“Don’t reward when he’s trying to take over” – Ozzie notes from Steve Halfpenny June 2015

By , July 2, 2015 12:01 pm

Day 1 – Ozzie lessons with Steve Halfpenny – “Don’t reward when he’s trying to take over”

STATE OF MIND OF HORSE: Opinionated, worried, fed up at times!

We had a great day 1 in Tipperary with Steve. I didn’t get a chance to write up everyones sessions, but here’s what I learned to help Ozzie and me get better. Oz has two starting places. We have “calm and half asleep Ozzie”. He is normally like this at home. And we also have “full of energy, worried and wants to take over”. He’s like this sometimes at home (maybe 1/25 times), more so in the winter months when he’s fed up with the weather and annoyed in general. Today we started with energy, worried and distraction. This was actually great as I need help and practise to get him back to a more managable mindset & emotional state.

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GROUNDWORK

1. POSITION IN GROUNDWORK – BOTH SIDES TO BE THE SAME: On the ground, my position on the ground on the off side is fine, I’m pushing Oz forwards, walking towards this shoulders. On the near side, I did something different and instead I am positioned a little too far forwards! Which isn’t optimal. So I need to fix this all times I’m on the ground with Oz. I need to think about being closest to Ozzies hind end rather than his front end.

2. YOU’LL FEEL MORE ABOUT YOUR HORSE IF YOU REMOVE THE SLACK FROM YOUR ROPE FOR A WHILE: On the ground, if you have a long rope your horse may be braced but you will never feel it. So use your rope as a connection to your horse (not slack) and feel of your horse to see if you can feel a brace or rushing in your horse during the groundwork. To ask your horse to stop, do not swing the end of the lead rope, instead just slow down and allow him to stop straight beside you (not disengaging the Hqs).

3. DON’T FORGET YOUR ALWAYS TRAINING YOUR HORSE: Sometimes I’m particular with Oz. But I need to be more particular. And when I’ve finished, I just walk about & forget Oz is still on the end of the lead rope. And I don’t realise I’m teaching him things I don’t want to at the end of a session.

4. SHOULDER IN: Walk and do shoulders in at the fence line. Both Ozs head and my body are at the fence. Ozzie’s head is further along the fence line and we do 4 tracks shoulder in down the fence. IF Oz is moving fine, stop swinging the rope!

5. SHOULDER IN AND BE CAREFUL OF CUES AND TIMING: Trot and do shoulders in at the fence line. Both Ozs head and my body are at the fence. Ozzie’s head is further along the fence line and we do 4 tracks shoulder in down the fence. If Oz is already trotting, stop swinging my rope!

6. DO NOT REWARD WORRY OR TAKING OVER! If Oz tries to take over or get worried, ignore any messing and keep at it (shoulders in in trot) until his body changes and he relaxed and then rest. My old bad habit is when Oz gets worried I back off. So Oz learns that I’ll back off and he is training me and its enforcing his ‘worried / taking over’ behaviour. And that’s not what I want!

7. IN HAND WORK: Face backwards and put nearest hand upside down on knot below halter. Ask horse to walk with soft feel. Ask horse to backup with soft feel. Always keep that hand on the halter knot very gentle. If you need more ‘go’ or ‘backup’, then use a rope or stick in your other hand to help out. Get it really smooth in walk.

8. IN HAND WORK IN TROT: Do the same as previous exercise.

9. GET THROUGH TROUBLE: If Oz is escaping by going in direction X, ask him to go in the opposite direction instead. When Oz tries to take over, do not stop what I’m doing and reward the mess. Instead keep at it, ignore the mess and reward when he changes and relaxes.

10. “If you lead a horse (walk in front of a horse) they make think they are driving you.”

RIDING

11. SEMI SERPINTINES – VERSION 2.0: So I came back from Bucks clinic and did a ton of semi serpentines. The only (major) problem was that Oz was now falling in the inside shoulder EVERYWHERE! Agh. SO yes you can do too many semi serpentines if you’re falling into them! So Steve changed it… instead push the horses shoulders out of the circle (think leg yield out) and then after this do your turn back on the circle. Much better.

12. DISMOUNTING: Due to history of dodgy saddles Oz gets worried now when I prepare to dismount. So instead for now I’m swinging a leg over the front of the saddle and sliding off. Works fine.

DAY 2 – Steve with Ozzie

STATE OF MIND OF HORSE: Good in the early morning. Then he got opinionated, worried, fed up at times and was a bit reactive rather than responsive. Great to have Steve here again for all this to get help.

QUESTION TIME:

When Oz tries to escape through a manouvre, ask him to go in the opposite direction.
If he starts to get worried in trot, keep him in trot and ask him to trot in circles, change direction, shoulder in, etc. But keep him in trot. When he chills out and ONLY when he chills out, back to walk and relax.

