Steve Halfpenny Silversand Clinic – Tipperary Report

By , December 24, 2013 12:15 pm


Here is my report of how we got on at the Silversand clinic with the legendary Steve Halfpenny in Tipperary. I couldn’t keep track of what every else was doing but here is what myself and Oz got up to today at day 1 of the Silversand clinic. Bloody brilliant is all I can say so far.


1. You want your horse to be really confident and brave, but not really desensitised. Ideally you want them really brave and really sensitive. So we did a run through of scary stuff. We pretended we robbed a bank and ran at our horses, threw ropes all over and made a lot of energy. Oz was a legend, stood fast asleep for all of it. Steve wanted to know how long it took me to train that into him as he was the total opposite last year. YYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYY!

One big thing I had to remember to do, was to bring up my energy before I cue the horse to go off somewhere so they have a bit of warning.

2. Ask horse to circle around you, with CORRECT (cough!) bend. At the start Oz had the feet moving the right way, but the bend was all wrong. He turned into a completely different looking horse after we did this exercise (pics below).

Basicially when horse circles around you,

– have a little but not too much bend in the neck
– have shoulders out from you a bit to get bend through body
– horses HQs to be the thing the furthest distance away from you

Oz tended to over bend his neck and also keep the HQs in. Steve was a bit amazed that he was soft enough to overbend his neck and reckoned Oz was 1000% better than last year YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!! (we’ll work on the overbending). To get the HQs to move out, bump lead rein when outside hind about to lift off the ground and watch you don’t just get a bendy neck instead – get to the feet. If horse rushing, stick your hand out in front of him to slow him down. Get the right shape in your horses body.

When asking for HQ yield, DO NOT STEP AWAY FROM THE HORSES FRONT END (which I didnt realise I was doing).

3. Soften with hand under bottom of halter. My backups had been not really soft, and then reason for this I saw was Oz wasn’t soft in front before I started. So Steve got Oz REALLY soft in front, and OH MY GOD we did circle backups with NOTHING in my hands. Incredible. Incredible. Incredible. Never had it as good before. Steve says’ that’ really good Elaine you know!’ The softness & lightness blew me away.

To backup a circle, tip head away from you and walk towards horses shoulder nearest you and HQs away from you. Get horse to do small circle.


4. Hopped up in saddle and 1 rein. Did 10 lateral flexions on both sides. Ok on near side, moved feet after about 5 on off side. ???

Then we wanted to do circle with bend like on the ground, so worked on using inside rein to ask for neck bend, inside leg to ask for shoulder/ribs softness and also had spare end of the rope to help out where needed. Technically should have woke don paper, but Oz started to get his own ideas about what he wanted to do and wasn’t listening, so had to go back to basics and get control of the feet by doing the following:

– 3 steps backwards
– 3 steps forwards
– 1 or 2 steps backwards and do FQ yield
– walk forward

Everytime he rushed in the walk then backup and repeat the above. Got his mind back a bit more by the end, and hope to do all the nice softness and bend in circle tomorrow again.

But FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAB day. That horse is just turning inside out and thank God Steve reackons he’d getting better!



Brought Oz out for a bit of groundwork. Did a little walking around in circles looking for correct bend, and HQs to be furthest away. He was a bit distracted so Steve suggested I up the energy. So I stood in front of him, and got him to go fast right and left. (halt – canter- halt) and bring his energy down then again asap. I was leaving before him though. Once I got him to leave with him, he really started blow up a bit and got some really fast high energy stuff as he was losing his mind a bit, so Steve took over. Steve also got some really high fast stuff (galloping tiny circle, by God that horse has some use of himself!) but was heaps more on the ball and soon had Oz listening and going exactly when he was going, in walk and in turns. When they’d turn they’d face each other and Steves hips and Oz’s shoulders would mirror each other. Then I tried and yup he was a lot more mentally there.

Anyway, that was all quite exciting, so put on the tack and hopped into the saddle. Lateral flexion on both sides, better than yesterday. So tried walking around with flexion on circle. Borrowed Steve’s stick to use on Oz’s inside to encourage shoulder to move out and also to stop Oz’s nose from bending inwards too much. Got a few nice ones every so often. Then backup. To backup when riding:

1. Soft feel by doing little lateral type flexions using right and left rein one at a time. When horse drops his head a fraction, release until when you pick up reins heads drops and softens. Then do not increase rein pressure but doing something with your seat (shoulders up & back, weight in heels, tap chest with stick) to get horse to think ‘backwards’. Once horse moves his weight (not even a foot) release. I really liked this.

Anyway, I asked Steve if he’d like to ride, so he said yes.

Poor Steve.

Steve got really accurate with asking Oz what foot he wanted where, and Oz got totally annoyed and fed up at being told what to do.

