Jeff Sanders Clinic Report (Frankfurt Nov 2014) part 1

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.

Mecate (reins)

The mecate are the reins made from horse hair. They should be the same width as your hackamore. The end of the mecate is called the get down rope. You’ll need to adjust this length. If too long when horse is collected it can give unwanted signals to horse. Have it just long enough horse can turn his head to the other side freely. The get down rope goes on horse’s near side. Put on right side of your belt as it’ll swing less. Put it behind the saddle horn if your saddle has one.


Walk with lots of direction changes. Jeff is looking at rein use and each rider’s balance. Jeff rarely works on the rail (fence or wall at the side of the arena). You shouldn’t see path in the sand long the arena wall. Do lateral movements as well.

Lateral work at walk

The horses hind leg is to step sideways across AND towards under riders balance. Otherwise they are not engaging the hindquarters. Use small cues & be subtle.

JEFF: “Don’t let me see you signal your horse with your hands”

4 ways we can signal horse

– Seat – 1 most important. Only aid you can never remove. Your seat must be good.
– leg – 2 on list of importance
– hands 3/4 on the list
– voice 3/4 on the list

Lots of western rider move hands a lot. That is not the Californian tradition. That’s Texan! If you can see the person signaling to the horse, it is not a rider / horse.


Your seat sets the bend in the horse. Your legs tell horse the direction. Your hands reinforce what your seat and legs tell the horse. Your hands may be unnecessary.

Your voice is for:

1. Praise
2. Correcting horse (eg. Do not bite)
3. Helps with tempo (faster/slower)

Sit on inside of the bend. Use your legs to set the movement. Don’t go immediately to your reins. Move your fingers, not your arms.


The hackamore is designed to be 1 handed tool. You can hold it with either hand. If you rope you’ll probably hold the reins in your left hand, so your right hand is free to use the lariat. Put your left hand on reins. Use your right hand at end of rope. So while you only use 1 hand mainly, your second hand is very useful for adjusting the length of the reins. You can use your fingertips of your left hand.


Your horse’s spine moves right and left. So allow your lower body to move right and left. This is also like what it feels like riding down steep hills. The horses also move right & left in trot. So your body also goes right and left. Many top dressage riders don’t do this, they go up & down. This blocks the horses hind leg & impedes the horses movement. So in sitting trot think about your lower body going right and left. When you can’t keep up to the rhythm any more in sitting trot, go to rising trot.

Right left rhythm exercise

Feel this in walk and in slow trot. Feel for the moment when you need to go from sitting to rising trot. Think about your seat and where your weight is

Your seatbones move, your shoulders do not move

– Put your weight on your right seatbone. Your shoulders don’t move
– Put your weight on your left seatbone. Your shoulders don’t move
– Put your weight on the inside of the bend. The muscles on horse inside contract a little. If you touch your own ribs you’ll see your muscles naturally do the same thing.

“I bend my horse with my inside seat, not with my leg”

Shoulder In

This should be an even 4 track. Encourage your horse to step under + across. People ask why aren’t we doing a 3 track? 3 track in whats in the dressage tests. But shoulder in wasn’t intended to be judged. It was designed to improve the movement of the horse was initially a 4 track movement. The question to ask yourself is what angle gives most engagement of the hindquarters? Feel the hind leg/hip on the inside of bend drop. Then after a few steps, do a walk in a straight line.

180 degree forequarter yield / turn on the haunches

Keep the tempo. A slow horse, will not have much hindquarter engagement.

10.30 6 New Advanced Horses – All are experienced with Jeff.

90% of training is done in a 5/8 hackamore. If 5/8 excellent, can go to ½ width hackamore. You’re on the way to a bridle horse then. Do not go to a ½ hackamore to fix a problem. This is just the same as getting a bigger bit to fox a problem. A bad decision.

‘One handed’ Bubbling the reins to shorten and lengthen them.

This is preparation for a bridle horse. End tail off rope is downwards. There is a bubble at end of the rope, when you want to shorten rein.

Rollbacks Exercise.

Sit on the inside of the turn. When you turn left you can pick up left center lead. When you turn right you can pick up the right center lead.

“Don’t lean your body as it causes problems. Stay in middle of the saddle!!”

1.) Seatbone on inside of rollbacks.
2.) Rollback: release outside of rein.
3.) Jeff: “Look where you want to go.”
4.) Tempo of turn to match tempo of straight line before & after the turn. (But it must be suitable for your horses level of training)
5) Not always 180˚! Mix up what you ask your horse.

Theory session at 1.30pm: How to tie a hackamore

Look at this video on the Youtube ‘Modern Vaquero’ channel:

Use 1 wrap over the top of the reins. The strand at top to be straight. Untie the mecate every time after you ride to avoid kinks & avoid mold.

Wave to go through hackamore when you hold both ends & press it with your hands. Also it should snap back. Every good hackamore has a rawhide core. Use 3 wraps maximum before you pull the reins through. Jeff prefers 2 wraps. 4 wraps is not good.

You can use a 5/8 hackamore when the horse soft at walk/trot/canter, backup and turns. A small hackamore is called a bosal. Usually the width from one side to the other is 4 inches, and then the length varies depending on the horse. A sensitive horse needs a softer hackamore. But a nice average hackamore is good. When it’s too soft, you lose the signal to the horse. A hackamore will not melt in the rain. You can start a horse in a hackamore.

Rope Halter Problem

There is a Nerve behind the horses chin. The rope halter knot touches horses jaw & can put unwanted pressure on this nerve. That’s not good for training. It can cause the horse to raise head and cause tension at top/back or head/stiff at poll. A hackamore is a more refined tool. Use 1 fingers space in hackamore being the chin.

Rope halter is not an efficient way to communicate. It’s a little unsophisticated. A halter is hot great for training, but is fine for leading & tying up. If you pull on a hackamore, or open your arm wide to turn your horse, his head turns and tilt with the ears not being level any more (not good).

Snaffle Bit

Jeff prefers a French link bit to a snaffle. If a horse open his mouth, it’s because horse is pain in mouth. (Note, then strapping it shut with a flash/grackle, etc, is a pretty mean thing to do).

The snaffle is a 2 handed tool. This is not a refined way to communicate. If you pull with both hands when you are under pressure, or using it incorrectly, etc, it desensitizes the horse.


Good bridle horse = Great hackamore horse. Many horses prefer a straight bit as they can use their tongue to lift the whole bit off bars of mouth. Chains are often on the ends of the reins on a bridle horse. They are adjustable + good.

Bridle Horse: Your horse should be moving 90% from seat + legs already (and not your hands).

Snaffle bits were originally for driving a wagon, and were not for training horses. The modern dressage horse would die on the battle field. The modern reining / working cow horse would die in bullfight. Many western pleasure horse can’t be taken out of the arena.

3pm – Group 1 Intermediate Riders

The Baroque era horsemanship was taken from Spain to California. The Spanish had time, and they refined this. The Baroque era was the era of the highest horsemanship, due to the horses being owned by the warrior who was riding the horse into battle,

Shoulder in (and shoulder out at walk for beginners)

– The horse is stepping up + under behind
– Reach out with front leg
– Take horse 1 width away from fence, then move the hindquarters to the fence for shoulder in
– Do shoulder in, straight walk, THEN the exercise is complete!
– Don’t lose tempo
– Just a few steps of shoulder in
– Match your shoulders to horses shoulders
– Don’t do big open rein in shoulder in. not necessary if balance is good.

Give horse full release of the reins where not working.

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