Relaxed horses and happy youngsters at Oct Tanja Clinic 2017

By , October 25, 2017 4:01 pm

Tanja Penders was over for 3 very wet and windy days this October! Amazingly all the horses were very relaxed in the blustery weather and we all made a lot of progress and had a lot of fun. Here is my report of my two horses, 15 yo Ozzie and 4 yo Matilda.

If you’d like to ride at a future clinic please join our email list. Anything that doesn’t make sense below is 110% my fault. Thank you Tanja for another superb clinic.


With Ozzie, I didn’t have a specific goal… just to have fun with my horse, who I hadn’t ridden in five weeks as I was away with work.


I loved this morning session. I hadn’t ridden Oz in a while, so just being back in the saddle with my lovely little Connemara literally made my heart sing. I didn’t really mind what we were working on, I was just feeling really happy to be back with Oz again.
Oz was superb. We had slow walks and nice transition to medium energetic trot. We did lots of trots. I had actually forgot how much work we had put in for the September trot dressage tests, but it looked like Oz didn’t forget a thing! Now the goal for the afternoon is that we need a fast walk and a slow trot! Superb. Great horse. It was a absolutely pleasure to ride Oz this morning.


We did some groundwork. Tanja was playing with circles in trot and changing direction while keeping trot, so I decided to try this also. A few months ago, when we tried this in walk, in one direction Oz would often stop, and in the other direction Oz would often do a head shake. Crazy to think here are are doing this in trot – with no stops and no headshakes!

This move, in order to make it easy for the horse to read your body language, means the human has to figure out a few advanced feet movements.
– Ask your horse to circle around you.
– Keep everything exactly the same, except you are now walking backwards instead of forwards
– Do a backwards arc and stay walking backwards away form your horse, towards the centre of the circle. This arc part of this movement is especially important for horses who are doing this exercise for the first time, to make it easy for them.
– Walk straight backwards, hands at your waist until horse is walking straight to you
– Keep walking backwards and put on hand out to direction horse out in new direction
– The horse should move sideways away from you
– When horse has passed you, now you can walk forwards

This is easier written than doing in real life, but I got it in the end!

We did lots of nice big trots. It was great. Then Oz decided to quit. So Tanja rode him and trotted him around. Oz can fall in going to the left. So lots of small circles left and ask the hind to step under. Lots of figure 8s. I rode him afterwards and he was great – really really nice! Lots of trot, energy… beautiful.


On Saturday Oz was pretty mellow. We did lots of loose rein trotting both directions. So much fun.. all around the perimeter of the arena didn’t bat an eye at any spooky corners, really relaxed and lovely. We had a play with the garrocha as well for a little while which is always fun. As usual he was trying to headbutt it, which he enjoys doing.

We did some trotting over poles on the ground as well, the goal being to stay in the middle and look up. Oz had it down perfectly.


More lovely trotting around with Oz, he was totally mellow. To add a little energy, Tanja had me doing 1/3 of a circle rollbacks  on each long side of the arena.
– Trot off to the other lone side of the arena.
– As I approach the other long side wall, say Whoa, sit deep and stop not quite straight to the fence
– Roll back towards the fence
– Trot depart to the other long side
– Repeat
This got more energy going, Oz had some phenomenal trot to halts from my seat, and engaging his hindquarters
I have to relax my body and shoulders and not tense up especially in lateral work


Now that we had forwards trot, we needed the hind end stepping under and we needed soft feel in trot. This is all super stuff from our next trot dressage tests for the winter.
So we moved from loose rein trots to a more collected trot with being 1 mm away from contact. Tanja asked me to just vibrate the reins to ask for soft feel.

On circles, he is drifting out. To fix this I can ask him to step under with the inside hind. This was a bit tricky as he was intent on drifting out, so I had a lightbulb moment. Why not trot one handed with the bamboo? Nothing like a challenge for Oz’s rider 😀 This was super. I could use the bamboo and ask outside shoulder to stop drifting out. I could also use the bamboo to ask the inside hind to step under. And trotting on handed on circles is good practise for my garrocha work. Win-win!

We got some nice soft feel trots!

Another thing to fix was Oz drifting in, when he was supposed to be walking around the perimeter of the arena. So we walk around outside of arena. If he drifts in, I allow him to, ask him to so a very small circle and then back out again to the perimeter. I did this in walk and trot. Great for homework.