– When Steve said walk on nicely, Oz would walk on maybe one step ok, then rush off in a walk (fast walk). Steve would change it into a HQ yield, followed by a backup, followed up a FQ yield then ask Oz to walk off calmly again a few direction. One step later Oz would be rushing off, so same again, HQ yield, backup, FQ yield, etc.
– When Steve said go from halt to walk (life up, shoulders forwards), Oz would go backwards. Steve would keep gently nudging him with legs (v lightly) until Oz went through whatever other moves he wanted to do and took 1 step of walk. Then he got a rest.
– When Steve said walk, Oz might walk but would walk off crooked in another direction. So Steve would back him up, Oz would lean on rein, Steve would back him up more, and ask him for 1 step in other direction to the one he wanted to go. Five mins later of Oz leaning, going wrong ways, etc, Steve backing him up, Oz would eventually take 1 step the way Steve wanted. Then he’d get a rest.
– Basically everything Steve asked Oz to do, Oz would do some totally different move, go the opposite way, or offer something he’d done 5 mins previously which was totally different. If Steve corrected him and told him not to do that, Oz got more wound up & frustrated. So Steve used to let him do his manouvres (except leaning – that always resulted in a backup) but kept asking for what he wanted and quit when he got 1 step of what he wanted.
– Oz was totally frustrated at being told what to do, shook his head in disgust after Steve gave him a rest each time, and Steve reckoned at one point z was about to lie down in a huff.
– Steve got it so at the end when he leaned forwards Oz would take a step forwards. When he asked for backup he got a nice backup step with softness. When he walked forwards, he got a relaxed calm, not a rushing off walk. Oz still shook his head each time in annoyance though.
– Anyway the upshot of it all was that Oz will probably take a few years work (!) and I’ll have no choice but to get a lot better along the way as he is a challenge. Great stuff tho. He reckoned Ray Hunt used to say about these type of horses, that one day you’ll be very thankful that they came along to teach you. I think he’s right.

OZZIE DAY 3 – groundwork

Today we had 1 hour before lunch, then another hour after lunch. The two Connies together!! (Ozzie and his cousin ‘lad’, who both look very similiar and would both have their own ideas on things!). It was like double trouble 😛 but no bother for Steve 😀

At the beginning Oz wasn’t listening. So my first job was to get him listening to me. I faced Oz. When my hips start to turn, his shoulders should also turn, mirroring the movement of my body. If Oz was distracted (which he was) getting him to do one fast (i.e. I do it, he ignores me, I push him to canter off quick, he wakes up and starts to listen) really works. Just one or two though till he’s awake, otherwise he starts to get over emotional and race about and I lose his mind again.

So using slow work:

MIRROR – concentration & focus

1. Face Oz
2. move my hips and push his shoulders
3. his shoulders move like a mirror with me
4. we walk off together
5. Hold up rope a little to stop and get HQ yield. Don’t step away from Oz’s front end and don’t stoop and swoop or bend down (if twas a stallion, you’d get killed). Here you’ll use an indirect rein instead (your rein moves horses opposite hind leg).

THIS WAS GREAT!! Once he woke up after that one fast move at the start. Oz got very light and I was only using the rope as a feel, never pulled on it.

BACKUP – softness

Now I had been doing backups before, and they hadn’t been great. I had been trying to get a soft feel and backup, but my soft feel was never really that soft, so my backups were average and definitely not what they should have been.

So Steve showed me how to do the soft feel with Oz. WWWHHOOOOOOAAA!! Amazing. Got really soft and light, and no braces in Oz’s body. :-*

Then once we got this AND ONLY IF WE GOT IT REALLY SOFT!!!!!!!!! (note to self, don’t backup at all if not soft, there’s no point), we backed up in a circle. To backup in a circle, push the horses head away from you, the font leg furthest away from you should step out to the side and the hindleg nearest you should step in. Goal is to do a small circle not a massive one. A massive one means the horse is braced in his body and not soft.

First up here Oz went back really fast. REALLY fast aka TOOOO fast. He was using the backup I’d taught him to EVADE doing as I wanted, eg nice calm relaxed backup. The bugger was intent on escaping backwards. So Steve had a look & took over, and made Oz go even FASTER backwards. Heehee. That was fine for about a circle or two, then Oz got fed up and went back to a slower more ploddy/bracey backup. When Steve got a step of nice backup with softness and no brace or running away he gave Oz a rest.

Bugger thought Oz. That didn’t work.

I took over then again, and did some lovely really soft light backups with Oz. YYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!! I really mean it was like backing up fresh air.

With Oz I have to watch EVERY FOOT and correct EVERY STEP if it wasn’t EXACTLY what I had asked for. (eg. walk straight, not walk and veer 15 degrees to the right)

OZZIE DAY 3 – riding

Steve reckoned that riding in a circle and looking for the right bend was too much for Oz’s head to handle at the minute.