SESSION 1:

GROUNDWORK

Did a little groundwork (from yesterdays session) before the clinic started and all was good. Oz calm, relaxed and listening 🙂

MORNING RIDING:

Rode in the bareback pad and the halter.

SHOULDER IN: Worked on walk to shoulder in down the fence line. Wasn’t great but we got it better. Oz tended to bulge out his leading shoulder. To stop this use same rein to slow it down. Catchup with the inside hind if the HQ is being left behind. RELEASE when I get it. I was forgetting to release.

CIRCLE: Doing a circle, your horses front legs are on one circle. Your horses hind legs are on a larger outside circle. So walk on circle, then move into HQ yield by pushing hind legs outwards, and then move this into backup.

DO SHOULDER IN IN TROT: Got a lovely one!

SCARY TRACTOR DOING HAY:
If something scares horse, back him away still facing it,and when horse offers to stop allow him to.

HIGH JINKS: If Oz starts his high jinks / taking over… keep asking at same pace until there is a change and the messing stops.

AFTERNOON GROUNDWORK:

Started a little GW with a bit of determination. I had been tip toeing a bit earlier. Cos Oz gets a btit messy when we go faster he’s taught him not to push too many of his buttons. Grh! No more. So I said to Steve in this session I’d like to stop tip-toeing, but as I said it the spectators said I had fied this already 😀

Secondly I said I’d like to work more on dealing with Oz when he was messing and bouncing about. Happily Oz soon began bouncing around and I got to practise!

DO NOT RELEASE WHEN HORSE MESSING OR BRONCING ABOUT: Oz felt like he had a lot of energy so decided to work through it on the ground for this session and see how we went. Started to do shoulder in in trot along the fence line. Some bits ok-ish. Lots of messing and jumping about, bouncing about, messing and legs in the air by my lovely horse. It was like an aerobics display 😀 So I kept at it, in trot doing shoulder in (or Ozzie’s variations thereof) and kept asking while he messed about, and then we had a rest when he stopped messing and did it properly. After a while Steve asked me was it getting better. I said I got good bits but then back to messy bits so it was a bit up and down. So Steve kindly asked if he might try and I said DEFINITELY!

MESSING IN TROT MEANS OZ CONTINUES TO TROT: So Steve kept Oz trotting. He moved away from the fence and got lots of changes of direction in trot on the ground, every time Oz would try and take off Steve would block him and then change direction. Oz was hilarious because he’d go to take off one direction and then stop him about 2 cms from the point where he was going to run into the end of the lead rope. It was quite funny to see. Oz’s bring was 100% engaged! Steve said he’s really smart! Kept at this for a few minutes and things started to change. Messing stopped and calm horse returned, really focused on Steve. Steve remarked that in the past he used back off a horse he had, when things got a bit worried / messy. Until someone told him he was rewarding his horse for getting worried!

DO MORE INHAND WORK: Steve worked a bit with in hand circles with Oz. Steve said I need to do a lot more inhand work with Oz as its a great way to feel the brace and then help address it. On a lead rope its harder to feel the brace. I did more with Oz then. More trots, circles, with bend. And we got two shoulder ins, in trot with NO messing!! Yay!

IN HAND FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS: Then worked on groundwork hand on halter knot – forwards and backwards. I asked for 4-5 steps forwards / back at the start and Oz leaned badly. So then I asked for 1 step forwards and backwards. MUCH better results with massively reduced leaning.

IN HAND TROT CIRCLES: As front inside foot about to leave, pick up inside rein a little as this will encourage outside hind (diagonal pair) to move out a little. Get proper bend on circle. The golden nugget: If I end up doing a very small circle – PUSH Ozs shoulders out as he’s pushing in on me. Circle needs to be not tiny!! This changes a LOT.

IN HAND TROT CIRCLES LOWER HEAD:

Same circles with hand on halter knot under chin, asking head to lower down. Make sure circle isn’t small.

STEVE DEMO:

In hand work on halter knot: Circle Oz. Then move the HQs out. Then backup. Then push FQ away from me, then walk on.

DAY 3: CHANGE OF VENUE.

STATE OF MIND OF HORSE: As cool as cucumber all day long. Happy, listening, calm and wonderful.

Caught Oz so he was back to normal today. Put on the bareback pad and halter immediately and jumped on! Great to be back riding again! Now time for some fun!

I’ve inadvertently taught Oz to tense up his neck and raise up his head a little as we halt. So while riding we worked on “walk to halt” and as he starts to think halt I loosen the reins and allow him to stretch his neck and head down a little into halt. This was great as while I knew he did this a little, now I know its one of the big CRITICAL things I have to always watch out for and fix with him in the next few weeks.