Then Tanja had a great idea. Why not try to ride without reins? Could Oz follow only my seat and leg cues? So the idea is that you just hold the buckle. My legs don’t move back or forwards. Ask inside hind to step under with my inside leg on the girth in time, and ask the inside front to step over with my outside leg on the girth, at the correct time. If I lose the bend through his body (e.g. he looks the opposite direction) use the rein for a split second but do it slowly.
We got moment of this and it was really cool!
What was even better was that his first ride after the clinic, this no reins just legs idea – he COMPLETELY understood and was amazing!


– With Oz, spend time with him not doing much, go for hacks and mix it up a bit.
– For more energy and collection in trot, trot to long sides, rollback and trot again
– Groundwork trot, change direction also in trot with me walking backwards
– Don’t let Oz fall in when trotting to the left
– Trot poles for fun
– Relax my body and shoulders
– Trot one handed with garrocha to fix falling in and ask inside hind to step under
– Ask for straight lines along edge of arena, if he drifts in do a small circle and back out, in walk and trot
– Circles and change direction with no reins

– In hand trot then leg yield and look for relaxation and a lower head


With Matilda, my main goal was to get her more relaxed in the higher energy groundwork. She tends to panic a bit in the trot to canter transition. I was happy to focus on this work for the weekend, as the ridden work ,and developing lightness and softness in the saddle I know what to do, as I’ve done it already with Oz.


Matilda tends to falls in on the right shoulder (right rein). Also we need walk to trot transitions when asked for, and the same back to walk. Going to trot Matilda tends to hang back a bit. Also need to get her happier to touch hind upper legs. She’s not scared about them, but if you touch one when she’s moving you often get a tail swish. Also we need to ask her to walk towards you (while you walk backwards) and not be hanging back.

After all that being said, Matilda was calm, relaxed, happy, mellow and lovely to work with. I ask Tanja to work with her for each session, and I’d watch and take notes and write down my homework!


Tanja and Matilda did trot figure 8s, the goal was for Matilda not to hang back, and Tanja played with her energy, on the edge of Matilda’s comfort zone to build her confidence.


Today was really windy & noisy! It was a lot to ask any horse to be calm and concentrate. But Matilda had a lot of confidence and it wasn’t an issue.

Tanja did trot circles and changed direction in trot. These were very nice. Matilda broke into canter once by herself and it was absolutely beautiful. We have to to work on less tail swishes when anything comes need her hind legs.


Matilda was still hanging back a bit, so Tanja was walking backwards, with big steps and a short-ish rope, twirling rope on a stick to ask M for fast walk or trot. Matilda started to get much lighter now off the feel or the lead rope. Super.

Tanja played today with mixing up the circle trots up with random lateral work. Doing a little bit of lots of stuff. If Matilda was getting more emotional in the faster work, then switch to lateral work and she relaxes back down.

On the canters, Tanja reckoned that when Matilda gets on the wrong canter lead it worries her and this is part of the issue.


I did some work today with Matilda! I asked her to circle and then I turned backwards and walk backwards away from her, and Matilda to followed me at a trot and did not hang back – really very good!

Then I gave her back to Tanja!

To help with the trot to canter transitions, Tanja put out a pole on the ground.

Tanja also was looking for more relaxation in trot. She asked M to lower her head in trot and got the MOST AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL trot from Matilda for about half a circle. It was so eye-catching! You’d post this trot from half a field away and wonder how owned that horse!

Tanja also did:

– Circle on left rein, and ask her to canter with the pole. For now don’t do this on the right rein.
– Trot hand in circles, especially on the right rein, and ask for sideways as I want to see more stretching out in trot. Sideways will help her to fall in less.
– Do different speed trots
– Circle and change rein and circle on the ground
– Circle and leg yield out esp on right
– Rub her hind end when walking around for less tail swishing
– In hand trot then leg yield and look for relaxation and a lower head – for both Matilda and Ozzie
– She said I was to talk to Matilda as she really listens


– Trot towards me and don’t hang back
– Trot and canter over pole on left rein
– Trot and leg yield out on right rein
– Do different speed trots
– Rub her hind end when walking around for less tail swishing
– In hand trot then leg yield and look for relaxation and a lower head – for both Matilda and Ozzie
– Talk to Matilda as she really listens

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