So I tacked up, trotted about, tightened girth, trotted about and hoped up. My plan was to ride him exactly as Steve had done yesterday. Steve has said yesterday that he probably wouldn’t be much better today. He also said he’d only met 2 or 3 horses likes him, and that he was 1 in a million, and that I’d really want to like all the good stuff about him to be able to put up with the work he was going to take to bring on. Hmmmmm!!

1. Soft feel at halt. My hands were low and wide, and I tried to copy what I’d do to ask for soft feel when standing beside him. Did small lateral flexions one at a time on both sides until his head dropped and the front of his body softened. BINGO. Then I released (long reins again) and he got to chill out for a while.

2. Get soft feel as per above. Then ask for 1 step backwards. DO NOT PULL / INCREASE PRESSURE ON REINS. Instead, weight in heels, tip shoulders back and wait until you feel a change in your horses balance backwards, then release and reward the thought.

Today Oz was not as argumentative at all like yesterday. He still threw in random moves into the mixture, but more just for the sake of it, not because he was getting frustrated. They were easy to ignore.

3. Soft feel and forwards. If Oz rushes when walking forwards, try to slow down his feet with each rein (front feet). If that doesn’t work, HQ yield 90 degrees, backup, FQ yield a little and walk off again in new direction. If Oz walks off ok but doesn’t go straight, backup and take 1 step in the opposite direction to where he was going towards. Eg if he was tending to walk a little right, backup and take one step left then release and have a rest.

REALLY GREAT SESSION TODAY. Oz was trying hard. Got really good softness and no arguing. We still had some random extra moves every now and again, but Oz wasn’t getting frustrated or wound up like yesterday and very little head tossing during rest periods (he as doing them every time yesterday).



Today Ozzie was an ABSOLUTE LEGEND. First up groundwork.

1. I asked him to moves his shoulders away, walk out on a circle, little bend in neck but don’t over bend, keep shoulders out and HQs furthest away. He did it PERFECTLY FIRST TIME.

2. Then I got a soft feel (easy) and backed him in a small circle. PERFECT AGAIN 1ST TIME. He was totally light, soft, listening not rushing, etc. LITERALLY PERFECT!!!!!

At this stage I nearly fell over in shock!! :-/

About 3 mins into our lesson and we were ready to ride.

– I don’t need to flex Oz to get up, that’s mainly for younger green horses.
– stood still for a minute or two.
– soft feel at halt. hands wide & low, do small lateral flexions and release when head drops. BINGO.
– soft feel & 1 step backup.
– soft feel and 1 step forwards.
– soft feel and backup 1/4 circle.
– soft feel, walk straight line. If not straight, backup and then take 1 step the other way. If leaning, backup till horse softens. Release ONLY when soft.

No messing from Oz, no arguments, no random stuff. Oz was brilliant. 😎

(good DVD – Buck B, the making of a bridle horse)

We finished up for lunch. At 2pm, as Oz was going so well, I asked Steve if he’d like to ride him again just to give me a few more ideas of what other stuff I could be going on with. Steve kindly said he would.

1. lateral flexion. Release only when ears are level. You can help by asking using leg on the same side you want the flexion, to push the ribs out of the way and encourage the head to come around. if horse moves hind and you had no leg on, make hind go very fast.

2. forequarter yield. First get lateral flexion. Then you sit opposite hind leg (think of a wooden stool) so horse will pivot on that. Bring your elbow back. Bump with outside leg if needed.

3. walk circle. Looking for nose to be on the inside, then give it back once you have it.

4. lateral flex – HQ yield – stop with flex still there – shift my weight and elbow back – FQ yield 1 step, walk on or rest.

5. Hold one end of a long rope and walk in a circle, will help shoulders not to fall in.

6. Circle with rope, move HQ out a little, keep walking, move FQs back so on circl eagain, walk on.

Then I hopped back on Ozzie again.

– asked for softness & got it.
– if he goes back unasked, make him go backwards quickly
– softness
– walk on straight
– backup 1 step
– lateral flexion, HQ yield, lateral flexion, FQ yield 1 step, walk on.

BEST EVER RIDDEN WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oz was listening, soft and round. LOVELY.

I was totally chuffed.

One or two speccys remarked on how round and soft he was, and at one stage, I had asked him to go back when he was soft at halt, and I don’t think the cue I did was that visible so that was quite impressive too. YAAAYYY!! I also very very chuffed with Oz when the pony club girls made a big fuss of him and patted him all over in the field and he was god as gold, when Dave picked up his feet to have a look when he was loose in his paddock (wasn’t bothered) and when Steve rode him and threw lassos on the ground and around him and he didn’t blink.

Basically the little horse was brilliant and still I suspect has a ton to teach me.

End of Steve Halfpenny Silversand Clinic – Tipperary Report (2010)

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