circles, Tanja decided to ask her to stand and just did some body work on her at halt. She really appreciated this and started to relax her body and mind. This was lovely to watch. Tanja worked on touching her all over, including around her tail and in both ears. Matilda did great. Tanja also did some circles, rope over his head and nose from both sides, put the rope around her hindquarters and ask her to follow a feel (and turn away from you) with the rope. Some of this I had done already. The trickiest thing for Matilda was the trot circle. I hadn’t done a trot with her in a circle, so she got a little worried and tried to rush, but Tanja ended it a nice place. A great start to the weekend.

Matilda gets some relaxation time with the spectators.

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Ozzie:

I came in with Oz, and started off some groundwork. My focus was that I really wanted him to be relaxed and also to be happy. Since the last clinic, I’d focused a lot more on doing stuff to help these goals, with my energy and blending and intent, so we did some nice groundwork in trot on a loose rein, and a nice little trot shoulder in both down line sides of the arena with the calmest happiest horse in Tipperary. Tanja was quite surprised and reckoned I had changed. Woohoo!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

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

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DAY 2:

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

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Later on Tanja played with the lariat.

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Naturally we had to try out a few lovely German Baroque saddles….

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Ozzie:

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

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

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

Working on relaxation in that neck….

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

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

DENTIST TIME:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY:

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

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And ridden work together!

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SUNDAY:

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

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

Ozzie:

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

DRESSAGE TESTS

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

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

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

So we all figured out our stuff and did our dressage tests ๐Ÿ˜€

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

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

MONDAY DENTIST UPDATE:

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

DAY 4 Jeff Sanders clinic Australia April 2017

By , April 12, 2017 6:54 am

DAY 4 RIDING

Warm up:

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

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Collection exercises:

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

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OBSTACLES:

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

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

Think of 2 basic postures in the saddle:

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

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

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

DAY 4 AFTERNOON:

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

Then we had fun doing partner mirror stuff.

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

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

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

Video analysis on day 3 with Jeff Sanders in South Australia

By , April 9, 2017 11:31 pm

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

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

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A list of things I need to do:

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

We videoed everyone. Here is some of the feedback:

Common issues:

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

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

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

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

My feedback:

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

Some times my inside hand is too high.

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

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

On a circle I fall out slightly with my seat.

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

Interesting note:

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

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

– Hands
– Legs
– Hips
– Shoulders

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

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

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

AFTERNOON RIDING SESSION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2 Jeff Sanders clinic At Steve Halfpennys

By , April 8, 2017 11:16 pm

Theory:

The inside of the horseโ€™s mouth is as unique as the outside of the horse.

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

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

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

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

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

When riding in a snaffle you should be able to feel your horses tongue. Snaffle bits are inconsistent, and move around in horses mouths. This leads to inconsistent signals for the horse which you donโ€™t want.

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

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

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

Dental work โ€“ does your horse have ramps? You may need power tools.

DAY 2 AM RIDING:

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

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

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

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

EXERCISE 4 PARTS:

Do a straight line then:

– Shoulder in
– HQ in same bend, just change your legs
– HQ in different bend
– Shoulder in
– LOOK at a point, if the only way you wonโ€™t drift around.
– Get my weight right and my shoulders level.

EXERCISE: FREESTYLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 2 RIDING AFTERNOON

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

Walk and do a turn on the forehand, then do a turn on the hind end, then power out of it.
For the hind end, look over my shoulder the way I want to go and also put some weight straight down in my inside foot to make sure my posture is ok. You can do this inside foot weight to have good posture also in half pass.
Walk and do a shoulder in on a circle. Then do 2 extra steps of hindquarters and power of out it. Think of it like a bull or cow is coming straight for your leg. So you need to get your horseโ€™s ass out of its way. Just doing a normal circle wonโ€™t be enough as a bull will just follow you on a circle.

Today was a magic day.

Jeff Sanders Clinic with Steve Halfpenny in South Australia

By , April 7, 2017 9:30 am

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

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

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

Morning of day 1

KOLA LESSONS

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

SEAT BONES AND WEIGHT

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

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

Try with the other seat bone.

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

JEFF SERPENTINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We also recorded some superb videos on saddle fit.

DAY 1 THEORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

On styles of riding…

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

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

DAY 1 AFTERNOON

Shoulder in

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

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

HQ in

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

EXERCISE:

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

FOR TOMORROW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

By , March 6, 2017 6:47 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 1 AM:

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.

Interesting.

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.

DAY 1 PM:

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

DAY 2 AM:

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 โ€“ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

DAY 2 PM:

We moved onto canter groudwork this afternoon. When leading Oz I have to walk naturally. I was doing some kind of weird walk! ๐Ÿ˜€

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.

DAY 3 AM:

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.

So

Breathe.
Flat back.
Hands at saddle.
Rising UP.
Smile.

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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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.

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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.


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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!

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DAY BY DAY REPORT

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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.

Homework:

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.

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚
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.

From scruffy saddle to a work of beauty!

By , August 29, 2016 5:22 pm

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

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

 photo IMG_4286.jpg

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

  • A bit dry in some places
  • Dirty & scruffy
  • Marks on it
  • Needs to be cleaned and conditioned
  • It looks old
  •  photo 2 before.png

    I read the instructions on the back of the leather conditioner:

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

  • The saddle looks new again!
  • Saddle looks a LOT cleaner, no more scruff marks
  • Leather feels softer which is great after the Lord oil
  • The whole process was very quick, it took about 10 minutes
  • The easiest way to apply the oil was to pour a little on the saddle (it only comes out a little at a time which made it easy) and then rub it in with a cloth
  • The small oil bottle was very handy and it stopped me spilling half the oil on the floor which I usually do when using oil from larger tins. Definitely a bonus!
  •  photo 4.png

    I’m very happy with the result & will definitely be using the rest of the Lord leather care bottles on my other saddles.

    We are ready now for our next lesson!

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