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!

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:

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.


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!! 🙂

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.

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.

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.

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.

Later on Tanja played with the lariat.


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….

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.

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


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.


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.

And ridden work together!


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.


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.


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 😀

This was such a cool clinic. I think I’ve never got as much done before, between young horse preparation, 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.

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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….

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