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

By , August 31, 2015 11:37 am


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


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

– Put your weight on the inside seatbone.

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

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

How to use the reins:

Focus on opening and closing your fingers. If that doesn’t work adjust your rein length. Try not to move your arms.

Circle exercise:

Walk a circle. Then move the horse out onto a bigger circle. NOTICE the spli second the horses balance changes (a shift in balance) to move sideways. Really focus hard to notice this. This is really important as you need to feel the changes and shifts in your horses body.

Awareness exercise:

When you put your weight on inside seat bone, feel the inside of your horses body contract.

– Ask with your seat
– Ask with your rein
– Ask with your leg

“As your horsemanship gets better then your equipment needs to improve, within your budget.”


Goal: outside hind leg to come under the horse. NOTICE the second the HQ mve in. Keep your seat on the inside of the bend. Originally, this exercise and the shoulder in on 4 tracks exercise by the old masters, as they were the best exercises to improve the quality of the horses.

Really concentrate in any changes in your horses balance. So then you can use just a tiny movement to fix any very early unwanted balance movement in your horse.

“People often ride without direction. Pick a point and ride to it”.

If the horse leans one way, fix it immediately. Keep the bend you want, and use your LEG to push the horse back to tehe track he is meant to be on. If the horse is ignoring your leg, then use a tool.

“You don’t let your car wander along the road, so you shouldn’t let your horse wander across the arena or field.”

Keep your hands just above the mane. Do NOT have them up high or wide or anything odd, and it’ll negatively effect your balance. Keep them in a small box jst above the mane.


Shorten right rein
Weight on right side
Left leg backand move HQ to the right
So you are engaging the horses hind end.


During the HQ in, can you feelhow much the horse is stepping under? When the horses stride shortens, maybe we;ve done too much or maybe the horses core muscles are not developed enough.

“We’re working this morning on being very conscious riders”.


Walk out really well,
Do a few steps of 4 track shoulder in.
Walk out really well again.

“This morning wasn’t about specific movements. It was about you feeling the changes of balance in your horse”.

“You’re working on fixing problems as they develop, not after they have occured.”

“Ride with awareness of what your horse gives you, and what your horse does without you asking”.

“Really work on feeling the changes in your horse. Then your overall horsemanship will start getting much better results.”



Walk in circle
Shoulders in on circle
HQ in on circle (same bend as before just switch legs)
HQ out on circle
Shoulders out on circle (same bend as before just switch legs)

Balanced circles:

Does your horse fall in on circles? To fix either leg yield out, or better again, keep the correct bend and do a HQ in on the circle.

Does your horse fade out of the circle? Then half pass back into the circle and keep the correct bend.

The rider is NOT to drop one of their shoulders.
Fix things with your seat and with your legs, not with your reins.
Keep the correct bend while you are fixing things.

Pirouette is a small HQ in on a circle.

People then played with the garrochas and were riding one handed and everything got a TON better! Everyone was now sitting on the inside of the bends, horses much improved lateral work as there was a purpose -and as Jeff said one hand only means 50% less mistakes.ย 

Plus now especially for lariat people, they could only really communicate through reins with their fingers so everything got a lot more subtle and refined. It’s a fast way to stop your bad habits. Horses movement improved literally in seconds once everyone switched. Great to watch.

Use a lariat and tie it to something like a sandbag.


In walk, your pelvis is to move right and left with your horse.
In trot you need to move right and left more, and only do rising trot when its too fast to do sitting trot. The humans lower body needs to be relaxed.
The angle of your pelvis when you sit on your horse has a HUGE impact. A forward tilted pelvis (you’ll feel a little hollow in your lower back), can put extra weight on your horses forehand. Your pelvis should be in a good straight neutral position.
When you do lateral moves, keep your body straight and not twisted. When you turn look where you are going. Keep your eyes up and pelvis straight.



Halt and sit up tall in your saddle.
Sit on your right seat bone then on your left seat bone.
Your shoulders / upper body should not move.
When you do this can you feel your horse move in any way?


If your pelvis is tipped forwards and you have an arch in your lower back then stops and backups are more difficult for your horse. Do NOT ride with your pelvis tipped forwards and it will not help your horses HQ to engage.
To ask your horse to backup, your pelvis should come over, like you’re sitting on your back pockets.
Walk with a neutral pelvis without your lower back having an arch. Does your horse walk out better? One horse here walked out a HUGE amount more ๐Ÿ™‚


Don’t move your legs at every step. Stop peddling.


1) Relax your pelvis, move right and left with your horse as he moves.
2) Relax your legs totally
3) Do not push your heels down and do not tense your heels up.
4) Can you notice any change in how your horse is moving?

Regarding flexibility, health and fitness, do you take as good care of yourself as you do of your horse? (you should really!).


Walk and relax your legs
Continue to move pelvis left and right in walk
Drop one shoulder down for a few steps
What happens with your horse?
Straighten up again. Now drop the other shoulder down for a few steps
What happens with your horse?

Some results:

When you drop shoulder your weight goes on that side and your horse can start to bend / turn. Some people also reported that when they dropped a shoulder their horses tensed up.


Walk and relax legs and neutral pelvis.
Not bring your arms back a lot (lengthen your reins to do this)
Is there any change in your horse?
People reported their backs were more tense and the horses were shortening their strides or stopping.


Not an arched pelvis, no hollow in lower back.
Relax your legs
Your pelvis to move left and right in both walk and sitting trot
Shoulders to be level
Arms not to be jammed back
This awareness is the difference between average and really good riders.
VIDEO YOURSELF to check all of this stuff!


