Green tea, crazy winds and gorgeous horses at the Tanja Penders clinic, March 2017

By , March 6, 2017 6:47 pm

We had a lot of fun at the clinic with Tanja. It was over 3 days, with a very early start on Sunday morning.

Thank you to all the wonderful riders and the spectators who came to watch.

We were on a healthy buzz so there was a lot of green tea, energy bites and vegetarian food going around.

Throughout the weekend it was very rainy and windy, so Oz wasn’t 100% as confident as normal. However it was a great situation to work in to expand our comfort zones.

Here is my report of what I was up to with Ozzie. Anything that doesn’t make sense is my fault. Tanja as always helped Oz & I so much to improve our lightness, softness, confidence, posture and relaxation. Thank you Tanja!

This year I think I have made the most progress with Ozzie and I figured out the reason. It will be the first year I’ve had 5 lessons with him, spaced out evenly over the year.

When you have really good horsemen/women to guide you in the right direction, Oz and I really progress a lot faster.


This morning Oz came in a bit emotional and worried and with a few head shakes (Oz style neck flip things). An emotional neck flipping Oz is actually a rare thing these days, but it comes out when he is nervous / scared.

The arena was a little windy, noisy etc which had him feeling a bit unconfident. We started off with groundwork.

First up, circling in hand, asking Oz to look towards the centre of the circle,and asking him to move his shoulder out a little and for bend in his body, same as the circle he was travelling on.

Also asking for sideways on the circle.

Then I asked him to turn through the centre of the circle, and walk off the other direction.

Tanja noticed that when he changed rein in one direction, he would get stuck and halt in the middle of it. When he changed rein the other direction, he would keep moving, but after this as he was passing me he would do a neck flip.


Tanja said it would be a good idea for me to work with Oz more when he is a bit more emotional… bring him in, do 20 mins, then quit when he is relaxed. Repeat often and expand his comfort zone.

I had to work on a few things…when I concentrate I tend to tense up… so I have to relax my hands and shoulders.

For the fast walking exercises we were doing I have to walk near Ozs head. I was walking too far behind. If Oz pushes forwards past me in walk I have to correct it.


Over lunch I really got thinking about how I could help Oz not head flip on the direction change, not stop on the direction change, and not tense up in the walk to trot transition.

The key word here was ‘HELP’.

So after lunch, I played around a little while Sophie was finishing her riding lesson.

I changed what I was doing.

Where Oz was getting stuck I made sure I gave him a lot more room, and then he didn’t’ get stuck any more.

Where Oz was doing a neck flip after the direction change, I stayed walking backwards for an extra step or two as he passed me, and the neck flip also disappeared.

In our walk to trot transitions, I focused more on going with Oz, instead of asking Oz to go by himself, and he became a lot more relaxed and happy.

Tanja was watching me out the of the corner of her eye and I got the seal of approval ๐Ÿ™‚

Now Oz & I looked like were were dancing together. Yay!

Tanja set up a little path up through the centre of the arena.I had to trot Oz up in hand, then at the top of the arena, turn right to the slightly scary corner and go down the long side of the arena.

Oz would stay with me in trot up the centre of the arena. But once we got to that corner, Oz would rush in trot.

So we changed things and every time Tanja or I got to the scary corner with Oz, we would ask him to go from trot to halt in time with us, then backup a step.

After some practise with this (bear in mind a gale was blowing outside), At the scary corner Oz started to tune into us and follow our body language, instead of blocking us out and pushing forward.

So amazing. In an area he was scared in he was actually really trying very hard and listening to us, and while in trot, instead of going faster, he was going back to halt himself, once he picked up the cue from us. He was making the decision.

This was so good. If he is emotional I will keep things slower, as I know with him faster work means more emotions / worry.

But this way, we were able to do faster work and instead of increasing his worry levels, he was focusing more on us and learning to cope with this situation. Fantastic.

Then off we went riding. Still a hurricane outside. Oz was a legend… very calm and relaxed which was so nice. 110% credit to Tanja for all of the guidance today up to this point.

Again to help us relax, every time we walked through the poles in the centre of the arena I had to completely relaxed, not ask anything of Oz and give him a loose rein, sit tall and look up. Oz relaxed every time I did this and we got nice licks and chews and a softening of his body every time.

Such a great day!

And so many ideas to continue to practise after the clinic.


We started off with groudwork. Sill a gal eoutside so Oz was a bit nervous & rushing forward.

The plan was for Oz and I to do this very long strided walks all teh way around the arena. The only rule was that Oz couldn’t trot!