Next up, we started on counter bends. Woohoo!! We are officially on manouvres!

So:

– Walk forwards
– Leg yield out a little (moving to the left) and make sure I get this softness through the bend & body
– Keep the footfall rhythm
– Keep the forwards
– Now while keeping the bend and the sideways, move the front feet a little more to the left so they are on a bigger circle now than the Hqs
– Get a step of two and then circle to the right with the normal / existing bend
– Ride a straight line
– Change bend
– Do it all again in the opposite direction

Overuse of hands:
In general I am over using my hands. This is what happens:

– Oz leans and pulls on the reins
– I then pull on the reins to ask him to stop leaning
– He leans more and after a while gets fed up and head roots

This is what I need to do instead which works really well:

– Oz leans and pulls on the reins
– I put on one leg and ask him to go sideways. This dramatically reduces both forwards mvt and the leaning
– If Oz does this great we’ve solved the leaning problem
– If Oz ignores my leg and keeps moving forwards and leaning, I do NOT change any rein stuff, instead I use end of rope of similar to on his side once to move him out. Reins stay light. Oz moves sideways and leaning stops. Genius!

HUGE BIG LESSONS THIS MORNING:

– Do not reward stifness in neck any time. Watch for this all the time.
– Do not get heavy with hands if Oz leans. Instead go sideways and have the end of a rope handy to help my legs if I need it.

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DAY 3 AFTERNOON:

Do NOT ask Oz to collect at halt, as he just tenses up his neck. Instead mount up, and then go for a walk and the softness and mvt in his body will naturally soften his body up and relax him.

This stiffness in Ozs neck is the biggest issue that Steve said he would fix if Oz was his horse.

During counter bend and all mvts, just forget about the reins as far as possible. Ask with my legs and body and backup with a string if Oz ignores me. Do NOT start to pull on reins no matter what.

If Oz stick his head out to the right, give him a dig in the ribs on the left with my leg, instead of bumping on the reins.


DAY 1 TO 4 LESSONS RECAP – SHORT VERSION:

GROUNDWORK

MY POSITION: I am fine when I walk on Ozs off side. When I walk on his near side, I need to be closer to his Hqs, I am too close to the front of his body. I need to push Oz, rather than ever lead or pull him during groundwork.

IN HAND SOFTNESS IN A STRAIGHT LINE: Put my hand on the halter knot as I face backwards. Ask Oz to step forwards and backwards keeping my hand soooooo light & gentle. If Oz gets stuck, use end of lead rope to help him. If Oz leans, do fewer steps as he finds this easier.

NO SNEAKING ABOUT: Don’t tie toe around Oz. Do my groundwork like I mean it!

ESCAPING: If Oz escapes out during an exercise, as him to do the opposite manouvre.

WORRIED HORSE OR TRYING TO TAKE OVER: Keep him in the same gait we started in (often trot) and keep him moving in trot (regardless of what leaping about he is doing on 2 legs!) maybe changing directions shoulder in, hoosh him on if he slows down, slow him down if he wants to speed up and I have to keep pushing him and running until he stops messing. I CANNOT release him while is jumping about having a ‘moment’ as if I do it just rewards this unwanted behaviour.

TROT WITH RELAXED NECK: face forwards, hand about a foot down lead rope, stand near HQ. Ask Oz to bend around me and move into a trot circle. Looking for bend in body, Oz moving out from me, and encouraging head and neck to lower a little and relax.

TROT IN HAND WITH RELAXED NECK: Put my hand on the halter knot as I face backwards. Will be moving into trot on a circle. Halter rope about a foot long. Push Oz out into circle. If circle gets too small I’ve lost sideways so hoosh him out with rope or by moving out Hqs. Better on left rein. Same on right rein. Likely we have no sideways. Fix this by pushing out Hqs a lot, and I can fix up the relaxed neck after I’ve got the circle bend ok.

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RIDING

SHOULDER IN: 4 track shoulder in. If the leading shoulder bulges, block it with the same rein, or maybe catchup the Hqs. If one part of horse is stuck, to fix it make the other part of the horse go faster.

LESS REINS: Release more / less use of reins in ridden work. More leg, seat and use end of rope if needed.

SHOULDER IN: Do trot to shoulder in. Got a lovely one of these on day 1 or 2 before Oz threw a wobbley 😀

SOFT NECK: Walk to halt – focus on setting it up for a soft and relaxed neck during this. Head not to be stuck in the air.