Walk with a neutral spine, relax your legs. Now tip your head right and left without moving your shoulders and without tension in your back. What happens? People report that they feel out of balance.

When you look down, your head moves a lot. More weight is over the withes. Not good.

Riders observation: “We don’t think about what our bodies are doing”.

JEFF: “You can work on this stuff when you are not on your horse”.

Your seat sets the bend. Your legs set the direction. Your hands do as little as possible.

“Relax your back. You do not want tension in the muscles in your back”.

Anyone looking for sticks, you can get a bunch of willow sticks in IKEA.


Do a sideways exercise and play with where you leg is – further back, than normal. etc. How does it affect your horse?

Also do not ride in a chair position with your legs out in front. This can be caused by a saddle not being designed right (very common) or when you jam your heels down this makes your legs go forward too.


To see how many tracks your horse is on and if there is any drifting, video the horse moving towards the camera. To see if the rider is straight, video rider riding away from the camera.


Walk a few feet away from fence line, parallel to fence line. Then push the HQs closer to the fence for shoulder in.


Audibly hear every time you breathe in and out. “Hear yourself breathe. Exhale and relax”.


Horses do not just naturally become light. You get lightness by getting the result and then backing the pressure off. Horses get light by rewarding them when they get light. Most people over do it or under do it.


Get 2 great results in an exercise ten stop it. Do something else. Quit when you are ahead.

“Make a conscious effort to be aware of your breathing”.

Start every exercise with relaxation. Get your horse to relax while they are moving.


Do circle. Weight on inside seat bone. Shorten inside rein. Outside leg back to move HQs in.

“Sideways movements and rollbacks will help to build the core muscles your horses need for collection”.

“The walk is the training gait. The trot confirms that we’ve got it”.

“Start your exercises from relaxation. Also think about where your eyes are”.


There are a few ways to do it so it really depends on the horse. What works for one horse may not work for another horse.

1) Pick a voice cue
2) Hold halter knot. In halt or in trot.
3) Tap outside of lower hind leg & use voice cue. OR tap top of the far HQ.
4) Don’t let the horse move forwards (in trot you can trot up to a fence then ask)
5) Then tap other back leg
6) But the horse NEEDS energy to ask for this
7) Stop or trot off again and praise


HQ in
Shoulder out
leg yield
half pass

2 Responses to “Work on feeling the changes in your horse – Jeff Sanders UK clinic Aug 2015”

  1. Elaine says:

    Update: a great Jeff infused session with Oz this avo. You know (maybe its just me) when you go to a clinic and on day 2 or 3 you get some HUGE riding improvement and you can’t believe it, and you & your horse have NEVER ridden that nicely before, and you pray that you can get the same thing when you get home?

    This was like one of those day 2-3 clinic rides. So the BIG things in my head…

    1) Flat back and a neutral pelvis – this is NOT my normal habit! I kept checking and it kept tilting forwards. Really tried to focus on it a lot and when it was in the right place Oz walked out better ๐Ÿ˜€

    2) Relaxed legs. Yes when I thought of it ๐Ÿ˜€

    3) Hand just above mane, and just 2 cm/mm away from contact. Great. In hackamore I was riding too long, in rope halter I was riding too short at time. So this was much better, and it actually felt better too, more with the horse.

    4) Stick pointed straight up in the air, held like a pencil. Did it for a while then ditched it. Will use again.

    5) Look where I’m going.

    6) Weight on inside. I knew this from before but never really knew if I was doing it effectively. On this clinic Jeff said ‘put your weight up & over to right / left’. So I did this. Then I really felt my weight was on one side for the bends & circles. Lightbulb moment!

    7) Jeff had a great session with a horse & rider who he only wanted to do 1 HQ step. At the start the horse & rider were doing a lot of other steps, circles nearly etc. Jess was like – no – one step this way. If he goes the other way just stop him asap. So asking Oz for HQ in at halt today. Halt, slight bend in inside rein/neck. My weight on inside bend. Then outside leg back to push HQ over. Oz was like ..’wha….” and I got a lot of other moves… focused on jeff saying, just push him back to the original place with your legs. So we ended up squirming about but just in a very small area as Oz ‘offered’ what he thought I wanted. Then we got it!! Once just the vague idea. Second time good, and their time BINGO! Ozzie was mentally, emotionally and physically THERE!! It was awesome.

    8) Then like Jeff said, do something twice well then quit and no more of that. So we did and went back to focusing on me, flat back, weight on inside in a circle, and stopping with my body and rolling back on my pockets.

    So that was it. We were also both wearing our mojobands. Maybe that was it? ๐Ÿ˜€ Seriously – try out some stuff.

  2. Krisztina says:

    I can start if you like. Baja the horse you see in the picture is a dear frnied of mine. He is the laugh at the parrty in the kids camp. He is always having fun and wanting to play. When it comes to the finger painting he gets serious. He holds still for the kids to put their designs on him so that they can be proud of their work, Baja knows this is an honor to be painted by them and he holds as still as he can for them. I love him very much and he is dieing, I won’t have him with me here much longer, he has cancer. He is teaching me a lesson, love each day as it were your last, and enjoy the little things in life, They might make the difference that some one needs, He inspires me, and so does my other horse Willy who has over come the odds. They are my teachers and I never forget to be thankful for them touching my life. They make me try harder and never give up. Same as my first horse Digalow.

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