So I had to do this huge long striding walk, Oz had to do the same (he has got an amazing cheetah-like long walk stride). I have to relax my shoulders!

If he is slow I have to tap him asap to moev him on. If he rushes past me, he runs into the led rope and I block him with the stick so he doesn’t turn his head towards me.

This worked so well. After a few laps, it became obvious where in the arena Oz tended to slow down, and the part of the arena where he tended to speed up.

My job was to keep the walk pretty fast and even throughout.

Oz was amazing. He was listening to me SO much! He tried really hard to stay exactly at my speed, even in the scary parts.

You could hear his brain whirling away as he figured it all out and tried realy hard to cope with the scary stuff and be brave.

Agreat exercise to do in high energy situations. Instead of creeping around Oz to try & keep him confident, we can still do faster stuff with a scary environment and make it all work out ok.

One thing Steve said to me last year is that sometimes Oz teaches me to creep around him. I can’t do that.

This is so priceless for the riding work later on.

We did a little of the groundwork from day 1… everything was fixed, no stops, no neck flips and good transitions.

Then onto the riding. Again still a gale outside.
When I’m mounting I had this habit of waiting and then getting on.

Tanja said โ€“ Elaine, trust your horse. Get on the mounting black and get on immediately. She as so right.

Oz was so confident in the scary parts of the arena and was really listening to me. Any walk we did was a fast ground covering walk. I relaxed my lower back.

Oz was a legend.

Then we proceed to have fun by walking a straight line and doing both HQ in and HQ out a few times on the straight line.

Also did a few counter bends on a circle to Hqs in.

What a horse ๐Ÿ™‚


We moved onto canter groudwork this afternoon. When leading Oz I have to walk naturally. I was doing some kind of weird walk! ๐Ÿ˜€

To ask Oz to stop in hald, its easier for him if I say whoa.

Riding this afternoon was so much fun. We did a ton or trotting about.

Initially Oz was breaking out of trot back to walk.

When I was doing riding trot I was riding forward, instead of rising up.

So my job was to do a mixture of slower sitting trot with a relaxed body, and faster rising trot with me rising up.

By riding a little forwards I was actually blocking Ozs forward mvt and encouraging him to slow down.

Once I became really aware of this, Oz stayed in trot much better.

When I’m sitting up in trot, it nearly feels like I’m leaning backwards. But thats what I have to do. What I thought I was doing was not actually what I was doing!

So my position in trot is CRITICAL.

Then we were on to really fast trots… so much fun. Oz was so cool and relaxxed, not only just for normal, but also considering the environment was still noisy and windy!

I was so proud of him.


Oz was super. We started off with a recap of everything.

Fast walk in hand, both of us doing big steps and covering a lot of ground.

Trot and walk transtions in time with me in hand.

Canter groundwork in different parts of the arena (not just the more comfortable parts!). I need ot get Oz a little outside his comfort zone.

Our changes of dircetion were great, no head flips and no stops.

Lovely transitions.

In one spooky corner in canter Oz did a few airs above ground (high energy + scary stuff Oz fins hard to cope with), but supposedly I handled it very well by ignoring it, staying calm and relaxed and just nicely asking him to do when I had asked him to do originally.

Then onto the riding.

We worked on leg yields again, but today Oz was pushing out thorugh his outide shoulder.

So to fix this we worked on walk to HQ yield to backup.

I had my reins in one hand and a short stick in the other. If a shoulder pushed, I would block it with the stick. If the hindquarters weren’t stepping under, I would tap them lightly with the stick.

If was a great way to approach it by focusing on the exact issue, breaking it into easy steps.

Then it was onto trot.

Again I had to rise UP not forwards. So important to do this to help Oz be able to move in trot properly.

I focued on a flat back, hands at saddle, riding UP and smiling… it was a lot of fun actually. Oz was great doing laps of the arena as cool as cucumber. Weather conditions still not great outside.

This is all great stuff for us.

I also have to remeber to breathe.


Flat back.
Hands at saddle.
Rising UP.

This was such a great weekend.

It was really nice to get so much help from Tanja.

I really feel we progressed a lot and have a great map laid out for our homework over the next 8 weeks.

Huge shout out to Sophie & Degri who rode beautifully all weekend.

And also to our friend Patrick, a dressage trainer & judge who bought his lovely grey horse and did such gorgeous work. It was amazing to watch Patrick and Tanja work together.

I asked Tanja would she come back to Ireland again to teach – and she said Yes!

Steve Halfpenny will also be over teaching in June 2017.

If you’d like to watch or ride at a clinic in Tipperary, you can sign up to our email list to be notifed of future dates. The email list signup is here.

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