COUNTERBENDS:

– Walk forwards
– Leg yield out a little (moving to the left) and make sure I get this softness through the bend & body
– Keep the footfall rhythm
– Keep the forwards
– Now while keeping the bend and the sideways, move the front feet a little more to the left so they are on a bigger circle now than the Hqs
– Get a step of two and then circle to the right with the normal / existing bend
– Ride a straight line
– Change bend
– Do it all again in the opposite direction

DAY 4:

STATE OF MIND OF HORSE: As cool as cucumber all day long. Happy, listening, calm and wonderful.

GROUNDWORK:

IN HAND SOFTNESS IN A STRAIGHT LINE: Put my hand on the halter knot as I face backwards. Ask Oz to step forwards and backwards keeping my hand soooooo light & gentle. If Oz gets stuck, use end of lead rope to help him. If Oz leans, do fewer steps as he finds this easier. Get forwards as good as backwards. Get this up to a trot.

TROT IN HAND WITH RELAXED NECK:
Put my hand on the halter knot as I face backwards. Will be moving into trot on a circle. Halter rope about a foot long. Push Oz out into circle. If circle gets too small I’ve lost sideways so hoosh him out with rope or by moving out Hqs. Better on left rein. Same on right rein. Likely we have no sideways. Fix this by pushing out Hqs a lot, and I can fix up the relaxed neck after I’ve got the circle bend ok.

RIDING: HACKAMORE AND BAREBACK PAD

SOFT NECK: Walk to halt – focus on setting it up for a soft and relaxed neck during this. Head not to be stuck in the air. Do not ask for collection at the halt. As Oz moves he’ll soften up his body.

CIRCLES WITH BEND AND HARDLY ANY REIN: Use my legs to get circles. Use end of get down rope of legs arenot doing the job. Do NOT pull on reins. As I get lateral flexion, vertical fleion will follow.

TROT EVERY DAY: Work on circles with bend and hardly any rein in hackamore.

WALK TO HALT: Think ‘soft neck’ and do what I can to prepare Oz for this.

LESS HANDS ALWAYS.

HALT TO HQ IN:

Halt. Move HQ a step right with head in straight line.
Halt. Move HQ a step right with head 1 degree to the right.
Halt. Move HQ a step right with head 3 degrees to the right.
Halt. Move HQ a step right with head 5 degrees to the right.
Halt. Move HQ a step right with head 10 degrees to the right.

WHATS FOR THE FUTURE? Steve said he’d never seen Oz move so well as he does currently in the Grandeur bareback pad. Steve also said I do not need to use the halter any more. Use the hackamore all the time. You can’t pull on the reins on a hackmore. He reckons Buck doesn’t like people using hackamore because they still pull on the reins.

RESHAPE HACKAMORE: Hackamore needs to fit like a glove on horse nose. I need to reshape mine a little and it’ll ift more snugly.

DAY 4 AFTERNOON:

GROUNDWORK: TROT IN HAND WITH RELAXED NECK: Put my hand on the halter knot as I face backwards. Will be moving into trot on a circle. Halter rope about a foot long. Push Oz out into circle. If circle gets too small I’ve lost sideways so hoosh him out with rope or by moving out Hqs. Better on left rein. Same on right rein. Likely we have no sideways. Fix this by pushing out Hqs a lot, and I can fix up the relaxed neck after I’ve got the circle bend ok.

I was practising this and while it was good on the left rein, it was awful on the right rein. Oz kept pushing in on me and I was having trouble moving him out so asked Steve to have a look. Oz was indeed like a plank, so poot Steve had to run around with him moving out his HQ a lot to get him to bend and move out on the circle. Then he got a nice big circle, bend in horse, horse yielding out and starting to relax. HUGE change. If Oz rushes, move himout. If Oz is sluggish, use rope behind him to move him on.

RIDING: HACKAMORE AND BAREBACK PAD

Holy moly our riding went up a few levels in this session!!! I had both mecate reins in one hand and wasn’t doing very much with them. Instead we were doing circles with my legs and backing up anything that was stuck with my free hand holding the get down rope and dangling it on either side of Oz as needed to move him sideways a little.

This was AMAZING!! No pulling. Soft neck. Easy relaxed walk. No falling in on circles. Horse cool as custard!! And I even had a photographer there to take photos what were the odds!!

Steve said Oz was looking like his horse!!! OMG!

If during this, Oz was bent one way by his mind was slightly going the other way, use it and do a counter bend and then walk off again. OWN IT! Genius.

Definitely the best ridden work I’ve done to date. And my horse is amazing, never thought we’d get this far lol!

Thank you Steve and Irena and 100% without your help Oz & I would not be doing even 1/10 of what we achieved this weekend. With a great horse and a great teacher, everything is possible!

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